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Hundreds of buyers at risk of missing out on Help to Buy

New builds help to buy
New builds help to buy

Hundreds of first-time buyers are at risk of missing out on support from the Government's Help to Buy scheme because of a deadline imposed on developers to finish building qualifying properties by the end of 2022.

Buyers using the taxpayer-backed loan programme to get on the property ladder must complete new-build compliance checks before the new year according to rules set by the Housing Department - even though the scheme itself is not being wound up until March.

These checks normally happen just days before a sale completes, meaning that many of those expecting to get help with a purchase pencilled in for next year will miss out.

Help to Buy was started by George Osborne when he was Chancellor and gives new-build buyers a low-interest loan of up to 20pc of the value of their property, supplied by the state.

It closed to new applications in October and the last sales using the scheme will complete by March 31.

However, Whitehall officials have effectively brought the deadline forward by nearly three months by stipulating that properties must be signed off as compliant with building regulations by the end of December to qualify.

Typically the gap between compliance sign-off and moving in is 10 days, industry sources said. This means Help to Buy applicants may be working on the assumption that they have until the middle of February for their properties to reach “practical build completion”.

The Home Builders Federation wrote to Homes England, the quango that oversees affordable housing, more than a month ago to appeal for “a degree of flexibility”, but this request is understood to have fallen on deaf ears.

A Government source insisted that a three-month window was necessary for what typically takes less than two weeks “to ensure no customer misses out on purchasing their home”.

New build developers such as Persimmon and Barratt are understood to be unhappy with the decision, particularly because it had already closed the scheme to new applicants five months earlier than planned.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Whilst housebuilders have been working flat out to meet the deadline, a small proportion of Help to Buy homes may not be built complete by Dec 31, but will still be legally completed in advance of the scheme’s closure in March.

"Inevitably given where and how new homes are built,  there are sometimes unpredictable delays, not least currently as a result of supply chain issues beyond the control of individual developers. It would cause considerable anguish for homebuyers if they should miss out on their dream of home ownership as a result of an arbitrary administrative deadline and we are urging Homes England to be flexible."

A spokesman for the Government said: “Help to Buy has supported over 369,000 households into homes of their own and will continue to help many more until the scheme ends in March 2023.”