Young first time buyer couple


It can be confusing trying to find out what schemes and benefits are available to first-time home buyers, depending on where you are in the UK. Take a look at all the schemes currently available and how they differ depending on where you’re planning on buying a home.


Help to Buy gets you a new build property

Help to buy schemes exist to assist first-time buyers, or existing homeowners, who wish to purchase a new-build home. You often need a lower deposit than usual, with the Government providing a loan that covers part of the cost of the property, although you will still need a mortgage to cover the rest. They are also known as Equity Loan schemes.

For a more in-depth look, read our Help to Buy Guide.

The way Help To Buy works is slightly different depending on where you are in the UK, as outlined below.


In England, the criteria for help to buy is as follows:

  • The home must be under £600,000 in price
  • You need a minimum 5% deposit
  • You can get a loan of 20% from the Government
    • 40% in London
    • Interest-free for first 5 years
  • You must use a repayment mortgage (not an interest-only mortgage)
    • This needs to be at least 80% of the property price
    • It needs to be from a qualifying lender
  • You must use a home builder that is registered in the scheme

The benefits are that you don’t need to save as much for your deposit, but there are various factors to consider before deciding to buy a new-build property.


The Scottish scheme works differently in some ways:

  • The maximum home price is £200,000
  • You need a combined mortgage and deposit that’s at least 85% of the price
    • Most mortgage lenders will still ask for a 5% deposit, so you can get a mortgage that covers 80% of the property price
  • You get a loan of up to 15% of the property’s price from the Government
    • This loan is interest-free
    • It can either be paid back or taken when you sell the house, as a percentage of the price sold
  • You must use a repayment mortgage (not an interest-only mortgage)
    • It needs to be from a qualifying lender
  • You must use a home builder that is registered in the help-to-buy scheme


There are also similarities to the scheme in Wales, but differences in key areas:

  • The maximum home price you can buy is £300,000
  • You need a minimum 5% deposit
  • You get a loan of up to 20% from the Government
  • You must use a repayment mortgage (not an interest-only mortgage)
    • This needs to cover at least 80% of the property price
    • It needs to be from a qualifying lender
  • You must use a home builder that is registered in the Help to Buy scheme

Northern Ireland

Although a similar scheme existed in Northern Ireland, this closed to new applicants in 2016.

Lenders in Northern Ireland still provide 95% mortgages, meaning you would still just need a 5% deposit; but these are likely to come with high-interest rates and could result in your borrowing more money than your home is worth, if house prices fall.

It is recommended you think about looking for a more affordable home and saving a larger deposit instead.

If you’re a tenant in a council or housing association property, then you may be eligible for Right To Buy, which allows you to buy the home you currently live in for a discounted cost. The scheme isn’t available everywhere, but we have outlined where it applies below.


The first thing to consider for Right To Buy is your eligibility; you will only be able to take advantage of it if:

  • You are a secure tenant
  • The property is your only/main home
  • It is self-contained (all the facilities are within the property)
  • You’ve had a public sector landlord for a total of 3 years

If you fit these criteria and want to buy the property you live in, then a discount will apply to the value of your home, meaning you can borrow less money through a mortgage when you buy it. The maximum discount available is £82,800 in England, and £110,500 in London boroughs. See below for how the discount is calculated.

  • If you’re buying a house, the discount is 35% if you’ve been a tenant between three and five years
    • The discount goes up by 1% for each year after five years. So, if you were a tenant for ten years, the total discount would be 40%
  • If you’re buying a flat, you get a 50% discount if you’ve been a tenant between three and five years
    • The discount goes up by 2% for each year after five years. So, if you were a tenant for ten years, the total discount would be 60%
  • The maximum discount available is 70%.

Before you can buy the property, you need to ask your landlord if they agree to sell the property to you. You can find out how to do this here. If they agree, the next stages look like this:

  • Landlord must send you an offer after saying yes within:
  • If they say no, they must provide a reason why
  • After receiving the offer, you have 12 weeks to tell your landlord you still want to buy the property.
  • If you’re not happy with the landlord’s offer, for example, if the price is too high, you must write to them within three months of receiving the offer
  • Ask them to do an independent valuation when you write, so you can find out what the actual cost of the property is

The scheme is ideal for those who may be on a lower income and want to get on the property ladder, however, it is argued that Right to Buy lowers the amount of social housing available, which has led to changes in the scheme in other parts of the UK.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the scheme is referred to as the House Sales scheme. Eligibility is the same as in England, but the discount works differently.

  • The discount is 20% if you’ve been a tenant for five years
    • The discount goes up by 2% for every extra year. So, if you were a tenant for ten years, the total discount would be 30%
  • The maximum discount available is 60% or £24,000 (whichever is cheaper)

The following properties are not available on the scheme in Northern Ireland:

  • 1- and 2-bedroom ground floor flats
  • Sheltered housing

The rest of the process is like England’s.


Right To Buy ended in Wales on 26 January 2019.


Right to Buy ended in Scotland on 31 July 2016.



Rather than buying a property outright, Shared Ownership allows you to buy a percentage of a home while renting the rest of it. This is mostly available on new build homes and is a cheaper alternative to buying a property, but it also has some details to be aware of.


The scheme is ideal for those who may need a bigger property, as you don’t have to pay the full price. To be eligible you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Your combined income is less than £80,000 (£90,000 in London)
  • You are not able to afford a suitable home on the open market
  • You are not in mortgage or rent arrears
  • You have a 5 – 10% deposit for your share of the property

If eligible, you can buy between 25% - 75% share of the property and pay a reduced rent equal to the share of the property you don’t own. By paying reduced rent, you can save up to purchase more shares in the property (known as ‘staircasing’) if you wish, eventually even purchasing 100% of the property.

Do consider that you will be paying the mortgage for your share and rent each month. You will also pay a service charge to the housing association, but this will usually be for important maintenance and repairs of any common and communal areas.


The scheme exists almost identically in Scotland, with you able to buy a 25%, 50% or 75% share of a property.

Priority for shared ownership exists for the following groups:

  • First-time buyers with limited housing alternatives
  • Members of the armed forces
  • Veterans who have left the armed forces within the past two years
  • Widows, widowers and other partners of service personnel for up to two years after their partner was killed while serving
  • Public sector tenants
  • Families on low incomes
  • Disabled people


You can purchase between a 25% - 75% share in your property with rent paid back based on the remaining share. Be aware that the eligibility criteria are almost identical, except your combined household income must be £60,000 or less.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the scheme works quite differently to the rest of the UK. Here it is referred to as Co-ownership housing, with some notable differences to other UK schemes:

  • There is a cap of £165,000 of any property you wish to co-own (share)
  • You can buy between a 50% - 90% share in the property
  • You can increase your share by 5% amounts (known as ‘buying out’)
  • You can choose any property that fills the criterianot just a new build

You are expected to pay your mortgage for the share of the property and rent on the remaining share. There also costs for application fees to keep in mind.



Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a tax paid for the purchase of property. However, some parts of the UK offer stamp duty relief for first-time buyers or cap the amount a property must be worth before you must pay it. Find out what each country offers below.


If the first property you’re buying is £300,000 or less, then you will not have to pay any stamp duty. If the property is worth up to £500,000, then you pay no stamp duty on the first £300,000 (e.g. if the property is worth £350,000, you only pay stamp duty for £50,000). If the property you’re purchasing is over £500,000, you will not qualify for first-time buyers’ relief and must pay the standard rates.

For Shared Ownership, you can now get relief on homes worth up to £500,000, which means you won’t have any stamp duty to pay.

Be aware that if you are a married couple or unmarried with both names on the mortgage deed, then you both need to be first-time buyers in order to get the relief; if one of you has bought a property recently, you won’t be eligible.


Stamp Duty is known as Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT). Relief is still in place for first-time buyers, but only for properties up £175,000 in price. For properties above this price, there is a relief of up to £600 on the tax you pay, meaning you will pay £600 less.


Stamp Duty is known as Land Transaction Tax (LTT). Currently, there is no relief for first-time buyers from paying the tax. However, there is 0% of tax to pay for properties worth up to £180,000; so, it is still avoidable if the budget for your first home falls under this bracket.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland operates stamp duty in the same way as England, so all the same rules and criteria apply.



This scheme allows you to rent a property for less than the market price for a set amount of time, in which you are expected to use the money saved from the lower rent for a deposit to buy the property after the tenancy ends. You can also use the money saved for a deposit towards another property if you prefer.


The scheme is open on select new build homes but be aware that it very much depends on which part of the country you are looking and if the scheme is available on the home you find. Currently, the way it works is that you can rent the home for around 20% less than the market rate, for a period of up to five years. Once the five years are up, you can either buy the property outright, with a mortgage and deposit or choose to buy a share through Shared Ownership. Alternatively, you can leave the property altogether, and use the money saved up for a deposit elsewhere.

Key things to note are:

  • Your lease can last between 6 months and 5 years
  • You can make an offer or commit to shared ownership at any time during this
  • You will pay 80% of the local market rent
  • Your combined income is £60,000 or less

Since this is only available on a select amount of properties and different Housing Associations, do make sure you check the terms of each property and association.


Although the scheme exists in Scotland, it is harder to search for available properties.

The best method is to research and contact your local housing association for any properties that are part of the scheme, as some do offer it.


In Wales, the scheme is known as Rent To Own and works differently to ensure you still have money for a deposit at the end of the tenancy:

  • You rent a property for up to five years
  • You can choose to buy the property from the start of the 3rd year until the end of the 5th year
  • When you decide to buy you will be given an amount towards your deposit which will be:
    • 25% of the total Rent you have paid so far
    • 50% of any increase in the property’s price
  • You can choose to opt for Shared Ownership instead of buying the property

The eligibility criteria are near identical to England, in that you must earn less than £60,000 as a combined income and this must be the only property you own or live in.

To work out the money you receive if the property’s price increases, an example would be if you rented a house which costs £150,000 when you moved in. When you decided to buy it, it had risen to £160,000.

The property’s price has risen by £10,000 and you get 50% of it, so £5000.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s scheme is slightly different again and also called Rent To Own; with some specific criteria for the kind of the home eligible for Rent To Buy.

The property you can Rent to Buy must be as follows:

  • A new build property with a 10-year warranty
  • Under £165,000 in price
  • Cannot be a one-bedroom apartment/house
  • Is ready to live in now or soon

Whatever rent you pay, 25% of it will be paid towards the purchase of the property. The tenancy agreement lasts for 3 years and you can purchase the property any time after the first year, or after the tenancy ends.

It is recommended you wait longer so you can save more through the rent you pay, but you can still purchase the property earlier if you wish.

The Government approved Rent To Buy scheme is managed by Co-Ownership.



Similar to Help To Buy, except this scheme allows you to buy an existing property on the open market, rather than just new builds. The scheme works as follows:

  • You provide 70% of the property’s price through a mortgage or personal savings
  • Your mortgage is from an approved lender
  • Your Housing Association provides an equity loan of 30% towards the property
  • You pay back the equity loan at any time or when you sell the home, but it will always be at 30% of what the property is currently worth

The scheme is designed to benefit those from rural communities most, where it may be more difficult to purchase a home.

To be eligible you must fit the following criteria:

  • You are not adequately housed or cannot afford to live in your current home
  • You are not able to buy a suitable property for your needs without the scheme
  • You are able to get a mortgage for the property
  • You meet the criteria set by the local authority/Registered social landlord that operates the scheme
  • You are not receiving Housing Benefits

You will need to research your Local Authority to see if the scheme is available and what you need to do to apply.



Shared Equity schemes help buyers on lower incomes buy a property for a certain percentage of the full price, with the Scottish Government paying the rest. The two schemes are outlined below.

New Supply Shared Equity

This scheme is for buying new build homes from a housing association or your local council. Although priority will be given to:

  • People aged over 60
  • Social renters (people who rent from the council or a housing association)
  • Disabled people
  • Members of the armed forces
  • Veterans who have left the armed forces within the past two years
  • Widows, widowers and other partners of those in the armed forces for up to two years after their partner lost their life while serving
  • Those who have experienced a significant change in living circumstances e.g. splitting from a married partner

Through the scheme, you need to have a combined deposit and mortgage that covers 60% – 80% of the price of the home you want to buy.

The Government will then cover the cost for the remainder of the price. When it comes to selling the property, the price it sells for will be split between you and the Government depending on what percentage of the house you bought.

For example, if you bought a house for £100,000 and you paid for 80% of it (£80,000), then when you sold it, it was priced at £125,000, you would get 80% of the amount it sold for (in this case £100,000).

Open Market Shared Equity

This works almost identical to the New Supply Shared Equity scheme but applies to homes for sale on the open market, instead of new builds.

You are also able to contribute a combined deposit and mortgage of 60% - 90% of the property.

For more information based on your region, use the links below to find out more about each scheme and be sure to read our Tips for First-Time Buyers.



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