How shared ownership scheme helped me to buy when Help To Buy failed

Architect Helen had to go back to the drawing board to afford a property (Picture: Helen Lambert)

After finishing university and returning to her mum’s home in Hertfordshire, architect Helen Lambert ruled out renting privately and made up her mind to save for a place of her own.

Back in 2015, with a graduate job secured, she’d opened a Help to Buy ISA account, which pays a 25% government bonus when completing on a property, and paid in £200 every month.

The scheme is no longer open to new applications but the Lifetime ISA is similar, allowing under forties to save up to £4,000 a year towards a first home costing £450,000 or less, and attracting a 25% top-up.

‘I knew that renting wasn’t for me, so I started being more mindful of my spending,’ explains Helen, 30.

‘As I was living with my mum, my outgoings were reduced, meaning that it wasn’t too difficult to put the money aside.’

SO Resi Forster Oaks

Apartments at another SO Resi development, Forster Oaks, are available with the same deal as Helen’s (Picture: Forster Oaks)

Even with savings and the anticipated bonus, she was worried that the amount needed for a deposit – an average of more than £67,000 for first-time buyers in the South East, according to Halifax – would put ownership out of reach.

‘I did a lot of research on buying my first home, talking to friends and family and seeking mortgage advice,’ she says.

‘Buying on the open market was out of the question, so I was left weighing up using either shared ownership or Help to Buy.

‘They are both great schemes, but shared ownership was the better option in my current position – I liked the fact that I wouldn’t have to repay an equity loan, so less stress if and when I want to sell my home further down the line.’

By using shared ownership, people who can’t afford to buy outright purchase a share of 25-75% of a home’s value and pay rent to a housing association on the balance.

How much can you save on a shared ownership apartment at SO Resi?

Full market price: £259,000
35% share: £90,650
5% deposit: £4,533
Mortgage: approx £454pcm
Rent: approx £386pcm
Service charge: approx £84pcm
Monthly spend: approx £924

(For a two-bed apartment at SO Resi Forster Oaks)

Deposits are low as they’re only required for the share that’s bought, and they have the option to increase the size of their stake through a process called staircasing.

Helen had two criteria for her first home: it needed to be within walking distance of a station, and have a second bedroom.

After exploring a number of developments in the Lea Valley area of Hertfordshire, she found out that SO Resi Ware was due to launch its latest phase and put her name down as soon as the books opened. She bought a 25% share of a two-bed apartment, moving in last autumn.

‘A second bedroom was a must, to create a workspace I could close the door on at the end of the day – that’s even more important now working from home is the new normal,’ she says.

‘My job means that I still have to travel to sites in London, so I also needed to be close to the station and SO Resi Ware is opposite, so it’s perfect.’

SO Resi Ware has sold out but a brand new development, SO Resi Welwyn Garden City, launches nearby early next year.

Two-bed shared ownership apartments are currently available at SO Resi Forster Oaks in Stevenage, a leafy corner of Hertfordshire, from £90,650 for a 35% share of £259,000.

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