Government mortgage schemes

Discover the ins and outs of UK government mortgage schemes. Make informed decisions on your journey to buying a home.
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Government mortgage schemes

Embarking on the journey to homeownership can often seem like navigating a complex maze, especially with the myriad of options available. Among these options, government mortgage schemes stand out as significant pathways to support potential UK homeowners.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer, a seasoned property investor, or somewhere in between, understanding these schemes can be instrumental in making your homeownership dreams a reality. This guide delves deep into the world of government mortgage schemes, offering comprehensive insights, expert advice, and the latest updates, ensuring you’re equipped with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions. Let’s begin this enlightening journey together, demystifying the complexities and unlocking the potential of these pivotal schemes.

What are the government mortgage schemes?

The UK government has introduced several mortgage schemes to assist potential homeowners, especially first-time buyers, in getting onto the property ladder. Among these is the Help to Buy equity loan, where the government lends buyers up to 20% of the cost of a newly built home, meaning the buyer only needs to provide a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest. Another popular scheme is the Shared Ownership programme, allowing buyers to purchase a share of a home (between 25% and 75% of the home’s value) and then pay rent on the remaining share. Over time, they have the option to purchase more shares when they can afford to.

Additionally, there’s the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, which supports lenders in offering 95% mortgages. This means buyers can secure a home with just a 5% deposit. The First Homes scheme is also noteworthy, aiming to assist first-time buyers and key workers in purchasing homes in their local areas for a discount. Lastly, there have been regional schemes and initiatives tailored to specific areas in the UK, and these often cater to the unique housing needs and demands of their respective regions.

While these schemes offer opportunities for many to enter the housing market, it’s essential for potential buyers to understand the terms, benefits, and potential pitfalls of each scheme before deciding which one might be the best fit for their circumstances.

How does the government mortgage scheme work?

The UK government mortgage scheme is designed to help potential homeowners, especially those who might find it challenging to save for a large deposit, to purchase a home. At its core, the government provides a form of guarantee or direct support to either the buyer or the mortgage lender, which makes it easier for buyers to secure a mortgage with a smaller deposit than they might otherwise require.

One of the primary ways this has been achieved is through the Help to Buy equity loan. With this scheme, the government offers an equity loan of up to 20% of the home’s cost, allowing the buyer to proceed with just a 5% cash deposit. The buyer would then secure a mortgage for the remaining 75%. This loan is interest-free for the first five years, after which interest is charged.

The Shared Ownership scheme is another avenue. Here, a buyer can purchase a share of a home (usually between 25% and 75%) and pay rent on the portion they don’t own. This provides an entry point into homeownership for those who can’t afford to buy outright. Over time, the homeowner can increase their share in the property if they wish.

There’s also the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme. In this case, the government provides a guarantee to mortgage lenders, encouraging them to offer mortgages that cover up to 95% of the property’s value. This means potential homeowners would only need to come up with a 5% deposit.

The First Homes scheme is a newer initiative aiming to provide local first-time buyers and key workers with the chance to buy homes in their area at a discount. This helps make homeownership more accessible to those who might be priced out of their local market.

While these schemes make it easier for many to access the housing market, it’s always crucial for potential buyers to get professional advice and fully understand the commitments they’re taking on, ensuring they’re making informed decisions about their financial futures.

What are the current UK government mortgage schemes available?

Let’s delve into the current UK government mortgage schemes available:

First homes scheme: This initiative is designed to help local first-time buyers, especially key workers, purchase homes in their area at a discount. The scheme allows these buyers to secure a property at a discount of at least 30% off the market price. Over time, when they decide to sell, the same percentage discount will be applied for the next first-time buyer.

Mortgage guarantee scheme: The Mortgage Guarantee Scheme encourages lenders to offer mortgages that cover up to 95% of the property’s value. This means that potential homeowners would only need a deposit of 5%. The government provides a partial guarantee to lenders, reducing the risk they take on.

Help to build: This is a scheme aimed at making it more affordable for people to build their own homes. By providing an equity loan it lowers the costs of self and custom builds, enabling more people to design and construct homes tailored to their needs.

Right to buy mortgages: This is a legacy from the 1980s but remains relevant for many. It allows council tenants, or those in social housing, to buy their homes at a discount. The amount of discount varies based on several factors, including how long you’ve been a tenant and the type of property you’re purchasing.

Right to acquire mortgages: Similar to the Right to Buy, this scheme is for housing association tenants. Eligible tenants can buy the home they currently live in at a reduced rate, with the discount amount varying based on location and length of tenancy.

Shared ownership: With the Shared Ownership scheme, you buy a portion of a property (typically between 25% and 75%) and pay rent on the remainder, which is owned by a housing association. This allows people to get a foot on the property ladder without buying a home outright. Over time, you can increase your share in the property, eventually owning it outright if you choose to do so.

Lifetime ISA: While not a mortgage scheme per se, the Lifetime ISA (Individual Savings Account) is a savings product designed to help people save for either their first home or retirement. You can save up to £4,000 a year, and the government will add a 25% bonus to your savings, up to a maximum of £1,000 annually. The funds can be used to purchase a first home worth up to £450,000.

While these schemes provide pathways to homeownership, it’s crucial to understand each one’s specifics and potential benefits and risks. Always consult with a financial adviser or professional before making a decision.

What impact have government mortgage schemes had on UK property prices?

The impact of government mortgage schemes on UK property prices has been a subject of debate and study. These schemes were primarily introduced to help first-time buyers and those on lower incomes get onto the property ladder. By providing more people with the means to purchase homes, there was an increased demand in the housing market.

The surge in demand, particularly from first-time buyers, coupled with a limited housing supply in many areas, has contributed to upward pressure on property prices in certain regions. This means that while many individuals were able to access the property market because of these schemes, the increased competition also drove up the prices of homes.

Furthermore, some argue that because these schemes made mortgages more accessible, they inadvertently allowed property developers and sellers to price homes higher, knowing that buyers had more financial support available to them. In essence, while the intention was to make housing more affordable, the market response in some areas was an increase in house prices due to the heightened demand.

It’s also worth noting that other factors play a role in house price fluctuation, including interest rates, economic health, employment rates, and general housing supply. However, it is widely acknowledged that government interventions, such as mortgage schemes, have played a significant role in influencing property prices in the UK.

In summary, while government mortgage schemes have successfully enabled more people to become homeowners, they have also contributed, at least in part, to the rise in property prices due to increased demand and market sentiment.

What are the differences between the UK’s Help to Buy and Shared Ownership schemes?

Let’s explore the differences between the UK’s Help to Buy and Shared Ownership schemes:
The Help to Buy and Shared Ownership schemes are two distinct initiatives introduced by the UK government to assist individuals in accessing the housing market, particularly those who might find it challenging to purchase a home through conventional means.

The Help to Buy scheme primarily focuses on providing an equity loan to potential homeowners. Under this scheme, the government offers buyers an equity loan of up to 20% (or up to 40% in London) of the cost of a newly built home. This means that a buyer only needs a 5% deposit and can then secure a 75% (or 55% in London) mortgage from a commercial lender. The equity loan is interest-free for the first five years, after which interest fees start to apply.

On the other hand, Shared Ownership is more of a part-buy, part-rent approach. With this scheme, a person can purchase a share of a property, usually between 25% and 75%, and then pay rent on the portion they don’t own, which remains in the hands of a housing association. This scheme is particularly useful for those who can’t afford the mortgage on 100% of a home. One of the notable features of Shared Ownership is that over time, the homeowner can buy more shares in the property, a process known as “staircasing,” until they eventually own the property outright.

In essence, while both schemes are designed to help people get onto the property ladder, the Help to Buy scheme offers support in the form of an equity loan for new builds, whereas the Shared Ownership scheme allows buyers to purchase a portion of a home and rent the remainder. Both have their own sets of advantages and conditions, and the best choice often depends on an individual’s financial circumstances and long-term goals.

Who is eligible for the UK’s First Homes scheme?

The UK’s First Homes scheme is primarily designed for first-time buyers, aiming to make homeownership more affordable by offering homes at a discount to market value. To be eligible for the First Homes scheme, you must be a first-time buyer, which means neither you nor anyone you’re buying the home with should have owned a property before, either in the UK or abroad.

There are also income restrictions in place, with household incomes typically needing to be less than £80,000, or £90,000 in London. There’s a cap on the property value that can be purchased under the scheme, generally set at £250,000 or £420,000 in London.

During the first three months after a property is made available under the scheme, preference might be given to buyers with a connection to the local area, which could be due to factors like employment, family ties, or having been a resident for a certain period. Buyers also need to secure a mortgage for at least 50% of the property’s purchase price and use the home as their primary residence, ensuring the scheme doesn’t benefit investors. In some areas, there might be provisions for key workers, such as healthcare staff and teachers, who might be prioritised due to their roles in the community. While these are the general eligibility criteria, local authorities could have additional requirements based on the needs of their area.

Which lenders offer a mortgage for government schemes

Many UK lenders offer mortgages that are compatible with government schemes. However, the specific lenders and the mortgage products they offer can change over time, so it’s always a good idea to consult directly with lenders or use a mortgage broker who is up to date with the latest offerings. The following major UK lenders were participating in various government schemes like Help to Buy:

  • Barclays
  • Lloyds Banking Group (which includes Lloyds Bank and Halifax)
  • NatWest Group (including NatWest and RBS)
  • Santander UK
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • Virgin Money (previously known as Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank)
  • TSB
  • Leeds Building Society
  • Skipton Building Society

In addition to these, many smaller building societies, regional banks, and specialist lenders also participate in government schemes. For the newer schemes, like the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme and the First Homes scheme, the list of participating lenders may differ.

If you’re considering a government scheme, it’s crucial to speak directly with lenders or consult a mortgage adviser to get the most accurate and current information. They can guide you to the most suitable mortgage product based on your circumstances and the specific government scheme you’re interested in.

How do interest rates for government mortgage schemes compare to traditional mortgages?

Interest rates for government mortgage schemes can vary and are influenced by multiple factors, including the broader economic environment, the Bank of England base rate, and the perceived risk associated with each scheme by the lenders. Generally, the rates for government-backed schemes can be competitive, especially since the government’s involvement can reduce the risk for lenders.

For instance, with the Help to Buy equity loan, the government provides an interest-free loan for the first five years for the portion they’ve lent, which can make the overall cost of borrowing more attractive initially. After this period, interest starts to accrue on the government’s loan, and it’s essential to factor this into long-term financial planning.

The Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, designed to encourage lenders to offer 95% mortgages, might have interest rates that are slightly higher than those of traditional, lower loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages. This is because higher LTV mortgages are generally seen as riskier. However, the government guarantee can make these rates more competitive than if the same mortgages were offered without government backing.

Shared Ownership mortgages have their own interest rate structures, which are generally competitive, but again, they might be slightly higher than traditional mortgages due to the complexity and perceived risk of the arrangement.

In comparison to traditional mortgages, where the rate is often determined by the size of the deposit (with larger deposits generally securing lower rates), government scheme mortgages might offer better rates for those with smaller deposits, thanks to the government’s involvement. However, it’s essential to understand that other costs, fees, and future rate adjustments, especially after any fixed-rate period ends, can influence the overall cost of borrowing.

Are there any government mortgage schemes specifically for key workers?

Yes, the UK has had initiatives in the past aimed at assisting key workers with homeownership, but they’ve evolved over time.

Historically, there was a “Key Worker Living Programme” that provided assistance to certain public sector employees, like teachers, police officers, and NHS staff, to help them buy homes in areas where property prices were high. However, this specific programme ended.

More recently, the focus shifted to broader schemes available to a wider audience, but some local authorities may give priority to key workers under certain circumstances. For example, within the First Homes scheme, which offers newly built homes at a discounted rate to first-time buyers, local authorities have the discretion to prioritise key workers, especially in the initial stages of a property’s release.

It’s also worth noting that many housing associations and local councils have their own schemes or criteria that can prioritise key workers when allocating affordable housing or shared ownership properties.

While there isn’t a nationwide, standalone government mortgage scheme exclusively for key workers, key workers can benefit from various existing schemes, especially when local authorities exercise their discretion in favour of these essential community members. It’s always advisable for key workers to check with their local council or housing association for any specific assistance or priorities available to them.

Can I combine different government mortgage schemes?

Generally, combining different government mortgage schemes can be complex, and in many cases, it’s not allowed. The idea behind these schemes is to assist buyers in different ways, so they’re often designed to be standalone solutions.

For example, if you’re using the Help to Buy equity loan, you typically can’t also use the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme for the same property purchase. Similarly, the Shared Ownership scheme has its own set of criteria and financial structure, making it distinct from other schemes like Help to Buy.

However, there can be some overlaps. You might be able to use the Help to Save scheme, which aims to help people on lower incomes save money, alongside other housing schemes. Similarly, if you’ve purchased a home using the Shared Ownership scheme and later want to buy more shares in the property, it might be possible to use a Help to Buy ISA or Lifetime ISA to benefit from the government bonus.

In practice, the exact combinations that might be feasible depend on the specific schemes in question and the rules in place at the time. It’s essential to seek advice from a mortgage adviser or financial planner familiar with the current regulations and guidelines to determine the best approach for your situation.

Are there any income restrictions for government mortgage schemes?

Yes, many government mortgage schemes in the UK have income restrictions to ensure they assist the intended target groups, typically first-time buyers or those on lower incomes. For instance, under the First Homes scheme, household incomes generally must be less than £80,000, or £90,000 in London. Similarly, the Shared Ownership scheme often has an income cap, ensuring that it’s available to those who might find it challenging to buy a home on the open market.

However, not every government scheme has an income cap. For example, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme primarily focuses on helping first-time buyers purchase newly built homes, but it doesn’t necessarily have an income cap. Instead, there are price caps on the properties based on their location.

It’s important to note that the specifics of each scheme, including any income restrictions, can change over time as government policies evolve. Those interested in using a government mortgage scheme should check the most up-to-date criteria or consult with a mortgage adviser to understand current eligibility requirements.

Are there any government schemes to help landlords offer affordable rents?

Yes, the UK government has introduced initiatives to encourage the provision of affordable rented housing, often in collaboration with local authorities and housing associations.

One notable scheme is the Affordable Homes Programme, which provides funding to increase the supply of affordable homes, both for rent and for ownership. This programme encourages housing associations and local authorities to provide homes at affordable rent levels, which are set at up to 80% of local market rents.

Additionally, there’s the Build to Rent scheme, which supports the construction of homes specifically for private rent by offering loans to housing developers. The intention is that with more rental properties available, rents overall might be more affordable.

Private landlords can also participate in local authority schemes where the authority offers incentives (like guaranteed rent) in return for the landlord offering properties at affordable rents or renting to tenants nominated by the local authority.

While these schemes provide avenues for landlords to offer affordable rents, it’s essential for landlords to research each scheme’s specifics, benefits, and limitations. Moreover, localised schemes or initiatives might exist depending on the region or council, so it’s worth checking with local authorities for any additional opportunities.

What are the pros and cons of government schemes?

Government schemes, particularly those related to housing, offer both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of these schemes:


Accessibility for first-time buyers: Many government schemes, such as the Help to Buy equity loan or the Shared Ownership scheme, make it easier for first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder with a smaller deposit.

Economic stimulation: Schemes can stimulate the housing market and construction industry, leading to job creation and economic growth.

Increased homeownership: By making homeownership more attainable, these schemes can lead to more people owning their homes, which can provide stability and long-term financial benefits.

Protection for renters: Some schemes aim to ensure that renters have access to quality housing with affordable rent, protecting vulnerable tenants from exploitation.

Support for key workers: Certain schemes might prioritise or offer additional benefits to key workers, ensuring they can live in the communities they serve.


Price inflation: There’s a concern that schemes like Help to Buy can inflate house prices as demand increases, making it even harder for those not using the schemes.

Equity loan repayments: With schemes like Help to Buy, the equity loan is interest-free for only the first five years. After that, interest starts accruing, which can become an additional financial burden.

Limited scope: Some schemes are only applicable to new builds or specific housing developments, limiting choices for potential buyers.

Potential overextension: These schemes can sometimes encourage individuals to stretch their finances, potentially leading them to buy properties they might struggle to afford in the long term, especially if interest rates rise.

Restrictions on resale: For instance, with the First Homes scheme, the same discount applied to the initial purchase must be passed on when selling, which can limit potential profits from the property’s appreciation.

While government schemes offer numerous benefits, it’s essential for individuals to fully understand the implications, both immediate and long-term, before participating. Consulting with financial or housing experts can provide clarity on the best options for specific circumstances.

How do government mortgage schemes affect stamp duty?

Government mortgage schemes themselves don’t directly change the stamp duty rates, but there have been stamp duty concessions or holidays introduced alongside or separately from these schemes. The relationship between government mortgage schemes and stamp duty can be complex, and here’s a general overview:

Shared ownership: Prior to changes introduced in the 2018 Budget, those buying a shared ownership property could choose to pay stamp duty on the full market value or just on the share they were purchasing. Since the 2018 Budget, first-time buyers purchasing shared ownership properties valued up to £500,000 became eligible for the first-time buyer stamp duty exemption.

First homes scheme: There was no specific stamp duty concession linked to this scheme. However, since it’s aimed at first-time buyers, they could potentially benefit from any stamp duty relief available for first-time purchases.

Stamp duty holidays: Separate from mortgage schemes, the government has, at times, introduced stamp duty holidays or reductions to stimulate the property market. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a stamp duty holiday was introduced, raising the threshold for stamp duty to £500,000 for a temporary period, resulting in significant savings for many buyers.

It’s crucial to check the current stamp duty rates and any available reliefs when considering a property purchase. Stamp duty rules, rates, and available reliefs can change based on government policy and announcements. A solicitor or conveyancer can offer guidance on the exact stamp duty payable for a specific transaction.

HOLD or Home ownership for people with long-term disabilities

HOLD, or Home Ownership for people with Long-term Disabilities, is a sub-scheme under the broader Shared Ownership umbrella in the UK. It’s specifically designed to assist people with long-term disabilities to purchase a home that meets their particular needs.

How HOLD works:

Customised choice: Unlike standard Shared Ownership schemes where buyers typically choose from available new builds, under HOLD, individuals with disabilities can pick a property on the open market that’s suitable for their specific needs.

Shared ownership structure: Like other Shared Ownership schemes, a buyer can purchase a share of the property (between 25% and 75% of the home’s value) and pay rent on the remaining share. Over time, they can buy more shares if they wish.

Funding: The scheme is backed by funding from the government, and housing associations facilitate the purchase.

Eligibility: The scheme is explicitly for people who have a long-term disability and can’t find a suitable property through the standard Shared Ownership scheme due to their specific needs, such as particular adaptations or a location close to family or medical facilities.

Resale: If the owner decides to sell their share of the property in the future, the housing association has the first right of refusal to find a buyer.

The HOLD scheme can be invaluable for individuals with disabilities as it allows for the flexibility to find a property that caters to their unique needs while still benefiting from the Shared Ownership structure. However, as with all property purchases, it’s crucial to understand all aspects of the scheme and to seek professional advice before proceeding.

Should I use a government mortgage scheme?

Deciding whether to use a government mortgage scheme depends on individual circumstances, goals, and financial situation. Here are some considerations:

Government mortgage schemes, such as Help to Buy, Shared Ownership, and others, are designed to assist people, especially first-time buyers, in accessing the property market. They can provide opportunities for those who might not have a large deposit or who are looking for assistance in affording a home.

One significant advantage is the lower initial deposit requirement. Many of these schemes allow buyers to enter the market with a smaller deposit than they would typically need with a conventional mortgage. This can be especially helpful for those who have a stable income but haven’t had the time or means to save a substantial deposit.

However, while these schemes can provide easier access to property ownership, they come with their own set of conditions and potential drawbacks. For instance, with the Help to Buy equity loan, while the loan is interest-free for the first five years, interest fees will start accruing after this period. On the other hand, schemes like Shared Ownership might have restrictions on property modifications or selling the property.

Another factor to consider is the potential impact on property prices. Some critics argue that schemes like Help to Buy could inflate property prices, making housing less affordable in the long run.

It’s also essential to think about the future. What will happen if you want to sell your property or if your financial situation changes? Understanding the terms and conditions of the scheme you’re interested in and any potential exit fees or complications is crucial.

In conclusion, while government mortgage schemes can provide valuable assistance for many, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons tailored to your circumstances. Seeking advice from a financial adviser or mortgage broker can provide clarity and help in making an informed decision.


Do UK government mortgage schemes apply to new builds only?

Not all UK government mortgage schemes are exclusive to new builds. While the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, for example, is designed specifically for new builds, other schemes like Shared Ownership or the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme can be used for both new builds and existing properties. However, some schemes may prioritise or have special provisions for new builds, so it’s essential to check the specifics of each scheme.

How do government mortgage schemes compare to private mortgage options?

Government mortgage schemes are designed to help those who might struggle with the conditions of private mortgages, especially first-time buyers or those with smaller deposits. They often come with incentives like smaller deposit requirements, equity loans, or reduced rents on a portion of the property. Private mortgages, on the other hand, can offer more flexibility in terms of property choice and might have competitive interest rates, especially if the buyer has a larger deposit or excellent credit history. The best option will depend on an individual’s financial situation, goals, and the property they’re interested in.

How do I find a local advisor for government mortgage schemes?

If you’re looking for a local advisor or broker knowledgeable about government mortgage schemes, the best starting point would be the official websites for the specific schemes, as they often have directories or listings. For instance, the official Help to Buy website has a section dedicated to finding local Help to Buy agents. You can also approach local estate agents or mortgage brokers and inquire if they have expertise in government schemes. Additionally, the Money Advice Service, a free and impartial service set up by the government, provides resources and tools to help you find a mortgage advisor in your area.

How do the government mortgage schemes impact the UK housing market?

Government mortgage schemes have been introduced to stimulate housing demand, especially among first-time buyers. By making homeownership more accessible, they can increase demand, which might contribute to rising house prices in certain areas. However, by aiding the construction industry (like through the Help to Buy scheme), they can also contribute to increasing the housing supply. Their impact is multifaceted and can vary depending on broader economic conditions, regional factors, and other housing policies.

Can I use a government mortgage scheme in conjunction with other housing grants or subsidies?

It can be possible to combine a government mortgage scheme with certain grants or subsidies, depending on the specifics of each. For instance, someone using the Shared Ownership scheme might also be eligible for specific local grants to assist with the purchase. However, there can be restrictions, and not all grants or subsidies will be compatible with all schemes. It’s essential to consult with a financial advisor or the relevant housing association to determine eligibility.

Can I switch to a different mortgage provider after initially using a government scheme?

Yes, many people who enter the property market using a government mortgage scheme later remortgage with a different provider, especially once the terms of their initial agreement (like the interest-free period on a Help to Buy equity loan) come to an end. This process is known as “staircasing” in some schemes. However, there might be specific conditions or fees associated with leaving the original scheme or mortgage, so it’s crucial to be informed and possibly seek advice before making a switch.

Can non-UK citizens access these mortgage schemes?

Generally, eligibility for government mortgage schemes isn’t based on citizenship but rather on residency and the ability to secure a mortgage. However, there might be additional criteria, such as not owning property elsewhere. Non-UK citizens who are legal residents and have the right to work in the UK often can access these schemes, but each scheme may have its own specific criteria. It’s best to check the eligibility requirements for each scheme or consult with a mortgage advisor for guidance.

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