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Help to Buy fund has 'significant impact' on sales

Government mortgage schemes are hitting their targets by helping first-time buyers rather than fuelling price hotspots, the industry said this week.

First-time buyers took out 5900 new loans in Scotland in the first quarter of 2014, up 31% on a year ago, and 45% higher in value, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. The CML said government schemes had had the most impact outside London and on lower-value properties.

Paul Smee, CML director-general, said the initiatives "appear to be successfully reaching their target group of creditworthy borrowers who would otherwise be unable to buy until they had accumulated a more significant deposit".

A UK survey by LSL, owner of estate agent Your Move, found first-time buyer transactions up 47% year on year, with one in nine citing the shared equity Help to Buy schemes as being pivotal to their success.

Philip Hogg, chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland, said: "The hugely successful Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme, which has generated over 3000 reservations and sales since launch, has had a significant impact."

He also called for the scheme to be extended to 2020, as it has been south of the Border. It is currently due to end in 2016 in Scotland.

Clare Francis, editor-in-chief at comparison website MoneySupermarket.com, said: "The resurgent housing market is making life harder for aspiring homeowners on the one hand, but on the other, one of the reasons why prices are rising again is because there are more mortgages available for first-time buyers now than a year ago, making it easier for them to raise the funds they need.

"This has, in part, been helped by the launch of the mortgage guarantee element of the Help to Buy mortgage scheme, which is enabling first-time buyers to get on the property ladder sooner because they don't have to save such a large deposit."

The website said rates on first-time buyer mortgages are also significantly lower than they were before the credit crunch. It gives HSBC top spot for its two-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.89% for buyers with a 10 per cent deposit.

It added: "Those looking to take advantage of the Help to Buy scheme will see slightly higher rates, with Santander being the current best buy offering a rate of 4.74% with its two-year tracker deal."

The average age UK house-hunters estimate they will be able to take their first step onto the property ladder is now 36, according to research by MoneySupermarket - though Scots were the most optimistic, expecting to get there by the age of 33.

South of the Border, Help to Buy loans are open to both first-time buyers and home movers on new-build homes, with a purchase price up to £600,000.

In Scotland, the scheme covers new-build properties of up to £400,000, again covering first-time buyers and current owners.

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