Can’t afford to get on the property ladder? Shared ownership could be an option
The price of properties, even so-called first-time homes' is completely out of proportion to the average income. To save for a deposit on your first home is now taking house-hunters (especially first-timers) years longer than before. The Bank of Mum and Dad' is an option if you're struggling to get the funds together on your own, but if you don't have the ability to borrow from family members, or are unable to raise the money for that essential deposit on your own, there is another way to get your foot on the first rung of the property ladder.
Shared ownership - what is it?
Shared ownership properties are only available through housing associations. Put simply, you go into partnership with the association and buy a stake in a property of between 25-75%. You'll still need a deposit and a mortgage, but depending on how big a stake you purchase, that'll be considerably less than you'd have to find for an outright purchase.
The housing association continues to own the property and you pay rent' on the remaining percentage of the property owned by the housing association. They charge a fixed amount of rent based on the value of the property, up to 3%. So for example, if you have a 40% share in a house worth £150,000 (£60,000), you would then pay the rentable value on the remaining £90,000 at a rate of 3%. So your rent would be around £2,700 a year, or approximately £225/month. That's far, far less than you'd pay in normal private rented accommodation.
Who can apply for shared ownership?
Technically, anyone who is a first-time buyer can apply for shared ownership. If you've owned a property before but cannot afford to buy one again, then you may apply for shared ownership, but be aware that first-time buyers will be more likely to be accepted. Military personnel get priority treatment.
If your household income is less than £80,000 a year (and £90,000 in London) then you're eligible to apply for a shared ownership home. You can also sell your share' of the property at any time.
Staircasing - climbing the property ladder to full ownership
At any stage during your time in the property you can buy a larger percentage so that you get a little closer to owning the property outright. This is called staircasing'. The cost will entirely depend on the value of the property at the time you decided to staircase, and not the original value when you first agreed to a shared ownership deal.
It does vary, but generally you'll have to purchase a minimum of 10% each time you staircase, usually you'll only be able to do it three times, and for some housing associations they'll only let you make that third staircase purchase if you intend to go for 100% ownership and buy the property outright.
Is it a good idea?
Shared ownership is a great idea if you're desperate to get onto the property ladder but just don't have the funds for an outright buy. It's also generally cheaper than private renting, and you can sell your share in the property at any time.
However, you're limited to where you can buy shared ownership properties, so if you have a preferred location do some intensive research first to see if shared ownership properties are available. Check, too, whether local residents who already live in the area have priority, as can be the case in more rural locations.
Staircasing means you can decide when (and if) you want to make a block payment towards owning the property outright, which will decrease your rent and increase your share in the house. But it can be difficult and expensive, as the percentage will be based on the current value of the property, and not the original purchase price. You'll also have to pay service charges, especially if the property is on a leasehold agreement.
Remember, that like any other property purchase, it's important to have your finance in place before you go house hunting. You'll still need both a deposit and a mortgage to buy into a shared ownership property.
Get some legal expertise
As with any house purchase, the one thing you need in your corner is expert legal advice. The intricacies of buying a property are complex enough, but with shared ownership it's absolutely essential to have a legal expert who can take you through the process. They'll be able to advise you on whether the shared ownership contract on the table is the right one for you, and if you do decide to staircase later on then you'll need their advice and help to sort out the paperwork, too.
Hannah Johnson is a Solicitor in our Residential Conveyancing Department on 01323 644222 and by email on firstname.lastname@example.org