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Government Mortgage Programmes

Find out more about Help to Buy, Shared Ownership and other UK government home mortgage schemes

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By Pete Mugleston  | Mortgage Advisor Pete has been a mortgage advisor for over 10 years, and is regularly cited in both trade and national press.

Updated: 19th August 2019 *

Government mortgage schemes such as Help to Buy and Shared Ownership can give you a leg-up onto the property ladder and make life easier for house hunters, but even if you’re using one, seeking specialist advice beforehand is still recommended.

The brokers we work with can help you choose the right scheme, help you with your mortgage application, and potentially save you time and money along the way.

Our guide to government mortgage schemes includes the following topics…

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What is a government mortgage scheme?

Let’s start with the basics. The term ‘UK government mortgage scheme’ could refer to two types of initiative from the British government; schemes to help people get onto the property ladder, such as Help to Buy, and programmes designed to support existing homeowners.

In this article, we’ll be covering both types of initiative in detail.

What government mortgage help is available for homebuyers in the UK?

Customers frequently ask us “what government mortgage programmes are available for homebuyers in the UK?” so we have provided a rundown of the main ones below…

Read on for more information about each of these government-backed mortgage programmes or make an enquiry so the brokers we work with can discuss them with you over the phone.

Help to Buy mortgages

The government’s Help to Buy mortgage scheme was launched in 2013 to help those with a small deposit get a foot on the property ladder. It is available to first-time buyers and existing homeowners who want to buy a new-build property with a purchase price of under £600,000.

How does the government’s Help to Buy mortgage scheme work?

Help to Buy provides an equity loan to successful applicants. Customers can borrow 20% of a property’s purchase price interest free for five years, if they can put down at least 5% deposit. So, if you were to put down the minimum deposit, you would only need to take out a mortgage to cover 75% of the property’s value, with the equity loan factored in.   

There are a few restrictions on Help to Buy. 

You cannot apply for the scheme if…

  • You’re buying a second home or a property you plan to rent out
  • You want an interest only mortgage (Help to Buy is repayment only)
  • You’re buying a property with a purchase price of over £600,000 in England (the limit differs in other parts of the UK)

How much interest will I pay on my Help to Buy equity loan?

For the first five years, you will pay no interest on a Help to Buy equity loan, but in the sixth year, you will be charged 1.75% of the loan amount. After this, the fee you’ll pay will rise in accordance with inflation, based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI), plus an extra 1% each year.

When you sell the property, or the mortgage is settled, you will need to pay back the equity loan plus a share of any increase in your home’s value.

To find out more about the Help to Buy scheme, consult its official website or make an enquiry and the brokers we work with will talk you through it over the phone and help you get the best mortgage deal, if you choose to proceed.

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Help to Buy ISAs

As part of its overarching initiative to help first-time buyers get a mortgage, the government also launched Help to Buy ISAs to help people save up for their first home.

The main incentive to sign up for this mortgage scheme is that the government will add an extra 25% to the savings you place in the ISA, up to a maximum of £3,000. So, for every £200 you put in there, you’ll receive an extra £50 to put towards your home.

Available through banks, building societies and credit unions, Help to Buy ISAs are offered to first-time buyer individuals, rather than households, so both you and your partner could sign up for one and receive a total of £6,000 between you, as long as you keep up with your saving.

How is Help to Buy different around the UK?

Help to Buy works no differently in one English city to the next, although in London the equity loan can cover up to 40% of the property’s market value, rather than 20%.

There are, however, key differences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Help to Buy Scotland

The Help to Buy government mortgage scheme in Scotland works differently to the English version. It consists of two initiatives: the Affordable New Build Scheme and the Smaller Developers Scheme - the distinction between them is the size of the housebuilders involved.

The schemes provide an interest-free equity loan worth up to 15% of the property’s value to successful applicants, who will need at least 5% deposit and cannot already own a home, unless the existing property is sold before the purchase of the new Help to Buy property completes. 

The properties available are limited to participating housebuilders and are price capped at £200k.

Help to Buy Wales

The Welsh government’s equivalent of the Help to Buy mortgage scheme is different again - the shared equity loan can cover up to 20% of the property, leaving the borrower to find at least 5% deposit and a repayment mortgage from a lender to cover the remaining percentages.

The loan is interest free for five years and the property value cap is £300,000.

Is Help to buy available in Northern Ireland?

No, but there are other initiatives to help first-time buyers in Northern Ireland, including buying  a home from the Housing Executive at a discount or Co-Ownership, which is basically the Irish version of Shared Ownership (see the section below for more information).

You can find further details on the website for government mortgage schemes in Ireland.

Shared Ownership mortgages

Shared Ownership is another government mortgage loan programme which applies across England (Scotland, Wales and NI have their own versions). Through this initiative, customers who would normally struggle to afford a mortgage can purchase a share of a property from a landlord, usually a council or housing association, and rent the remaining percentage at a reduced rate.

You’ll need to take out a mortgage for the share of the property that you will own, and this can cover anywhere between a quarter and three quarters of its value. Borrowers can increase their ownership percentage during the term, but this usually means having the property revalued.

Who can get a Shared Ownership mortgage?

Like most government assistance mortgage programmes, the Shared Ownership scheme comes with some specific eligibility requirements, terms and conditions...

  • It is open to households with an annual income of under £80k (or £90k in London)
  • Only for first-time buyers or those who used to own a home but can no longer afford a mortgage
  • It is possible to get a Shared Ownership mortgage with just 5% deposit, or in some cases, no deposit at all
  • The landlord will have first refusal to buy the property back if you decide to sell and will hold this right for a term of 21 years from the date of your 100% ownership 
  • Military personnel are given priority over other applicants

To find out more about Shared Ownership mortgages, consult the scheme’s official website or make an enquiry and experts we work with will talk you through them for free.

Right to Buy/ Right to Acquire

Right to Buy is another popular government assisted mortgage programme. This scheme is aimed at council tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who wish to buy the home they rent from their local authority, often at a substantial discount. 

Eligibility is as follows…

  • Tenants need to have been renting from the public sector for at least three years
  • The three years can be non-consecutive
  • Right to Buy does not apply in Scotland - you can still buy your council house there, but the local authority is under no obligation to sell or offer a discount
  • There are subtle differences to how the scheme works in Wales and Northern Ireland. 
  • It may be possible to get a Right to Buy mortgage with no deposit, as some lenders will allow you to use your RTB discount as your deposit
  • There is a similar scheme called Right to Acquire that allows housing association tenants to buy their property, typically at a discount of between £9k and £16k.

For more information about the Right to Buy consult the scheme’s official website or make an enquiry and the brokers we work with will talk you through it over the phone.

Starter Homes scheme

The Starter Home initiative is a government mortgage scheme aimed at young first-time buyers who are in the market for a new build property. As part of the programme, 200,000 new build homes were made available with a minimum discount of 20% off the market price.

The maximum value of the property cannot exceed £250,000 outside of London and £450,000 in the capital, and to qualify, the borrower needs to be under 40 years old. For more information visit the official Starter Homes website or make an enquiry to speak with an advisor for free.

What else affects eligibility for a mortgage through a government help programme?

In order to get a mortgage through one of the government-funded programmes like Help to Buy or Shared Ownership, you will need to meet the lender’s eligibility criteria as well as the scheme’s. Factors including the interest rate you end up with and the size of the mortgage you’re able to take out will likely be determined by the following variables…

  • Your income and employment: Although some government schemes are aimed at low income borrowers, certain lenders will only offer you a mortgage based on x4.5 your salary. Others will go up to x5 and a minority x6. If you’re self-employed or earn a significant portion of your income through bonuses or commission, a specialist lender might be needed. 
  • Your credit rating: A specialist lender might be needed if you have bad credit. They may base their lending decision on the age and severity of the adverse credit, as well as how closely you meet their other requirements.
  • Your age: As a general rule, some lenders won’t offer mortgages to anyone over 75. Others stretch to 85 and a minority will lend to pensioners of any age, as long as they are confident they can keep up with the payments during retirement.
  • Your deposit: Although schemes like Help to Buy can help borrowers with a low deposit get onto the property ladder, you will still need at least a 5% deposit to get a residential property in the UK (unless you’re using the Right to Buy and your discount is serving as the deposit or Shared Ownership with a lender who does not require a deposit), and if factors such as bad credit apply, a bigger deposit might be called for.

For more information about getting a mortgage with government help and whether you’re eligible for the schemes covered in this article, make an enquiry today.

Have any new government mortgage programmes been announced recently?

In the Autumn 2018 Budget, the government announced that its Help to Buy equity loan scheme will be replaced by a new equity loan scheme when it finishes in March 2021.

The new initiative is exclusively for first-time buyers and it will work in much the same way as the previous equity loan system, except the maximum value of the properties homebuyers can purchase will be subject to new regional price caps, which are as follows…

  • North East: £186,100
  • North West: £224,400  
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: £228,100  
  • East Midlands: £261,900 
  • West Midlands: £255,600  
  • East of England: £407,400 
  • London: £600,000 
  • South East: £437,600  
  • South West: £349,000 

The new equity loan initiative will end in March 2023 and no further equity loan schemes are planned for after this date.

Can I get government support if I can’t pay my mortgage?

Customers often ask us whether the UK government runs any support schemes for homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages. Some help might be available, although the UK government has discontinued the Mortgage Rescue Scheme it ran in England.

Mortgage Rescue in Wales

Mortgage Rescue is still available from the government in Wales. The scheme is operated through councils and housing associations in a bid to prevent owner-occupiers becoming homeless. Those who are eligible are usually referred to a local housing association.

After assessing your property and financial situation, the association will either offer to buy a stake in your home or buy the whole thing and rent it back to you, making you their tenant.

Government mortgage help for homeowners in Scotland

The Scottish government runs programmes to help homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage payments, bankrolled through its Home Owners’ Support Fund.

  • The Mortgage Rent Scheme: This involves a social landlord buying your home and renting it back to you.
  • The Mortgage to Shared Equity Scheme: The Scottish government buys a stake in your home (up to 30%) to reduce the amount you owe each month.

Government help with mortgage interest

There’s a government mortgage scheme you can turn to for help with your interest payments. Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is available to homeowners who are out of work or of state pension age, or are claiming income support - but since April 2018, SMI had its status changed from a type of benefit to a repayable loan.

The loan will be secured against your home, but you don’t need to make regular repayments, unless you want to. Only when you sell your home or transfer the ownership of it to somebody else will you have to settle the debt, using any equity left over when the mortgage is repaid. If there is not enough equity to pay up in full, the remaining debt will be written off.

There are no setup fees or credit checks involved but you will be charged interest on a SMI loan until the debt is paid back or written off.

Can I get government help with my mortgage if I’m on Universal Credit?

This might be possible, as long as you have no ‘earned income’ and aren’t in receipt of any benefits from an employer, such as Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay.

If you do qualify, some of your mortgage interest will be paid by the government, directly to your lender based on a set rate applied to the amount outstanding on your mortgage (up £200,000). The payments will cease once you return to work.

Where to get mortgage help from the UK government

You might be wondering how to apply for any of the schemes mentioned in this article or are looking for further details on them. Additional information and online application forms can be found on their official websites, which we have linked to in the relevant sections.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to seek independent advice before proceeding as the brokers we work with can tell you everything you need to know before you kick off your application, guide you through the process, and make you aware of any alternatives that might be available. They will also introduce you to the right lender, if you choose to proceed.

Frequently asked questions

Here you will find additional information about the government-aided mortgage support that is available for homebuyers and homeowners, based on the questions we hear most often.

Can I get government mortgage help after a redundancy?

It may be possible to receive government help with the interest payments on your mortgage after a redundancy, through either the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme (now a repayable loan) or as part of Universal Credit benefits. Consult the ‘Can I get government support if I can’t pay my mortgage?’ section for more information.

How much can I borrow on Help to Buy?

The Help to Buy scheme is not available for properties worth more than £600,000, but the total amount you’re able to borrow will be worked on by the lender using a government Help to Buy mortgage calculator. They will feed in data such as your income and deposit, factoring in that government is providing an equity loan equal to 20% of the property’s value.

The mortgage you receive will be subject to the lender’s standard criteria and likely capped at either 4.5x, 5x or 6x your annual income.

What is the government’s mortgage guarantee scheme?

This was a part of the Help to Buy initiative which finished in December 2016. It enabled lenders to purchase a guarantee from the government which would compensate them if a borrower failed to keep up with their mortgage payments. As a result, lenders took greater risks on 95% mortgages, enabling those with a 5% deposit get a foot on the property ladder.

Although government-guaranteed mortgage loans are no longer available through Help to Buy, it is still possible to get a Help to Buy mortgage with the minimum amount of deposit.

How is Help to Buy different in London?

The only real difference is that the government will offer a 40% mortgage equity loan to help towards your mortgage, rather than the 20% you will be eligible for elsewhere.

Which government schemes are available for borrowers with a 5% deposit?

There are several government mortgage loan schemes that can help if you have little deposit.

Help to Buy allows borrowers with a deposit of just 5% get on the property ladder. The government provides and equity loan to cover 20% (up to 40% in London) of the property’s purchase price meaning the borrower only needs a mortgage for the remaining 75%.

If you’re a housing association or council tenant looking to buy your home, it may be possible to do so with less than 5% deposit as your Right to Buy discount can sometimes be used instead.

Getting a Shared Ownership mortgage with a deposit of 5% is also possible, although some lenders might request more than that depending on the level of risk involved, and others don’t require a deposit from Shared Ownership applicants.

For more information about getting government help with your deposit, make an enquiry and one of the experts we work with will discuss your options over the phone.

Is the government’s keyworker mortgage scheme still available?

The government’s Keyworker Mortgages Scheme, which was launched for the purpose of helping public sector employees who provide an essential service (such as doctors, nurses, teachers etc) get onto the property ladder, was discontinued in 2016.

However, there are still lenders offering favourable deals for keyworkers and we have a guide to keyworker mortgages containing all of the information you need to know about this.

Are there government mortgage programmes for people with bad credit?

Not specifically, but there are specialist providers out there who might be happy to offer you a mortgage through one of the government schemes, such as Help to Buy or Shared Ownership, if you have bad credit. Their lending decision might depend on how severe your adverse credit is, how long it’s been on your file, and how closely you meet their other eligibility requirements.

Can I get government help with an interest only mortgage?

This might be possible if you’re struggling with your payments, under the terms of the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme or if you’re in receipt of Universal Credit. Consult the section titled ‘Can I get government support if I can’t pay my mortgage?’ for further information.

Are there any government schemes for buy to let mortgages?

Not as such, since you cannot get a buy-to-let mortgage through Help to Buy, Shared Ownership or the Right to Buy - but there are plenty of lenders offering favourable deals for buy-to-let landlords and aspiring buy-to-let landlords. 

Can I get help with my second mortgage from the government?

If you’re looking to buy a second home, you won’t be eligible for Help to Buy, the Right to Buy or Shared Ownership as these initiatives are for first-time buyers only, and in the case of Help to Buy, whilst it is available for homeowners, you must only own one property on completion of the purchase, so it couldn’t be used to purchase a second home.

If you’re struggling to pay a second mortgage and are at risk of ending up homeless as a result, it may be possible to get support through one of the schemes outlined in the ‘Can I get government support if I can’t pay my mortgage?’ section.

Are there government mortgage loans for borrowers on low income?

If you’re on low income and in receipt of benefits with a mortgage to finance, it may be possible to get help through the government’s Support for Mortgage Interest scheme.

However, if you’re on low income and hoping to buy a property, it may be possible to get a mortgage through Help to Buy, Shared Ownership or the Right to Buy from a specialist low income lender - although it will depend on just how low your income is, and whether you supplement it with other sources of capital, such as benefits.

Can I get government help with my mortgage deposit?

Yes. There are a number of schemes that could help you out here. See our guide to government mortgage deposit schemes for more information.

We'll find the perfect government scheme mortgage expert for you - for free

Save time and money with the right mortgage advice, first time

  • Network of over 200 brokers all with whole of market coverage
  • Save up to £400 per year with a mortgage expert matched to you
  • We've helped over 92,000 people get the right advice
  • Our quick & easy form only takes a couple of minutes to complete

Speak to a government mortgage schemes expert

Government schemes can offer a helping hand if you’re struggling to get a mortgage or having trouble keeping up with the payments on one, but seeking expert advice in addition to this form of assistance can still pay off.

Make an enquiry and we’ll introduce you to an expert broker for free. They can guide you through the application process, offer bespoke advice on government schemes and potentially save you time and money on your mortgage. There’s absolutely no obligation, nor will there be any marks on your credit report.

Updated: 19th August 2019
OnlineMortgageAdvisor 2019 ©

FCA disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The info on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs. Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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