UK Markets closed

Banks report surge in help-to-buy ISA applications ahead of closure deadline

You could receive £3,000 of 'free' money by saving into a help-to-buy ISA. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

There has been a last-minute surge in applications for a government savings scheme offering Brits up to £3,000 of “free” money.

Banks and building societies including Nationwide and Santander have reported a surge in applications for the help-to-buy individual savings account (ISA), which helps people save for their first home.

Under the scheme, the government will boost your savings by 25% – so, for every £200 saved, government adds bonus of £50.

READ MORE: The most and least affordable places to rent a home in the UK

The maximum bonus someone can receive is £3,000, when they manage to save £12,000.

The accounts are open to every first-time buyer, not each household. So if a couple signs up, their maximum total bonus is doubled to £6,000.

The minimum bonus is £400. Account-holders must save at least £1,600 before they can claim their bonus.

The money can not be used for a deposit due on the exchange of contracts, to pay for solicitor’s, estate agent’s fees or “any other indirect costs” associated with buying a home.

READ MORE: Kenny Rogers' former home on sale for $4.495M

The scheme was launched in 2015 and has helped Brits buy over 256,000 homes, worth a total of £44bn, according to treasury data.

But it is set to close to new savers at midnight on 30 November, leading to a surge in last-minute applications.

Nationwide told BBC News it had seen “a sharp uplift in applications” in recent weeks. “With each day we get closer to the deadline, volumes increase even further,” it said.

READ MORE: Can I rent out my home if I have a mortgage?

Santander also said it had seen a “significant increase” in applications.

Meanwhile, Google searches for “help-to-buy” shot up 80% between 24 November and 26 November.

Those who have already opened an account will be able to continue saving until November 2029.

READ MORE: Cottage country home prices are booming in parts of the country

Eligible first-time buyers can open an account with as as little as £1 and pay into the account as and when they feel like it.

Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert told the BBC that all 16-year-olds who dream of owning a home should “open one now, even with £1, or you could be throwing thousands away”.