Government supports & incentives for first time buyers

If you’re a first-time buyer, you’ll be pleased to know there are various schemes and incentives to take advantage of. These are designed to help you get a foot on the property ladder, making it easier and more affordable at a time when prices are on the up. In this section we take a look at some of the schemes to consider.

Help to Buy (Scotland) Affordable New Build Scheme

This scheme is designed to help people get on the property ladder, who would otherwise not be in a position to do so. It’s available in collaboration with larger homebuilders, whilst the Help to Buy (Scotland) Small Developers New Build Scheme is open to smaller homebuilder firms.

Both schemes are identical in nature though and during the administrational process it’ll be decided which scheme your application applies to. The Help to Buy (Scotland) Affordable New Build schemes work as follows:

  • The scheme is open to people buying a new build home worth up to a maximum of £230,000 before 31 March, 2017, £200,000 before 31 March, 2018 and £175,000 before March 31, 2019.
  • You’ll need a deposit of around 5% the property’s value and together with the mortgage, will cover a total of 85% the home’s price.
  • The final 15% will be taken as an equity by the Scottish Government and no annual interest charged.
  • This stake can be paid at any time and will be based on the value of the property at the time of repayment.
Government supports & incentives for first time buyers

Help to buy ISA for first-time buyers

Another popular scheme designed to help first-time buyers is the ISA incentives. These are government backed and will add a further 25% to the money you save up for a deposit – a maximum of £3,000 on savings up to £12,000.

For every £200 you save towards a deposit, the government will give you an extra £50. The minimum amount you’ll need to save is £1,600 – providing you with a £400 government bonus. You can also start your ISA account with £1,000 and get 25% straight away.

Also, it’s important to remember that this scheme applies to each buyer, rather than a joint house. This means if you’re saving with a partner, you’ll be eligible to receive a combined £6,000 maximum.

The money goes straight to the mortgage lender, rather than sitting in your account and as such, doesn’t earn interest.

In order to qualify, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a first-time buyer
  • You must be 16 or over
  • You must buy a house under £250,000
  • You can use this scheme in conjunction with any mortgage
  • You aren’t eligible if you plan to rent out the property
  • You can’t invest the ISA in a property abroad
  • You can’t open more than one Help to Buy ISA

The scheme was launched in 2015 and to earn the full amount of £3,000 you’ll need to keep the ISA account for four and a half years. The bonus can be claimed via your solicitor and a fee may apply – a maximum of £50 + VAT.

Shared equity

What is shared equity?

When the cost of a property is shared between the buyer and another organisation such as the Scottish Government, it is known as shared equity. Buying a property through a shared equity scheme means that whilst you might pay for 80% of the price of that house, the government will pay the remaining 20%.

Private property developers also run similar shared equity schemes, which encourage buyers to purchase new builds.

Although very similar, shared equity is different to shared ownership in one key way – buyers in shared ownership schemes pay rent on the remaining percentage they do not own.

Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers: What you need to know

A prominent shared equity scheme in Scotland is the Scottish Government's Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT).

Launched to help people buy their own home, it’s divided into two parts:

  • New Supply Shared Equity (NSSE). This consists of new build properties, either built by a Housing Association or bought by the Housing Association from a builder.
  • Open Market Shared Equity (OMSE). If accepted onto this scheme, you can buy any property which is for sale on the open market. In January 2016, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities, and Pensioners’ Rights announced £80m of funding for OMSE in financial year 2016/17.

Both schemes are run by housing associations on behalf of the Scottish Government and are typically aimed at first time buyers with lower incomes. As all applicants must prove they can’t buy a property (which suits their needs) without the LIFT scheme, applicants’ individual circumstances are assessed on a case by case basis.

Although currently open to all first time buyers, priority is given to certain applicants including social renters (those who rent a property from either a local authority or a housing association), disabled people, members of the armed forces and veterans who have left the armed forces within the past two years. Widows, widowers and other partners of service personnel are also given priority for up to two years after their partner has been killed while serving in the armed forces.

Buying a house through the LIFT scheme

Through this shared equity scheme, eligible buyers will typically pay between 60-80% of the property price and the Scottish Government pay the remaining percentage.

Whilst you do not pay rent on this share of the property, if you were to sell the house, the government will take back their share of the selling price – including any profit. The government’s stake in the house is also protected by your mortgage, even though you own the house outright.

Finally, buyers are responsible for the usual costs associated with buying a house – legal fees and any survey costs, for example.

Stamp Duty (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax)

Although it’s not necessarily a scheme, many first-time buyers will be exempt from paying tax on a purchase – because their property falls into the lower price bracket. In Scotland, there is no stamp duty. Instead, this is called Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (also known as LBTT). However, for all intents and purposes it’s the same tax and similar rates apply, albeit under a different guise.

In April 2015, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax replaced Stamp Duty Land Tax in Scotland. New rates were announced as part of the Scottish Budget 2015/16. As a result, around 10,000 extra homes were no longer eligible to pay tax.

This move is a huge benefit to first-time buyers in Scotland, whilst also helping those buying a property at the lower end of the price chain.

Property Price Rate
Up to £145,000 0
£145,001 - £250,000 2%
£250,001 - £325,000 5%
£325,001 - £750,000 10%
Over £750,000 12%