LIFT Scheme Mortgages

How to buy a home in Scotland with financial help from the Scottish Government using the LIFT Scheme.

Firstly, are you looking to use the LIFT scheme for your mortgage?

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Advisor, MD

Updated: March 13, 2024

If you’d like to own your own home in Scotland but can’t afford one that suits your needs, the LIFT initiative may be able to help. Since 2007, over 12,000 people have bought a home through the scheme.

It isn’t available to everyone, but we’ll explain the requirements so you can see if you’re eligible. You’ll also need to qualify for a mortgage, so we’ll explain how that works too.

What is the LIFT scheme?

LIFT stands for Low-cost Initiative for First-Time Buyers. It’s a shared equity initiative that’s designed to help people in Scotland buy their first home without having a high income. If you can’t afford the total cost of buying a home, you can share the cost with the government.

LIFT includes two schemes:

  • Open Market Shared Equity (OMSE), which helps people buy a home on the open market
  • New Supply Shared Equity (NSSE), which helps people buy a new-build home from a council or housing association.

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How it works

You’ll buy the majority share (between 60% and 90%) in a property. The size of the share you’ll buy is determined by how much you can afford to personally contribute and the maximum mortgage you can afford.

The government will then contribute the remaining funds necessary to pay the full purchase price (i.e. between 10% and 40%). They will own this share of equity in your property so, when you sell it, they’ll get a share of the money.

Though the government contributes towards the purchase price, your name will be on the title deeds, and you’ll have ‘complete title’. You’ll be responsible for all the costs of owning and running the home, including:

  • Mortgage repayments
  • Buildings and contents insurance
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Fittings and furniture
  • Council tax, gas, electricity, and other bills

Eligibility criteria

To qualify for government help, you must be a UK citizen aged 18 or over and planning to buy a property in Scotland.

LIFT is available to:

Additionally, NSSE is available to people who have previously owned their own home but have gone through a divorce or other significant life change.

You’ll have to meet the income requirements for your local area and show that you can’t afford to buy a home without the help available. The initiative is designed to prioritise people with the most need. If you’re buying through the OMSE scheme, there is a cap on the value of the property you can buy, which varies by area (check the LIFT scheme thresholds).

As you’ll need a mortgage to buy a property, you’ll also need to meet the mortgage lender’s eligibility requirements. They might have specific rules on how old you can be or your minimum income.

Deposit requirements

Although it’s sometimes possible to get a LIFT mortgage with no deposit, you may be required to make a personal contribution towards the cost of buying a home, based on the total you have in your bank account and any savings and investments.

You can keep £5,000 of your total wealth to cover the cost of legal fees, mortgage fees, removal fees, etc. 90% of the amount over £5,000 will be treated
as your deposit contribution.

How to get a mortgage through a LIFT scheme

There are three steps to getting a mortgage:

Step One: Submit your application to the LIFT scheme

For OMSE, you’ll need to apply to the administering agent of the scheme, Link Housing. For NSSE, you’ll apply to either your local council or the relevant registered social landlord.

You’ll need to include information about your household and details of your income, how much you can afford to pay now and how much you can afford to borrow.

Step Two: Receive a response

You’ll receive a response in writing to let you know whether you’ve been approved.

It will tell you the maximum price you can pay for a home and explain the next steps of the home-buying process.

Step Three: Speak to a mortgage broker

You’ll need to find an appropriate mortgage to buy a home. Which one is best for you depends on factors including your income, your age, your credit history, the location of the property, and the property type.

Speaking to a mortgage broker will help you choose the right one and get the best rate, with advice tailored to your personal needs.

If you get in touch we’ll arrange for a broker who has experience with the LIFT scheme to contact you directly.

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How your mortgage will be calculated

When you receive a response to your application, you’ll be told the maximum price you can pay for a home.

This is based on:

  • The size of your personal contribution
  • The maximum mortgage you can reasonably afford
  • The percentage of the property that you’ll own

Your mortgage will be calculated based on how much a lender believes you can afford to borrow. This can be up to four times your income, including benefits income, but also depends on your outgoings and other factors.

Which lenders will consider your application?

There are 13 lenders who offer LIFT mortgages:

  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclays Bank
  • Capital Credit Union
  • Glasgow Credit Union
  • Halifax Building Society
  • Leeds Building Society
  • Lloyds Bank
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • NatWest Bank
  • Scottish Building Society
  • Skipton Building Society
  • TSB Bank
  • ScotWest Credit Union

You might be limited in which will lend to you if your chosen property is in the Highlands or Scottish Isles, as not all lenders cover those locations. You might also be limited by other factors, such as your age or income. Your broker can help you identify which lender you have the best chance of success with.

Potential alternatives

LIFT is not your only option for help to buy a home. Here are some potential alternatives that might suit your situation:

  • Buying a new build property from a developer who offers an incentive (e.g. they may help you arrange a mortgage and/or pay some of your costs)
  • Getting a low-deposit mortgage (if you don’t have very much in savings but have enough income to cover the repayments)
  • Getting a high-income multiple mortgage (if you have a bigger deposit but a low income relative to the price of the property you need)
  • Applying to the Shared Ownership scheme, where you buy a 25%, 50%, or 75% share in a home and pay an Occupancy Charge to the housing association that owns the remaining share

Get matched with a LIFT broker

Buying a home through the LIFT scheme is a process that includes various additional steps and complexities compared to buying a home outright. Some brokers may not appreciate these differences, which can cause delays and unnecessary rejections.

In contrast, speaking to a broker who’s an expert in the LIFT scheme can make the process much smoother and give you the answers to any questions you might have. It’ll also help you secure the best rate.

We work with numerous brokers who fit this description, so if you’d like us to put you in touch with someone for a no-obligation chat, use our free broker-matching service. Simply call 0808 189 2301 or enquire online.

Maximise your chance of approval with a dedicated specialist broker

Get Started Phone Icon 0808 189 2301


Yes, you can buy a property anywhere in Scotland through the scheme. Different restrictions (e.g. price caps) apply for different areas and, if you’re buying a new build home, you’ll need to make your application to the relevant local authority, e.g. City of Edinburgh Council.

The LIFT scheme is only available if you are buying a home in Scotland. You can still apply to the scheme if you currently live in England, but you cannot buy a home in England. If you need help to buy a home in England, find out more about other government schemes, Help to Buy mortgages or Shared Ownership mortgages.

Yes, you can increase your overall share in the property at any time in 5% increments (as a minimum) each time, up to 100% ownership. You can increase by more than 5% if you wish.

There are certain houses that may come under what’s known as the ‘golden share’ clause, which means the government can keep a 10% share. In these circumstances, you would only ever be able to own up to a maximum 90% share of the property you’ve bought.

No, letting/sub-letting is not allowed under this scheme.

Yes, of course – you can sell your house at any point. How much you get back depends on the share you have at the point the sale is made. If you bought the house for a purchase price of £150,000, with a 75% share and sell it for £200,000 then you will collect 75% of the sale price (£150,000 – less any outstanding mortgage debt) and the Scottish Government will receive the rest.

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About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for Online Mortgage Advisor of course!

Read more about Pete

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Advisor, MD

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