Frequently Asked Questions
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What is a Help to Buy Agent?
Help to Buy Agents are housing associations appointed by Homes England (prev Homes and Communities Agency) as a main point of contact for people looking for an affordable home to buy or rent in their area.
Their main aim is to promote and provide information on Help to Buy schemes and to assess applications for these schemes, ensuring they are eligible using the government's affordability and sustainability criteria.
Which areas do you cover?
Help to Buy South is the Help to Buy Agent for Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Bristol, Bath & NE Somerset, North Somerset and Mendip.
If you want to live outside any of these areas, you can register with the Help to Buy Agent for the area you are looking for. Details can be found at www.helptobuy.gov.uk
How do I complete an application?
Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy:
Simply go to the register/log in page and complete the application on line to register your interest in these schemes. You will receive confirmation within 4 working days as to your eligibility.
For the Equity Loan scheme visit a participating developer and complete the Property Information Form and Reservation Form with them. For more information click here.
What happens after I have registered?
Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy:
Once your application has been approved by Help to Buy South you are then registered for the Help to Buy: Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy schemes. You will be able to start looking for and applying for properties available through housing associations and developers.
For further information, please read the What Happens Next Guide.
If you are interested in the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme, you do not need to register with Help to Buy South. For more information, please click here for the Help to Buy: Equity Loan process and the properties currently available
How do I get notified of properties?
Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy:
You need to be logged in to your application, then you can register your interest in a property by searching on the Help to Buy South website and clicking on the 'Register Interest' button on the property details page.
Once you have registered an interest in a property, the developer or Housing Association will be able to contact you directly with full details and an invitation to view the property (subject to your eligibility and prioritisation). You can contact the developer or Housing Association directly if you require further information on a property you have expressed an interest in.
The Equity Loan scheme doesn't require you to register with Help to Buy South and therefore you will not receive property alerts for this scheme. However you can express your interest with the developer by searching on the Help to Buy South website and clicking on the 'Register Interest' button on the property details page. You will be asked to enter some basic contact information.
When you find a property with a participating developer, all you need to do is complete a Property Information Form and Reservation Form to proceed. For more information on the process, please click here
Who has priority for Help to Buy: Shared Ownership/Rent to Buy properties?
Priority will be given to:
- Serving Military personnel (or former members of the British Armed Forces that have been honourably discharged in the last two years, or bereaved partners of service personnel killed in action who apply within two years of bereavement) then:
- First come, first served (subject to a financial assessment)
It is important to note that applicants are not prioritised whilst on the Help to Buy South database. Once you have put your name forward for a specific property the housing association/developer will prioritise eligible applicants as above.
For more information on the priorities, please click here
Can I buy any property through the Shared Ownership scheme?
You can only buy new homes through housing associations/developers offering shared ownership properties for sale. Second homes are also available through shared ownership when they become available for resale.
Are there age restrictions?
Generally there are no age restrictions other than if buying you will need to be at least 18 years of age to obtain a mortgage, and you will need to be able to sustain the repayments in the longer term. There are some schemes specifically for over 55's. Please click here for more details on eligibility or you can check with the housing association/developer offering the property.
Do I need a local connection and why?
Not always. The Housing Association will be able to advise you if the property you are interested in requires you to have a local connection. As part of local planning agreements, some properties are only available to people who work or currently live in the area, for example.
What if I can afford to buy 100% of a property?
If you can afford to purchase 100% of a property, you will not be eligible to purchase on the Shared Ownership scheme. To be eligible to purchased a Shared Ownership property you will need to be otherwise unable to purchase a property suitable to meet your housing needs on the open market
What if I am an existing home owner or have owned a property before?
If you have previously owned a home, your application will be based on your current housing situation. However if you have any equity from the proceeds of the sale, these will be taken into account in your application.
Shared Ownership and Intermediate Rent:
If you already own your own home, including overseas and existing Shared Owners, you must meet the general eligibility criteria for the scheme and are required to have already sold your property or sell your property at the same time as buying through shared ownership.
Applicants should have access to funds or be allowed to retain sufficient savings to cover the costs and fees associated with buying and moving into their new home. This could typically be up to £5,000 where Stamp Duty Land Tax is included depending on the purchaser's circumstances. Where applicants are required to provide essential items (for example a cooker or fridge) because they do not already own such items, and they are not being provided as part of the purchase, consideration can be given to allowing a reasonable amount of savings to be retained for this purpose
Applicants with sufficient savings or equity to be able to purchase a suitable property on the open market are not eligible for the scheme.
The property purchased must be your only residence. Equity Loan is not available to assist buy-to-let investors or those who will own any property other than their Equity Loan property after completing their purchase. If you are a current home owner, you will need to have a sale in place before you can reserve on the Equity Loan scheme.
What size property can I buy or rent?
Shared Ownership and Intermediate Rent:
There are no restrictions on the number of bedrooms applicants can apply for, unless stipulated through local planning agreements. The housing association you are purchasing/renting through will be able to advise.
The Equity Loan scheme doesn't have a restriction on the size of the property you can purchase. The property must be below £600,000 and the mortgage can not exceed 4.5 times your income.
Will the properties be Freehold or Leasehold?
All Shared Ownership properties are sold on a Leasehold basis.
The majority of houses will be Freehold and the majority or flats will be Leasehold, however we advise that all applicants will need to check this with their solicitor or conveyancer.
Can I use Housing Benefit?
Housing Benefit can be used to pay some or all of the rent of the property you live in, so you must have agreed a shared ownership purchase prior to applying for housing benefit. Housing benefit is a means tested benefit for people on low incomes which helps pay the rental part. Restrictions apply to claiming benefit eg how much savings you have (less than £16,000) and your income. Your local council will be able to advise you how much you can claim.
Universal Credit will replace some of the benefits and tax credits that you may already be receiving, one of these being Housing Benefit. If you are eligible for Universal Credit, this is paid monthly and may include a housing element, with a payment towards your housing costs eg support for mortgage interest. You would be responsible for paying this direct to your landlord if you are renting, or the money would be paid direct to your mortgage lender if you own a property. How much Universal Credit you will get will depend on your circumstances when you claim. For more information and how to apply for Universal Credit, please visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit
Why is child related income not taken into account?
Child tax credit and child benefit are not considered accepted forms of payment by Homes England (prev Homes & Communities Agency) to fund home ownership, when assessing long term sustainability and affordability.
What if I am self employed?
If you are self employed you need to be able to demonstrate that you can afford to maintain the costs of home ownership in the long term. You will usually need to provide two years past accounts and one year's projected earnings and it is important that you obtain independent financial advice.
Can I buy additional shares?
If you buy a shared ownership property you can increase your ownership at a later stage and own the property outright if you wish to. This is called staircasing and many people who buy affordable homes staircase to become full owners.
If you purchase under the Equity Loan scheme you can redeem part or all of your 20% loan at a later stage. The Equity Loan must be redeemed in full before or at the point your mortgage ends or after 25 years whichever is soonest.
What happens if I want to sell my home?
You can get advice about selling your property from the Housing Association that dealt with the original purchase or by contacting Help to Buy South for advice. For more details please click here.
You can get advice about selling and redeeming your equity loan from the Mortgage Administrator, Target on 0345 848 0235 or visit www.myfirsthome.org.uk
Can I sublet my home or buy to let
No, you must live in the home that you purchased or rent. In exceptional circumstances e.g. if you are a serving member of the Armed Forces away on a tour of duty then subletting may be considered but written permission from your housing association would need to be obtained.
The Equity Loan scheme is designed to assist you to move on to or up the housing ladder. If you wish to sublet, you will first have to repay the Equity Loan assistance. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. a serving member of the Armed Forces staff whose tour of duty requires them to serve away from the area in which they live for a fixed period, then sub-letting can be considered. In these circumstances you would also require approval from your mortgage lender)
Applications to sublet must be made to the Mortgage Administrator, Target and if it meets the above criteria, subletting will be approved. You can reach them by calling 0345 848 0235 or visit www.myfirsthome.org.uk
Can I use the Help to Buy Shared Ownership scheme again to buy another property?
Yes, but you must sell your existing home when you purchase your new property.