Help to Buy Q&A: How it works and who qualifies
Demand for Help to Buy has been strong, with more than 2,000 early application for the home-buying scheme
MORTGAGE lenders have reported strong interest in Help to Buy, the government scheme designed to let people buy homes even if they can't save a large deposit.
Halifax, RBS and its subisidiary NatWest have received a total of 2,384 applications, according to figures from the banks. RBS said it has so far approved 169 of the applications it has received.
The government has said these figures should allay fears that Help to Buy will inflate a property bubble in London by making it easier for wealthier buyers to trade up.
"Halifax said more than 80 per cent of the applications it had received under the scheme were from first-time buyers," the BBC reports. "It said the majority of applications had come from outside London and the south-east of England, where property prices are rising fastest."
Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has said that Help to Buy could drive up house prices, putting home ownership "even further out of reach for the aspiring first-time buyers the scheme should be helping."
What is Help to Buy?
Help to Buy has two phases, both of which are aimed at buyers with only a 5 per cent deposit. The first, a £3.5bn scheme for buyers of newly-built properties worth up to £600,000, was introduced in April and has already been taken up by about 7,000 people. The second phase, which covers new and second-hand homes, is now accepting applications for people planning to complete their sale in the new year.
How does phase one of Help to Buy work?
The first phase of Help to Buy applies only to new homes and first-time buyers. Borrowers need to raise a 5 per cent deposit on the property and can then borrow a further 20 per cent from the government, initially interest free, up to a maximum of £120,000. After five years, what remains of the loan will attract interest at 1.75 per cent per year. The rate will increasing each year by 1 per cent above inflation. The £3.5bn scheme, which will be administered by home builders will support about 74,000 home purchases.
What happens if you can't pay your mortgage?
If you take out an equity loan and find you can't pay your mortgage, you'll probably have to sell the property or the bank will repossess it and sell it for you. Citywire warns prospective borrowers that the 20 per cent equity loan will still need to be paid back to the government.
And phase two?
Phase two of Help to Buy applies to home movers as well as first-time buyers and second-hand houses as well as new ones. In this phase, the government does not loan money to the homebuyer but provides a guarantee to the lender for up to 15 per cent of the loan. That will allow borrowers with only a 5 per cent deposits a much wider choice of mortgage deals. As in phase one, there is a limit of £600,000 on the value of the property.
Why do lenders need loan guarantees?
The government guarantee reduces the bank's losses if a borrower defaults on his or her payments. "That allows them to offer cheaper mortgages to would-be home-buyers with small deposits, who are currently locked out of the market," explains the Daily Telegraph.
Does that mean I can buy a new home now?
No. Lenders won't be able to get loan guarantees from the government until 1 January, 2014. That means you won't be able to use the second phase of Help to Buy for home purchases that complete before 2014.
How much can you borrow?
In theory, up to £570,000, but the Telegraph notes that “lenders will apply a strict cap on income multiples (a likely maximum of five times earnings, single or joint) as well as tough limits relating to the amount of income borrowers have spare at the end of the month”. That’s likely to mean that mortgage payments may not exceed 55 per cent of borrowers’ post-tax income. “Those who qualify for the loans will, in the most part, need to have good jobs and earn substantial incomes. And the mortgages offered them may be far smaller than they expected or hoped,” the Telegraph concludes.
What interest rates will you have to pay?
NatWest and RBS have unveiled two-year, fixed-rate mortgages with a starting rate of 4.99 per cent. Halifax will charge 5.19 per cent for a two-year fix and Virgin Money has said it will join the scheme in January. The Financial Times points out that these interest rates are "competitive when compared to similar 95 per cent deals in the market", but much higher than deals available to those with large deposits.
The Cambridge Building Society recently announced a deal that undercuts the government-supported scheme. It’s discount mortgage, available to first-time buyers with a 5 per cent deposit, charges 3.99 per cent interest for the first year, then steps up to 4.89 per cent for the following two years.
Are there an unlimited number of 95 per cent loans on offer?
No. The government is making £12bn available in loan guarantees, enough to fund mortgages worth a total of £130bn. The scheme will remain open for three years. Mortgage brokers fear "a stampede of new applications" for loans when the scheme opens, reports The Guardian.
Who is excluded from Help to Buy?
The new loans aren't means tested, but they won't be available to people wanting to buy second homes or buy-to-let properties. Prospective borrowers will be required to sign documents confirming they are first home buyers or, if they already own a home, that they are in the process of selling it.
What do supporters of the scheme say?
The incoming chief executive of the state-backed RBS, Ross McEwan, told The Guardian that his bank was backing the scheme because: "We are committed to helping as many people as possible across Britain to get on with their lives, to buy their first home, to move to a bigger house as their family grows."
What do critics say?
Business Secretary Vince Cable says the scheme may trigger an unsustainable boom in house prices, particularly in the south-east of England. "I am worried of the danger of getting into another housing bubble," Cable told the BBC. ·