Help to Buy and First Home Scheme – what’s the difference?

For those not yet on the property ladder in England, the climb to the first rung has become substantially steeper in recent months.

Spiralling inflation, hikes in energy bills and higher prices at the pumps and supermarket tills have made saving for a home of your own a huge ask. 

Thankfully, at a time when discounts and good deals are difficult to come by, there are two avenues of Government assistance that first-time buyers can explore in a bid to ease their escape from rental accommodation or living with family.

Prospective purchasers in need of a leg up can choose between the First Homes scheme, which was launched last year, and the long established – but soon to disappear – Help to Buy equity loan.

Both initiatives deliver on their aims of making property ownership more accessible, but which is the best option will depend on your personal circumstances.

In terms of providing financial help in the here and now, the First Home scheme is certainly a cracker. Those eligible will benefit from having 30 to 50% of the market value taken off the price of their chosen property and, in turn, will not need to borrow or put down as much money. 

However, the fiscal advantages come with several constraining factors – chiefly the scheme limits your options on where you can buy (the property must be in your local area and not worth more than £250,000 – or £420,000 in London – after the discount has been applied) and who you can later sell to. The “saving” you enjoy at the time of purchase is passed on should you opt to move on, meaning the keys can only go to first-time buyers.

With Help to Buy there are no geographic restrictions – you can buy a new build from a registered developer in any area of the country – and, when it comes to selling, your property will be available to the whole market. 

However, this freedom is balanced by the financial realities of securing a loan rather than a discount. The money borrowed to boost your deposit (up to 20% of a property price, rising to 40% in London) needs to be paid back, albeit you do not have to pay interest for the first five years.

The choice is yours… but it is not one that will be around for much longer with Help to Buy closing to new applications on 31 October 2022.