What is a Help to Buy ISA?

The Help to Buy ISA was launched in 2015 ahead of the closure of the Government Help to Buy Scheme at the end of 2016.  The ISAs were designed to help first time buyers onto the property ladder as an efficient way to save money and offer a bonus payment when closed. 

Currently the scheme is set to keep paying out until December 2030 for those who opened a Help to Buy ISA between 1st December 2015 and December 2019, and you can continue saving into your account until November 2029.  While you are not currently able to open a new Help to Buy ISA, we explain here how those who have an active ISA are able to use the funds, how the ISA works and what the funds can be used for.

How much can I save in the Help to Buy ISA?

When you first opened your Help to Buy ISA, you could deposit a lump sum of up to £1,200.  The consequent months you could save up to £200 a month.

When you close your ISA, you will receive 25% of your total savings as a bonus from the Government, so for every £200 you save, you will receive a Government bonus of £50.

The minimum Government bonus you can claim is £400, so you need to have at least £1,600 in your Help to Buy ISA when the time comes to close it.  The maximum bonus you can receive is £3,000, for which you’ll need to have saved £12,000.  You can continue to save money in your Help to Buy ISA once you reach £12,000, however you won’t get more as a bonus on top.

How does the Help to Buy ISA work?

It is important that if you plan to use a Help to Buy ISA for your purchase that you inform your solicitor as it is they who will apply for the bonus.  The full process is as follows:

  1. Your solicitor will inform you when you are close to exchanging contracts, and at this time you will need to instruct your bank or building society to close your ISA to receive the bonus.  They will then give you a closing letter confirming your account number and closing balance
  2. Your solicitor will complete a Bonus Request Application with Help to Buy.  You will need to have signed this to confirm you do not own, and have never owned any interest in property or land anywhere in the world, whether it was bought or inherited.  The closing letter from your bank or building society will be needed to form part of the application
  3. It can then take up to 30 days from closing the ISA to receive the bonus and the monies must arrive with your solicitor in time for completion of your purchase, so timing is of the essence.

What can the Help to Buy ISA funds be used for?

The bonus money you receive as part of the Help to Buy ISA will be included within the total funds available for the property transaction.  The bonus cannot be used for:

  • Home Exchange Deposit – this is because you only receive the bonus from the Help to Buy ISA at completion, and the home exchange deposit is required at exchange of the contracts during the earlier stages.  You can use the money you have saved in the ISA towards this deposit, but not the bonus, so beware if you are planning on including the bonus as part of the standard 10% deposit required
  • Solicitor’s fees
  • Estate agent fees
  • Any other indirect costs.

What property can I buy using the funds saved in my Help to Buy ISA?

There are criteria for the property you wish to buy to qualify for the ISA.  The property must:

  • Be in the UK
  • Not have a higher purchase price than £250,000 (£450,000 in *London)
  • Be the only home you will own and be where you plan to live
  • Be purchased with a mortgage (including shared ownership and self-build) opposed to a cash buyer

You are not limited in terms of the type of property, for example a new build, and you cannot be buying the property as a buy-to-let.

*The scheme uses the standard London boundary as defined by the Office for National Statistics. The table below sets out the London boroughs which will have a property price cap of up to £450,000:

City of London

Hackney

Lewisham

Barking & Dagenham

Hammersmith & Fulham

Merton

Barnet

Haringey

Newham

Bexley

Harrow

Redbridge

Brent

Havering

Richmond upon Thames

Bromley

Hillingdon

Southwark

Camden

Hounslow

Sutton

Croydon

Islington

Tower Hamlets

Ealing

Kensington and Chelsea

Waltham Forest

Enfield

Kingston upon Thames

Wandsworth

Greenwich

Lambeth

Westminster

There are other options for first time buyers; a Lifetime ISA is an alternative to help you save money or you can apply for a Help to Buy Equity Loan.

You can discuss your next move with our teams by contacting us on the phone numbers below, or to find out more about our fees you can use our estimate calculator.

Fareham: 01329 288121
Southampton: 023 8063 9311
Portsmouth:  023 9275 3575
Chandler’s Ford: 023 8071 7467
Waterlooville: 023 9277 6569
Emailconveyancingquote@warnergoodman.co.uk

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Thank you so very much, for your patience, and expert guidance throughout.