Help for London homebuyers

Help for first time buyers in LondonPic: Getty

The Government's Help to Buy scheme has undoubtedly invigorated the housing market, and lured first-time buyers back into estate agents looking for that first step on the property ladder.

But in London, where property prices are the highest in the country, the lower deposit needed to buy with the scheme isn't always enough, since young people who may not be earning top dollar then struggle to repay the size of the mortgage itself.

All is not lost if you're hoping to buy in the capital, however, as there are other ways to get into the market.

New builds with an equity loan
First-time buyers can still take advantage of the five per cent deposit Help to Buy scheme if they opt for a new build home, where it is sometimes possible to bump up that deposit amount with an equity loan. This means that the Government or the developer lends up to 20 per cent of the purchase price, with the remainder coming from the mortgage lender.

The equity loan is interest-free for five years, and then rises annually starting at 1.5 per cent in the sixth year, although it you can pay back part or all of the loan early should you be in a position to. Though you'll still be paying the loan back, you'll save a bundle on the mortgage interest, with lending of only 75 per cent of the property value.

Shared ownership
An idea that many young people and low earners have taken advantage of, shared ownership allows you to buy 'shares' in a property, while paying rent on the balance. Typically available on new-build developments, the buyers takes out a mortgage for between 25 per cent and 75 per cent of the property's value, then pays a reasonably low rent on the remainder from the local housing association. If you can bag a mortgage that only requires a five per cent deposit, and then buy a 50 per cent share of the property, that could mean getting a foot on the ladder where it might otherwise be impossible.

Should your household income increase as the years go by, most housing associations will allow you to buy a bigger share, usually in increments of 10 per cent, in the property, known as 'staircasing', though you will need to pay the current market value at the time.

When it comes to selling, you won't get the full value of the property, but the majority of associations charge one per cent of the value of the share if it finds a buyer, generally a cheaper option than the estate agent alternative. Those who manage to gain a 100 per cent share of the property are at liberty to sell it themselves, but the housing association will have first refusal.

Keep your eyes peeled
If you are in the market for a London property, it pays to keep an eye out for new developments, where housebuilders sometimes offer first-time buyers a lifeline.

For instance, a planned £100 million development in Canning Town will be offering flats for just £250,000, a mere snip at half the average property price in the capital. Furthermore, the developers are allowing buyers to sign up with a deposit of just £2,000, though that does, of course, mean that you'll need a bigger mortgage.

Nevertheless, it is worth keeping up with the big name housebuilders and their upcoming developments - you might just find your dream home.

Have you taken advantage of the Help to Buy or equity loan schemes? Leave your comments below...