Government schemes for first-time home buyers and existing homeowners

Several government schemes can help you buy a home. These include Help to Buy, Right to Buy and Shared Ownership. Read this article to find out more about them and how to apply.

Help to Buy

Use our Stamp Duty Calculator to work out how much you’ll pay when buying your property in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

If you’re buying in Scotland you can use the Land and Building Transaction Tax calculator.

In Wales, please use the Land Transaction Tax calculator.

Those with a small deposit, could be eligible to use the Help to buy scheme:

Equity Loan scheme: available to first-time buyers and existing homeowners who want to buy a ‘new build’ house within the relevant regional price cap.

This must be used to buy your main residence and can’t be used to buy a second home or a buy-to-let property.

You need a deposit of at least 5% of the purchase price. You can borrow 20% (40% in London) of the purchase price. This amount is interest free for five years. You do not pay interest on the equity loan for the first 5 years. You start to pay interest in year 6, on the equity loan amount you borrowed. The equity loan payments are interest only, so you do not reduce the amount you owe.

You can repay all or part of your equity loan at any time. A part payment must be at least 10% of what your home is worth at the time of repayment.

This scheme is available in England only. If you live elsewhere in the UK, you can use:

Right to Buy/Right to Acquire

Right to Acquire is a scheme currently offered in England for housing association tenants who don’t qualify for Right to Buy. The discounts are slightly smaller.

Right to Buy and Right to Acquire are two government schemes where council and some Housing Association tenants can apply to buy the property they live in, at a discount. To qualify for either scheme, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements.

The size of the discount varies depending on where you live and the market value of the property you want to buy.

Tenants who were living in a council home before it transferred to another landlord such as a housing association, might be eligible to buy their home under the ‘Preserved’ Right to Buy or Right to Acquire schemes.

Usually, tenants must have rented from the public sector (i.e. local council, housing association, armed services, NHS or foundation trust) for three years before they can buy under these schemes.

The three years can be non-consecutive. So you could still qualify if you rented from the private sector between times when you rented from the public sector.

In Northern Ireland: this scheme is called the House Sales Scheme and is for tenants who rent from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or a housing association.

In Wales: Right to Acquire and Right to Buy ended for all Council and housing association tenants on 26 January 2019.

Read our guide to learn more on the Right to Acquire: buying your housing association home

Shared ownership

Shared ownership is where you buy a share of a home from the landlord, who is usually the council or a housing association, and rent the remaining share.

You need a mortgage to pay for your share, which can be between a quarter and three-quarters of the home’s full value.

You then pay a reduced rent on the share you don’t own.

Later you can choose to buy a bigger share in the property up to 100% of its value.

From April 2021, changes to the scheme were introduced under the government’s new Affordable Homes Programme which include:

  • The minimum initial share has be reduced from 25 to 10%.

  • You must now be a first-time buyer with an annual household income less than £80,000, down from £90,000 in London.

  • Homeowners can now purchase additional shares in 1% instalments, down from 5 or 10%.
  • Fees for buying additional shares now been reduced.

  • Landlords will pay the costs of repairs and maintenance for the first 10 years of ownership.

  • The rules on selling the property have changed.

People with disabilities

Home Ownership for People with Long-Term Disabilities (HOLD) can help you buy any home that’s for sale on a Shared Ownership basis if you have a long-term disability.

Only military personnel get priority over other groups. The scheme will apply across England only. However, councils with their own shared ownership home-building programmes may have some priority groups, based on local housing needs.

You can only apply for HOLD if the properties available through the other home ownership schemes don’t meet your needs, for example, you need a ground-floor property.

Older people

You can get help from another home ownership scheme called Older People’s Shared Ownership if you’re aged 55 or over.

It works in the same way as the general Shared Ownership scheme, but you can only buy up to 75% of your home. Once you own 75% you won’t have to pay rent on the remaining share.

Find out more on the Help to Buy website.

Co-Ownership in Northern Ireland

This scheme is only for Northern Ireland and is available for both newly built and older homes.

You buy between 50% and 90% of the property (known as the ‘starter share’). You can increase your share at any time (known as ‘staircasing’).

You pay rent on the portion you don’t own.

Discover more information on the Housing Advice NI website.
Once you’ve found a property that you would like to buy, you should contact Co-ownership to start the application process.

Homes for Londoners

This scheme aims to help low and modest income earners buy or rent at an affordable price.

You part buy and part rent the property – mostly for newly built homes but some other properties are included.

There are eligibility criteria based on earnings.

You can’t buy a home on the open market.

If you’re looking in London, find out more Homes for Londoners property search.

Government home ownership schemes available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Shared equity schemes are where you own all the property and you have a loan on part of your deposit. With shared ownership scheme you only own a portion of your home with the chance to buy back more when you can.


Scotland has two shared equity schemes – New Supply Shared Equity and Open Market Shared Equity.

While these schemes are primarily aimed at first time buyers on low incomes, but it can also help others who need to move. This can include disabled people or people with particular needs following a significant change in household circumstances.

Read our guide to learn more on Scotland – schemes to help you buy a home

Help to Buy: Wales

The scheme helps you buy new-build homes up to £300,000. You must pay a 5% deposit with a shared equity loan of up to 20% of the purchase price.

You will need to take out a repayment mortgage to cover the remaining amount.

Find out more about Help to Buy in Wales.

Homebuy - Wales

This supports households by providing an equity loan to assist purchasing an existing property. The scheme helps you if you could not otherwise afford to buy a property and is particularly beneficial in more rural communities where there may be few opportunities to buy a home.

Homebuy is not available in all areas and where it is available the scheme will be subject to local eligibility criteria.

You can repay the loan at any time before you sell the property. But if you sell the property, the loan must be repaid at that point.

Find out more about the Homebuy scheme.
Find out more about Welsh home buying schemes on the Wales Government site.

Northern Ireland

There’s an Equity Sharing scheme in Northern Ireland where you can buy a property, often at a discount, with a housing association or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).

For more information on this and other schemes in Northern Ireland visit NI Directopens in new window.

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