Why location matters
As a first-time buyer, it’s essential to take advantage of any Government help available.
This also means that the process of buying a property in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have important differences to buying in England.
This piece looks at the Government assistance available in these nations and the different rules you need to be aware of.
Home buying in Scotland has some major differences, with solicitors, rather than real estate agents, taking the lead in selling properties.
Unlike in England, you’ll need to get a mortgage ‘in principle’ and get a solicitor before you can make an offer.
The seller then has to prepare a Home Report, showing information on the condition of the property and other details.
Once you’ve agreed the contract, both parties are legally committed to the sale, so you’re less likely to be ‘gazumped’, where another buyer comes in at the last minute.
Instead of stamp duty, Scotland has a Land and Buildings Transaction Tax for properties worth more than £145,000 – work out how much you’ll pay here.
There have been discussions of a higher threshold for first-time buyers, but at the time of writing, this was yet to materialise.
New Build Schemes - Scotland
Both schemes are very similar: the Government will loan you 15% of the value of the property, interest-free, and then take a 15% share of the selling price, unless you pay off the loan first.
However, an important difference with England is you can only get these loans if you can’t afford to buy the property without them.
You can’t get the loan if the property costs more than £200,000 and it must be a new-build property.
NSSE and OMSE shared equity schemes - Scotland
Under these confusingly named schemes, you take a 60% to 90% share of the property and the Government takes the rest. Like the New Build Schemes, the Government gets an equivalent share of the selling price.
The New Supply Shared Equity (NSSE) scheme is for new properties from housing associations or housing co-operatives and is targeted at those with low incomes. You get to buy the rest of the property after two years.
The Open Market Shared Equity scheme is aimed at disadvantaged groups and you won’t be eligible if you could afford the property without it.
Scotland no longer has a Right-to-Buy scheme, as this ended in 2016.
Buying a property in Wales is similar to buying in England – you can read the full guide to buying here.
The main difference is that Wales has a Land Transaction Tax instead of Stamp Duty. This applies to properties worth above £180,000.
The Welsh Government has an online calculator to help you work out how much this will cost.
Help to Buy - Wales
The Welsh variant of Help to Buy is relatively similar to that of England, with the Government loaning you up to 20% of the property’s price, interest-free for five years.
When you sell the property, the Government gets its share of the selling price.
The properties must be new-build from a registered builder and up to £300,000 in price.
You will need to get a mortgage from a participating lender (full list of lenders available here).
Homebuy Wales is a variant of Help to Buy for existing properties.
The eligibility conditions are much stricter, however, only in certain areas and you need to show you are not currently adequately housed.
Rent to Own - Wales
Wales’ Rent to Own scheme is a great way to build up a deposit.
You initially rent the property and receive 25% of the rent and 50% of the increase in the property’s value back to help with your deposit.
The agreement lasts five years and you can buy the property between the end of the second year and the beginning of the fifth.
You can only rent homes from participating landlords, must have a combined income of £60,000 or less and not be able to afford to buy the property otherwise.
Shared ownership - Wales
Shared ownership in Wales is similar to the scheme in England, where you buy 25% to 75% of your home and rent the rest.
You need to buy from a participating landlord (full list here), have a combined income of £60,000 or less and not be able to buy the property without assistance.
If you’re a secure tenant of a local authority or non-charitable housing association you may be able to buy your property at a discount of up to £8,000 under Right to Buy rules.
Buying a property in Northern Ireland follows a similar process to England (full guide here), and also has Stamp Duty for properties priced above £125,000.
The main differences in Northern Ireland are the Government schemes available for first home buyers; Help to Buy is not available, for instance.
Shared Ownership - Northern Ireland
This encompasses two schemes: Co-Ownership and Fair Share.
Both allow you to buy 50-90% of a property and then pay rent on the rest, whilst gradually increasing your share when you can afford to (known as ‘staircasing’).
Co-Ownership is limited to properties valued below £165,000 and you can’t take out more than £6,000 in debt per person. It is available for existing properties.
FairShare applies to new build properties, priced below £160,000, from participating builders Apex, Clanmil and Choice. You need to be able to get a mortgage for 50% of the property price.
Both schemes insist on you not being able to afford the properties otherwise.
Rent to Own Northern Ireland
If you’re not eligible for Co-Ownership and can’t afford to buy a property yourself, have a look at Rent to Own.
You rent a new-build property from Government-backed OwnCo Homes (although private companies are also available) for three years and receive 25% of your rent back to help you save a deposit.
You can buy between the end of year one and before the end of year three.
Bear in mind this involves a £2,500 upfront payment to Own Co at the start of the process, once you’ve been approved.
Available properties are new build properties of less than £165,000 in price, with 10-year warranties.
If you’re a tenant of a housing association already and have been so for more than five years, you may be able to get a discount on buying your property under Right to Buy rules.