A SAM Conveyancing guide on the Help to Buy Application Process
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Help to Buy Application Process

(Last Updated: 23/10/2023)
7 min read
Help to Buy Schemes are run by the Government with the intention to help First Time Buyers get their foot on the property ladder with a lower deposit with an additional Government funded equity loan and Help to Buy mortgage to make up the balance of the purchase price. This is a guide on how to apply for a Help to Buy Equity Loan.

The scheme is closed in England but was extended in Wales until March 2025. New schemes for first time buyers include Save To Buy and Rent to Buy


    Check your eligibility for Help to Buy

Before you start the formal Help to Buy application process, the first step is to check that you are eligible to buy using the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme:

  • You must be a first time buyer or a home mover and you cannot buy in a company name or trust.
  • You cannot own any other property in the world at the time of purchase.
  • You cannot have any overdue payments on any loans, any county court judgments (CCJs) against you for more than £500 nor can you be subject to a bankruptcy order within the last 3 years.
  • You have to contribute a minimum 5% deposit towards the purchase of the property.
  • You cannot be buying to let, nor can you let a spare room in the property.
  • You can only buy using a repayment mortgage; you cannot get an offset, interest-only or guarantor mortgage.
  • You cannot use any other Government scheme in conjunction with Help to Buy, nor can you get Government funding to provide your deposit - this does not apply to the use of a Help to Buy ISA.
  • The maximum buying price of any property cannot exceed £600,000.


    Find a Property With an Approved Help to Buy Developer

Not all properties you see for sale can be purchased under the Help to Buy scheme so you should look for properties being sold through house builders registered with the Help to Buy scheme. You can find these through Rightmove or the Help to Buy Government website.

The other key difference is that you'll be buying a new build property which will either be:

  • Built and ready to complete; or
  • Not yet built (also known as buying off plan - in essence you buy a property that has yet to be built/finished being built).

Once you find a property you like then the next part of the Help to Buy application process is to secure the property with a formal reservation form and the payment of a reservation deposit. The reservation deposit will normally range between £250 to £500.

Check to see if the reservation deposit is refundable

It is often the case that the initial £250 or £500 reservation deposit is not refundable and could be lost if you don't exchange contracts within the requisite time frame set in the agreement. Read more about non-refundable deposits here.

FREE To Use | Your Progress is Saved | Complete To-Do Lists | Guides you through the whole Help to Buy conveyancing process


    Get your ‘Authority to Proceed’ from your local Help to Buy Agent

Once you have found a property and paid a reservation fee to the developer (this should be no more than £500 and make sure to read the terms to see what happens if you have to pull out), the next part of the Help to Buy application process is to apply to a Government-appointed Help to Buy agent.

Then you'll fill out what's termed a Property Information Form.

Help to Buy Property Information Form

Critically you have to have details of the Help to Buy Solicitor you've chosen at this stage.

You need to provide your Help to Buy agent the following:

  • the property;
  • your earnings;
  • your ID;
  • the names of all other applicants (if relevant);
  • your developer's solicitor;
  • your broker/financial advisor; and
  • your bank account, among other matters.

This is then used to assess your eligibility and affordability. This process normally takes 4 working days after which you'll either be declined or you'll get 'Authority to Proceed'. Once you receive the Authority to Proceed you can apply for a mortgage - you can't apply until you get the authority.

Developer's solicitor won't send contracts until you have your Authority to Proceed
You can often get stuck waiting if you haven't got your authority to proceed as the developer's solicitor will not issue the draft contract pack to your solicitor until they know you have the authority to proceed from your local Help to Buy agent.

Update 18 January 2019 - statement added to all Authority to Proceed letters (important):
Homes England announced that the following statement would be added to all ATP letters:

"You have been assessed for the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme in line with the Homes England sustainability calculator. This is based on a policy of a net debt to income percentage cap of 45% and a mortgage lending multiple cap of 4.5 x net income.

"If then, you continue and secure a first charge lender mortgage with an interest rate higher than 4.8%, you MUST contact your Help to Buy Agent to ensure Help to Buy will be granted. Homes England reserve the right to withdraw the Authority to Proceed (ATP) at any time if your mortgage offer does not comply with this. "

This means that Homes England is looking to impose a cap on lenders' Help to Buy mortgage interest rates and won't generally allow these to rise above 4.8%.

On the face of it, this measure could protect Help to Buy users and stop participating lenders from imposing premium pricing on them; equally it would act to prevent a source of inflation. 

However, some lenders might react by leaving the scheme entirely and withdrawing their mortgage products, which could affect the viability of the scheme itself.


    Get a Help to Buy mortgage

A Help to Buy mortgage is different compared to a normal mortgage and will have different mortgage rates and there are currently only 15 mortgage providers offering them. You can either apply direct to a mortgage lender, or go through a mortgage broker. The benefit of going through a mortgage broker is that they have access to the whole of the market and can help you with your application (including any chasing).

If you need help getting a Help to Buy Mortgage we can arrange a FREE mortgage appointment for you today by calling 0333 344 3234.

No mortgage offer? No Authority to Exchange (ATE)

The Help to Buy scheme require you to provide:

  • Mortgage offer;
  • Valuation; and
  • CML form (Council for Mortgage Lenders).

Your solicitor can't obtain the Authority to Exchange  (click to find out more) from Help to Buy until they have all of the above which means you can't exchange contracts. The ATE will be the final thing your solicitor so make sure to get your mortgage offer to your solicitor as soon as possible.


    Instruct Your Help to Buy Conveyancing Solicitors

In actual fact you'll most likely instruct your solicitor at the same time as you starting your hunt for a mortgage deal that suits your circumstances (you'll also need to give these details to the estate agents or developer on the day or soon after your reservation).

The actual Help to Buy application process doesn't differ to the normal conveyancing process other than the solicitor needs to handle the Help to Buy special conditions (this is very detailed and all solicitors will levy an additional legal fee for handling a Help to Buy purchase).

Our solicitors are specially trained in Help to Buy purchases and can support you every step of the way. Call 0333 344 3234 to get a Fixed Fee Quote or get a Free Instant Conveyancing Quote here.

Make sure you can afford to buy a Help to Buy property

Buying a home is a serious commitment and you should not do it without thinking through how you can afford to pay for all the costs involved including:

  • Costs of purchase: Stamp duty, Land registry, solicitors fees, landlord notice fees
  • On-going living costs: Gas, electrics, council tax, insurance, service charges, ground rent, boiler maintenance and mortgage repayments.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Reviewed by:
Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.
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