Favourable interest rates for Help to Buy Isa schemes

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First-time buyers saving into the Government's new Help to Buy Isa scheme will be offered rates as high as 4%.

Banks and building societies have started to unveil details of the products they will be offering under the initiative, as competition to attract savers heats up ahead of the scheme's launch next week.

Halifax revealed it will offer people saving into the scheme an annual rate of interest of 4%, while Nationwide Building Society confirmed that it plans to offer Help to Buy Isa savers a rate of 2% as well as access to other perks.

On Friday, NatWest announced that it will also offer a rate of 2%.

The interest rates on these Help to Buy Isa deals are variable, so they could change.  

From December 1, first-time buyers saving for a deposit will be able to put up to £200 a month in a dedicated Isa that the Government will top up by 25% - meaning a £50 bonus for every £200 saved.

The maximum Government bonus that someone can receive is £3,000. To receive that, they will need to have saved £12,000.

To kick-start their account, first-time buyers can also open their account with a one-off lump sum of up to £1,000 in addition to the monthly £200 maximum deposit.

Couples will also be eligible if they are buying together, meaning a potential boost of up to £6,000 towards a deposit for a first home.

As well as the promise of Government cash, the rates announced so far compare well with the cash Isa rates on the market generally.

According to financial information website Moneyfacts, the average cash Isa rate stands at 1.48%.

More providers are expected to unveil what they will offer under the scheme soon. The list of others who have confirmed they will be taking part includes Barclays, Santander and HSBC.

Charlotte Nelson, a spokeswoman for Moneyfacts, described the 4% rate from Halifax as a "fabulous deal".

She said: "It looks like the competition is now on to entice these new savers and to be seen as the first-time buyers' choice."

Nationwide said its Help to Buy customers will be offered access to the Society's "save to buy" mortgage range, which offers additional cashback. 

Another advantage of Nationwide's deal is that it will also allow Help to Buy Isa savers to spread their Isa balance across more than one Isa product with the Society, enabling them to save up to the full annual tax year Isa limit of £15,240.

To qualify for a Help to Buy Isa generally, someone must be a UK resident aged 16 or over buying their first property.

The property must be in the UK, and cost up to £250,000, or up to £450,000 for people buying in London. It must not be bought as a buy-to-let property. The property must be mortgaged in order to be eligible for the Government bonus. 

While people saving into a Help to Buy Isa are not obliged to take out a mortgage with the bank or building society providing their Isa when they come to buy their home, many may well go on to do so.

Earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne unveiled a package of measures designed to help people onto the housing ladder.

The Chancellor's measures promise to be the biggest affordable housebuilding programme since the 1970s, with more than 400,000 new homes set to be built across England.

But experts have warned that the drive must not leave those who are not home owners without somewhere affordable to rent.

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, has said that a "key test" for the measures will be whether they will work for people on average and lower incomes.

Across the UK, house prices reached a new record high of £286,000 on average in September after jumping by 6.1% over the last year, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A first-time buyer faces paying 4.3% more for a starter home than they did a year ago, with the average price paid for a first-time buyer home standing at £216,000 in September, the ONS figures show.