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First-time buyer schemes: five ways to buy in London without a deposit

Junakie Begum bought a house using the Deposit Unlock scheme (Handout)
Junakie Begum bought a house using the Deposit Unlock scheme (Handout)

The average deposit for a London first-time buyer has reached an astonishing £142,870, just under a third of the purchase price, according to Hamptons.

Clearly without significant family help or phenomenal good luck, this is a near-impossible sum for most average earners to save amid soaring rents and a cost-of-living crisis.

Before you give up on the prospect of owning your own home in the capital, it’s worth considering some of the new schemes launching to help first-time buyers.

From 100 per cent mortgages to deposit-boosting loans, there are options out there that can turn your dreams of homeownership into a reality — even if your deposit is non-existent.

Deposit Unlock

Deposit Unlock was created to try to fill the void left from the end of the Help to Buy scheme.

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First-time buyers can use the scheme to buy a new-build property with just a five per cent deposit, but you need to buy from a participating house builder and use a mortgage from a participating lender (currently Newcastle Building Society, Nationwide and Accord Mortgages).

Traditionally, banks are nervous about lending large loan-to-value sums against new-build properties that lose value once they’ve been lived in. In order to get around this, participating builders pay to insure the mortgages instead, shielding the lender from any potential loss.

The scheme is only available on a small number of plots but there is potential for it to grow.

Junakie Begum, 42, a public policy consultant, bought a one-bedroom flat at Epping Gate for £340,800 in December 2022 using the Deposit Unlock Scheme.

“Despite earning well, my expenses were high and I wasn’t actively saving for the deposit and was relying on some investment money to come through in 2023,” she says.

“Thanks to the scheme however, I was able to purchase a home an entire year sooner than I had planned using the savings I’d already accumulated.”

HomeNow

This start-up scheme looks at helping tenants, or “residents”, as they call them, get on the housing ladder without a deposit.

The resident finds a property they like and HomeNow will look into buying it. Once the sale has been completed, the resident moves in and pays rent to HomeNow, which acts as their landlord.

Unlike typical rentals, residents can treat the property as their own, decorating as they like (within reason).

After five years, the property is valued and the resident is entitled to a third of the increase in equity, which they can use as their deposit to buy the property from HomeNow.

If the property hasn’t increased in value, the lease can be extended and there is a two-year break clause.

Save to Buy

Fairview’s Save to Buy scheme sees first-time buyers save for a deposit with fixed monthly payments, while living at one of the developer’s new-build properties rent-free.

Monthly payments go towards a deposit pot, rather than a landlord, with the idea being that the buyer completes on the purchase once there’s enough money for a deposit.

It usually takes between six months and a year for someone to save enough capital, but a maximum of two years is allowed.

Once the deposit has been saved and completion taken place, Fairview has no share in the property.

To be eligible for the scheme, you need to have a one per cent deposit already, be in full-time employment (for a minimum of three months), and be qualified by a third-party financial adviser to confirm affordability and credit score.

Skipton Building Society’s 100 per cent mortgage

This year saw Skipton launch its one-of-a-kind 100 per cent mortgage product.

Available to tenants who are able to demonstrate 12 months of rental payments, this product is a great option if you have a strong history of paying rent but haven’t managed to save anything extra for a deposit.

As long as you pass affordability and credit checks, you can borrow up to £600,000, but there are limitations when it comes to the property you’re buying, as Skipton will not lend on new-build flats or recent conversions.

As the loan-to-value is the highest it can be, the rates are not particularly competitive, and you are limited to a maximum mortgage term of 35 years.

With the property market currently on a downward curve, there’s also the risk of getting into negative equity with this product and owing more to Skipton than your home is worth.

Even

Even is one of several companies that offer first-time buyers the opportunity to boost their deposit.

You need a five per cent deposit to start with, but you can increase it with an equity loan of up to £100,000.

When you come to sell the property, you split any increase (or decrease) and this share is dependent on the loan Even has given you in proportion to your deposit.

For example, if you buy a property for £100,000, with £10,000 of your own money, a £10,000 loan from Even and a £80,000 mortgage, and sell for £110,000, making a £10,000 profit, Even and you split this 50/50, taking home £5,000 each.