The government’s Help to Buy scheme made homeownership possible for thousands of buyers, but selling this type of property presents some unique considerations. If you purchased your home through Help to Buy, the best thing you can do is run the numbers in advance before putting it on the market.
This guide walks through the key steps involved in selling a Help to Buy property, allowing you to navigate the equity loan repayment, fees and process timelines to achieve the best outcome when you’re ready to move on.
What is a Help-to-Buy property?
The Help to Buy scheme is a mortgage guarantee program backed by the UK government aimed at helping buyers purchase newly built homes. With a Help to Buy property purchase, the government guarantees the lender 20% of the property value (40% in London) through an equity loan, which functions as a second charge on top of the buyer’s mortgage.
This allowed buyers to put down a minimum 5% deposit while receiving a 20% equity loan from the government to achieve what is the equivalent to a 25% deposit from the buyer.
The loan was interest-free for the first 5 years, which made it very appealing.
Buyers were theoretically able to take more affordable mortgages with lenders since the deposit was at least 25% e.g. 5% from the buyer + 20% from Help to Buy. However, in practice, many lenders were giving Help to Buy borrowers less seductive mortgage deals vs the borrowers who actually had saved the 25% deposit.
According to the scheme, when a Help to Buy property is sold, the equity loan must be repaid in full to the government plus interest accrued. The Help to Buy scheme reduces the buyer’s upfront costs, making homeownership attainable with relatively little savings.
The scheme has undergone changes over the years, and the most recent version, Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2021-2023), closed for new applications on 31 October 2022. The interest rate and repayment terms can vary based on the specific details of the equity loan.
Why might someone purchase a Help-to-Buy property?
Being able to purchase newly built homes with a 5% deposit while accessing an interest-free 20% government-backed loan for five years made the dream of homeownership significantly more attainable for first-time buyers. Struggling to save enough for ever-increasing deposits had proved difficult, and Help-to-Buy offered a solution.
Can I sell a Help-to-Buy property?
Yes, you can sell a Help-to-Buy property at any time. However, when you purchased the home, you took out an equity loan from the government for up to 20% of the property’s sale price, and that equity loan needs to be repaid in full when you sell the home.
The original home price determines the specific amount you owe the government from any proceeds made on the sale. Most mortgage lenders will want to be repaid their loan balance first. Then, whatever sale proceeds remain will go toward the Help-to-Buy equity loan repayment. Anything left after that will be yours to keep.
So you can sell, but the money you owe the government and your lender gets subtracted from the profits of the sale proportionately. Still, selling allows you to cash out on gains made on any increase in the property’s value over time through appreciation.
Is it more difficult to sell a Help-to-Buy property?
Selling a home purchased through the Help to Buy scheme does come with a few extra steps compared to a standard property sale. Primarily, you must repay the equity loan provided by the government in full, which reclaims a portion of sale proceeds that would otherwise have gone in your pocket, if you had used your own money as the full deposit. There are also equity loan interest charges from Help-to-Buy, and mortgage exit fees from your lender to consider.
Another key issue affecting selling properties bought with Help-to-Buy is profitability of the sale. Help-to-Buy was exclusively available on new builds. The thing with new build properties is that they are priced higher. A study by Financial Times revealed that new builds start to lose value once they are sold, and can lose as much as 10% over the subsequent 7 years.
Anything second-hand is always less appealing than something new. This is due to wear and tear.
Secondly, consider the current housing market.
In the current housing market, property prices are falling due to high interest rates, which is causing less people to take out mortgages.
If you bought a new-build home, which naturally depreciates in value, and you want to sell it, when property prices are dropping, you might be in negative equity, or stand to make very little profit from the sale.
This issue may be slightly worse for leasehold new-build properties since as time goes on, leases get shorter, which is yet another value-depreciating factor.
Normally, when property prices are climbing, the gradual depreciation of leaseholds and new builds is hardly noticeable as it’s offset by rising property prices to such a great extent that profit can be made regardless. But when the housing market is in decline, like in 2023, and sellers are slashing prices, it makes it more difficult to sell these depreciating property types for profit.
So, before you decide to sell a Help-to-Buy property, or any other property for that matter, you’ll need to do the maths to ensure you’re not in negative equity. Figuring this out starts with getting a property valuation to learn how much your now second-hand house is worth in today’s declining market.
Do I need to repay the Help-to-Buy equity loan?
Again, yes. When you sell a Help-to-Buy property, you must repay the equity loan provided by the government when you originally purchased the home. Again, this commonly represents up to 20% of the value of the property, and the amount owed is set at the time of original purchase. Potential market appreciation over time means you can still benefit from a higher sale price despite repaying your Help-to-Buy loan in full.
You may have made partial repayments, whether lump sum repayments or gradual repayments,, during the years after receiving the loan. If you already paid back some of the loan, it means less money will be deducted from the proceeds of the sale equivalent to what you already repaid.
What can I do if my Help-to-Buy property has dropped in value?
One unfortunate possibility when selling property is that it can decline in value below what you originally paid. Suddenly, you’re in a difficult situation when repaying your Help-to-Buy equity loan, as you must pay back the full percentage based on the higher original purchase price. If you find yourself in this situation, though, don’t panic.
You have a few options. First, consider if now is the best time to sell or if waiting may allow you to recoup the value. Next, explore if your mortgage lender will agree to take less than 100% of what is owed to them. This frees up funds that you can direct to your equity loan. Finally, discuss options with Help to Buy directly — they may allow borrowers that are facing hardship some extra time to repay their loan.
Though declining property value typically impacts profit, there are solutions. Analyse different scenarios, negotiate where possible and reach out for guidance to make the numbers work when selling your depreciated Help-to-Buy home.
What’s the best way to sell my Help-to-Buy property?
Selling a Help-to-Buy property presents some unique challenges, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. Choosing the optimal sale method makes the process smoother.
Selling through an estate agent allows you to list publicly on the open market to the widest range of prospective buyers. This provides more opportunities to secure the best sale price, though there are some drawbacks. Traditional property sales with an agent can take anywhere between three and six months. Not only that, but agent fees tend to be on the high side and can be up to three per cent of the sale.
Auctioning can achieve a quicker sale due to faster processing times compared to an estate agent. But the winning bid will normally come in under market value, and there are no guarantees that anyone will bid above your reserve price.
Can I use a fast cash-buying company to sell my Help-to-Buy property?
Using a direct cash home buyer can be a smart choice when selling a Help-to-Buy property in which you own sufficient equity. Reputable cash buyers have the unique advantage of speed and convenience combined with fair market value offers.
Leading cash buyers understand the Help-to-Buy equity loan repayment obligations, working quickly to provide all-cash offers and expedite sales so sellers get rid of their property extremely quickly, and at no extra cost.
For Help-to-Buy sellers needing a fast, certain sale, cash-buying companies eliminate headaches and make the equity loan payoff smoother. The results can be win-win, with convenience and faster equity access for sellers.
Selling your Help-to-Buy home with Property Rescue
Property Rescue offers to purchase properties for cash, providing a fast and stress-free selling process. We can exchange contracts on homes in as little as 48 hours and guarantee a quick sale. We’ll buy any type of property in any condition, including Help-to-Buy, and have helped thousands of people sell their properties quickly. Not only that, but we’ll pay your legal fees, so the entire process is hassle-free and easy with no complications. Our solicitors will take care of everything for you including paying your mortgage balance and repaying your Help-to-Buy loan. Get a free, no-obligation quote, and see how much you can get for your home.
Summary: How to sell a Help-to-Buy home
Selling a uniquely financed Help to Buy property requires some extra planning but can be executed without much fuss. Seeking guidance from professionals well-versed in equity loan repayment procedures simplifies the process. With the right support and strategies, such as using Property Rescue, you can guarantee the sale of your Help-to-Buy home.