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Which first time buyer scheme is right for you?

There are several schemes to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder. But how can you know which is right for you? We take a look at all the first time buyer schemes and break down the pros and cons of each.

Guest Author
Words by: Nicky Burridge

Contributing Editor

The government has launched several first-time buyer schemes to help people get on the property ladder.

But if you're a first time buyer, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.

We take a look at the different challenges you might be facing and the schemes that can help you overcome them.

1. The problem: “I can’t save a big deposit while paying rent”

The average first-time buyer currently spends £225,000 on a home. If you were to put down a 20% deposit, you would need to save a massive £45,000.

That's no easy ask at the best of times.

But with food, energy bills and rental rates rising, a deposit is out of reach for lots of aspiring first-time buyers.

The scheme: mortgage guarantee scheme

The mortgage guarantee scheme can help you buy a home with a smaller deposit.

Through the scheme, you can buy with just a 5% deposit. You'll borrow 95% of the home's value with a mortgage.

The scheme is backed by a government guarantee, in which the government would pay the lender if you fell behind on payments.

The scheme has encouraged more banks and building societies offer 95% mortgages.

Are you eligible?

The mortgage guarantee scheme is open to both first-time buyers and home-movers across the UK.

The property you're buying cannot cost more than £600,000 and you must live in it once it's yours.

You must also take out a repayment mortgage, not an interest-only one.


The mortgage guarantee scheme means you can get on the property ladder with a much smaller deposit.

For a typical £225,000 first-time buyer property, you would only need to save £11,250.


While many big mortgage lenders are part of the scheme, they're not all part of it This means you might be limited in choice.

You might be charged higher interest rates with a 95% mortgage. Your loan-to-value ratio is smaller, so most lenders will protect themselves with a higher interest rate.

But even with higher interest rates, it might still be cheaper than renting.

The mortgage guarantee scheme is open to new 95% mortgages until 31 December 2022.

Find out more about the mortgage guarantee scheme

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2. The problem: “I can’t afford a home in my local area”

House prices where you grew up or where you work are too expensive for you to be able to get on to the property ladder.

The scheme: First Homes

First Homes offers discounts of between 30% and 50% on new-build homes to first-time buyers and key workers.

So, if a property costs £200,000, you would be able to buy it through the scheme for £140,000.

Not only does this mean you will need a much smaller mortgage, but you will also have to save less to put down a 5% deposit. You must also take out a First Homes mortgage to use the scheme.

Are you eligible?

The First Homes scheme is available to first-time buyers in England.

You must be able to get a mortgage for at least half the price of the home. The home must cost less than £250,000 - or £420,000 if you live in London.

Your household income must be no more than £80,000 - or £90,000 if you live in London.

Some councils may prioritise giving First Homes discounts to essential workers, people who already live in the area or those on lower incomes.

If you or someone in your household is in the armed forces, you do not have to live in the area or be an essential worker.

You’re exempt from council conditions about being an essential worker or living in the area if you’re:


The First Homes scheme means you can buy a property you would not otherwise be able to afford.

You only need to save a 5% deposit.

The home can be a new home built by a developer or a home you buy from someone else who originally bought it as part of the scheme.


You will not benefit from the full increase in your home’s value, as the discount must be passed on to the next buyer.

So when you come to sell, the property will be sold for 30% less than its current market value.

There is no central portal showing where First Homes are available. Instead, you have to check with local developers if any new properties will be part of the scheme.

Discover more about First Homes

3. The problem: “I don’t earn enough to buy a home”

You're on a low income. Not only does this make it hard for you to save for a deposit, but you think house prices will always be out of your reach.

The scheme: Shared Ownership

Shared Ownership helps people on low incomes buy a home through purchasing a stake in a property and renting the rest.

You can start with as little as 10% and increase your stake when you can afford to. You only pay a deposit on the share of the property you're buying.

So, if you want to purchase a 10% stake in a £200,000 home, you'd need a deposit of £1,000 and a mortgage of £19,000.

Are you eligible?

You must be a first-time buyer, or no longer own a home, to be eligible for Shared Ownership.

Your household income must be less than £80,000, rising to £90,000 in London.

You must also not be able to afford to purchase a home on the open market.


You can buy an initial stake in a property of just 10%, meaning you need a much smaller deposit and mortgage.

You can increase your stake when you can afford to until you own the property outright, in some cases.

It can be a good way to build up equity in a property if you can’t afford to buy somewhere on the open market.


Shared ownership homes are only offered by housing associations, local councils, and other organisations.

When you come to sell the property, if you do not own 100% of it, the housing association has the right to find a buyer.

Discover more about Shared Ownership

4. The problem: “I can’t save much each month for a deposit”

With rent high and the cost of living rising, it can be difficult to set aside as much money as you need to for a deposit.

The scheme: Lifetime ISA

The Lifetime ISA helps first-time buyers save for a deposit by topping up the amount they save each year.

Under the terms of the account, you can save up to £4,000 a year, to which the government adds a 25% bonus.

That means if you save the maximum amount, you will get £1,000 a year for free.

Any interest you earn on the account is also tax free.

Even if you can’t afford to save £4,000 a year, you will still receive a bonus worth 25% of the amount you have set aside.

Are you eligible?

You must be aged between 18 and 39 to open a Lifetime ISA account.

You can keep paying into it until you are 50. The money must be used for either a housing deposit or retirement.

To use the money for a deposit, you must be a first-time buyer, purchasing a property costing up to £450,000.


A bonus of 25% is always worth having. If you are able to save the maximum each year, it should significantly shorten the amount of time it takes you to put together a deposit.


If you withdraw the money early to use it for something other than a house deposit you will be charged 25%. This means you won’t get back everything you had put in.

Find out more about the Lifetime ISA

Find out more about first time buyer schemes

Find out more about all the schemes for first time buyers on the government's dedicated website.

The site also has a tool to help you find the scheme that's right for you.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.