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Information for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers during Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated frequently asked questions about how coronavirus affects Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers.

Buying a home is exciting, daunting and at times quite stressful, and that is without being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. We appreciate that this is a worrying time while you wait for approval for Help to Buy or the keys to your new home.

We cannot guarantee that our Help to Buy agents will be as available as normal to answer your call or respond to your email. But you have our assurance that their top priority is to send you the authority to proceed, exchange and complete on your home.

We ask that you please bear with us and our Help to Buy agents during this time. We are working hard to help you buy your home and answer your enquiries. We are committed to doing this as quickly as possible, but this may be at a pace slower than we all would like.

Please be aware that our social media channels can only deal with general enquiries. They do not have access to your personal application information.

We regularly update questions about how Covid-19 may affect Help to Buy: Equity Loan homebuyers and customers.

Will German Director of Help to Buy, Homes England

There are many questions about what coronavirus means for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers and we aim to answer some of these below. If you have a question that your home builder or solicitor can’t answer, please get in touch with your Help to Buy agent. Calls and emails may take longer to respond to in the current circumstances.

Find your Help to Buy agent’s contact details here

Frequently asked questions

Section 1 – Extending the current equity loan scheme

Are you extending the current Help to Buy scheme?

No, the existing Help to Buy scheme will end on 31 March 2021. But home builders will have until 28 February 2021 to finish building homes. Most homebuyers must complete buying their home by 31 March 2021 to qualify for a Help to Buy: Equity Loan.    

Some homebuyers will have more time to buy and move into their homes (and home builders to finish them) if they reserved it by 30 June 2020. You must have experienced severe delays with your purchase due to COVID-19.

The existing Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme will end on 31 March 2021.  

Please check with your builder and solicitor that you’re able to meet these dates. 

 A new Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme open to first-time buyers only will be available from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023. Find out more about Help to Buy 2021-2023.

Can I apply for the current scheme before it ends in March 2021? 

Yes, if your home builder can complete the property so it’s ready to move into by 28 February 2021. You must also be able to legally complete the purchase and have the keys to move into your Help to Buy home by 31 March 2021. If you don’t complete by these dates you will not be able to get the equity loan funds. Please check with your builder and solicitor that you’re able to meet these dates. 

I reserved my house by 30 June 2020, when do I need to complete my purchase?

If you reserved your home by 30 June 2020 you may be able to complete and have the keys to move into your home by 31 May 2021. This support is only for homebuyers experiencing severe delays due to COVID-19. Your home builder must be able to finish your home, so it is ready to move into by 30 April 2021. Please check with your builder and solicitor that you’re able to meet these dates to qualify for equity loan funds. 

I reserved my house 1 July or later, when do I need to complete my purchase? 

If you reserved your home on 1 July 2020 or later, you must legally complete your purchase and have the keys to move into your home by 31 March 2021. Your home builder must have finished your home so it’s ready to move into by 28 February 2021. If you don’t complete by these dates you will not be able to get the equity loan funds. Please check with your builder and solicitor that these dates can be met. 

What happens if I can’t complete my purchase on time? 

If your build is severely delayed and you can’t meet the legal completion by 31 March 2021, your home builder must unconditionally release you from the contract. Contact your solicitor for advice. The only exception is if you reserved your home by 30 June 2020, in this case you may be able to legally complete by 31 May 2021.  

If I don’t complete buying my home on time I will lose money, what should I do? 

Your home builder must refund your reservation fee if you do not go ahead with buying the home. If you have already received an Authority to Proceed from us, your home builder may be entitled to make certain deductions from your reservation fee, but they must tell you about these first.  

There are no other fees to apply for a Help to Buy: Equity Loan but you may still have to pay for independent legal or financial advice you have received.  

I reserved my home before 30 June and my builder can’t guarantee my home will be ready to move into by 28 February 2021. Can you help me?

We will confirm with home builders which properties will be eligible for an extended legal completion date of 31 May 2021.

If you reserved your home before 30 June 2020 and your home has been delayed by COVID-19, speak to your home builder. You may be to be eligible to complete the build and legally complete the purchase by 31 May 2021. If you qualify for the extended legal completion, your builder must finish your home by 30 April 2021.

I am a second-time buyer and I have reserved in August 2020. The builder says they can complete the home by 28 February 2021. Should I go ahead?

Your home builder must only accept a reservation for Help to Buy from 1 July 2020 if they can meet the completion dates for the current scheme. The home must be built and ready to move into by 28 February 2021. You must legally complete your purchase and have the keys to move into your home by 31 March 2021.

If you don’t complete by these dates you will not be able to get an equity loan. Reservations made after 30 June 2020 do not qualify for the extended legal completion date of 31 May 2021. You may still have to pay for independent legal or financial advice you have received.

My builder cancelled my reservation before the extension to the current scheme was announced, can I restart my application?

Contact your home builder if your home is still available. You must start a new application for the Help to Buy current scheme.

Your home builder must complete the property so it’s ready to move into by 28 February 2021 and you must legally complete your purchase and have the keys to move into your home by 31 March 2021.

If you don’t complete by these dates you will not be able to get an equity loan.

A new Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme open to first-time buyers only will be available from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023. Find out more about the Help to Buy 2021-2023.

I made an “Early Bird” reservation with my builder in March 2020, but did not make a full reservation until July 2020 – do I qualify for the extension?

No. ‘Early bird’ schemes are provided by the house builder and are not part of the Help to Buy scheme. The legal completion date for your house purchase will be taken from the date you fully reserved with Help to Buy in July. This is when your application for an equity loan began.

When does the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme change? 

The new Help to Buy scheme for first-time buyers only starts on 1 April 2021 and it ends 31 March 2023. 

Who do I need to get in touch with to discuss my Help to Buy application? 

Your Help to Buy agent can help you to progress your application to get an equity loan. Your home builder can answer questions about when your home will be ready to move into. 

What is the last date we can reserve a new home under the current Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme?

The final date for homebuilders to take reservations under the current Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme is Tuesday 15 December 2020. This is to allow enough time for sales to legally complete by 31 March 2021 when the scheme ends. It would be irresponsible to allow sales to go ahead any later as homebuyers will not be eligible for funding if they do not legally complete on time.

Section 2 – Authority to Proceed

Will my Help to Buy: Equity Loan Authority to Proceed still be valid?

Some mortgage lenders have committed to keeping existing mortgage offers open for three months. If your main mortgage lender has agreed to this, your Authority to Proceed will be extended up to the expiry date of your existing mortgage offer in line with current guidelines.

My Authority to Proceed is based on a valuation carried out before the lockdown started. What happens if the value of the house I’m buying has fallen?

The Government will continue to honour Help to Buy: Equity Loans agreed with homebuyers before the lockdown. We won’t need a revaluation if your main mortgage lender is happy to proceed.

Section 3 – Valuations

Will you accept desktop valuations instead of onsite valuations during COVID-19?

Yes. If your main mortgage lender is using a desktop valuation to support its mortgage offer, that is acceptable for Help to Buy.

I want to repay my Help to Buy: Equity Loan, can a surveyor come to my home to do a valuation report?

Surveyors are free to visit properties to carry out surveys. Surveyors should follow the latest government guidance and all public health guidance on social distancing.

I need a survey for my remortgage and there is a long wait for a surveyor visit, what can I do?

We are prepared to accept a desktop valuation, if you are able to demonstrate exceptional circumstances.

Each application for a desktop valuation will be considered at our discretion on a case by case basis.

This means you can get a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) surveyor to provide a desktop valuation. You’ll need to meet certain requirements for the desktop valuation.

What are the requirements for a desktop valuation?

A desktop valuation can be carried out without a surveyor visiting your home if it meets these requirements:

  • The surveyor must be approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). You can find an approved surveyor on the RICS website.
  • The surveyor must be independent of the estate agent looking after the sale of the property (if applicable).
  • The surveyor must not be related or known to you, to avoid any conflict of interest
  • The survey must be provided on headed paper of the surveying company or approved surveyor (if they’re a sole trader), signed by the RICS surveyor, and addressed to Homes England. It needs to be in PDF or another non-editable document format.
  • The surveyor must list at least three comparable properties and sale prices. These properties must be like-for-like in terms of type, size, age and within a two-mile radius of the property being valued, as per RICS guidance.

How long will the desktop valuation be valid for?

Desktop valuation reports are valid for three months from the date of the report.

Section 4 – Reservations

I’ve reserved a new home off-plan on a development site, will it be ready on time?

Most home builders have returned to work on sites, but not all taking the same approach. Contact your home builder to find out about their situation.

I’ve reserved a home and have the go-ahead for a Help to Buy: Equity Loan, but I’ve lost my job due to COVID-19. Can I pull out of the purchase?

Depending on your situation, home builders have the option to partly refund the reservation fee of up to £500 if you need to cancel. They’ll follow the reservation terms and conditions and can charge for any reasonable costs they may have incurred.

Contact your home builder to understand your options. If you’ve already agreed a mortgage with a lender, you need to contact them to explain your change in circumstances and to discuss next steps.

Section 5 - Completions

My Authority to Proceed with a Help to Buy: Equity Loan has expired, and I’m worried I’m going to lose my home. What can I do?

Get in touch with your Help to Buy agent urgently and ask for an extension on your Authority to Proceed. This will allow your home purchase to continue. You should check that your mortgage offer will remain valid if a new completion date is agreed.

I’ve exchanged contracts on a new home and have a Help to Buy: Equity Loan agreed, will I be able to complete my purchase?

Yes. As long as you have a valid mortgage offer on the date of completion and are able to legally complete your purchase by the agreed date.

If you’ve exchanged contracts and are concerned about your completion date and you need to extend your mortgage offer, please contact your lender.

I am in my home, but I have a snagging issue that I want the housebuilder to fix. Are they able to come to my home?

The first thing to do is speak to your home builder. Where possible the home builder should investigate remotely using video or photo evidence. If this is not possible, when the inspector visits your home, you must follow the government guidance to minimise contact and remain two metres apart at all times.

Section 6 – Payment holidays

I’m struggling to pay my mortgage and equity loan interest as I’m still not working due to COVID-19, am I eligible for a payment holiday?

On 17 March 2020, the Government announced mortgage lenders had agreed to support customers experiencing personal financial difficulties due to COVID-19 with 3-month payment holidays, and other options.

On 2 June 2020 the Financial Conduct Authority confirmed these arrangements are extended until 31 October 2020.

This means Help to Buy customers can apply to continue an existing full or part payment holiday for a further 3 months, or if they have not yet had a break, they can apply for one up until 31 October 2020.

You won’t have to make any monthly interest payments for a set amount of time, but before cancelling any direct debits, please contact us to ask for a payment holiday on your Help to Buy: Equity Loan.

If you’re struggling to pay the interest fees on your Help to Buy: Equity Loan, you can also apply to put these payments on hold for up to 3 months if you:

  • Have contracted COVID-19;
  • Need to care for a family member who has coronavirus;
  • Are a permanent, temporary, full-time employee or contractor and had your working hours reduced either temporarily or permanently;
  • Are a business owner or self-employed and your business has been affected.

Apply now using this online form to see if you’re eligible

I’m due to make my first Help to Buy: Equity Loan interest payment before 31 October 2020. Due to the current situation, can I take the payment holiday?

Yes. If you’re due to make your first interest payment, you’re entitled to request a payment holiday/delay. Apply now using this online form to see if you’re eligible

What happens at the end of my payment holiday?

As soon as you can afford to begin repaying at the normal rate, please get in touch to let us know. Otherwise, your equity loan payments will automatically return to the normal monthly amount when the agreed payment holiday period ends.

The important thing to remember is that the amount you owe will increase by the interest amount that has not been paid during your payment holiday. Also, during your payment holiday, interest will continue to be added to your account at the same rate as is in your loan agreement. A repayment plan will need to be set up to settle the outstanding amount at the end of your payment break.

Section 7 - Remortgaging

Currently the Land Registry continues to require a ’wet signature’ on deeds, so we’ve put in place a manual process to do this. However, given the current situation it’s taking longer than usual, but rest assured that we’re still completing all legal requirements for deeds. If you’re concerned about whether your lender will need a wet signature for mortgage documentation you should contact them directly.

Section 8 - Stamp duty

Does the announcement about stamp duty exemption apply to Help to Buy customers?

Yes, if you are buying a home up to the value of £500,000 and legally complete your purchase between 8 July 2020 and 31 March 2021, you do not have to pay stamp duty.

The information on my Authority to Proceed or Authority to Exchange still includes details of stamp duty. Do I need to get this changed?

We don’t want to slow down your purchase and have decided not to reissue or amend paperwork. Your home builder and solicitor will be able to make any changes that are needed.

My builder agreed to pay my stamp duty as an incentive to buy, what should I do?

This is an agreement between you and your home builder. Please speak to your home builder and solicitor about the options available to you.

When do you normally pay stamp duty?

Stamp Duty is payable on legal completion. So Help to Buy homebuyers who have exchanged contracts and are waiting to complete can benefit from the announcement about stamp duty exemption.

For more information relating to coronavirus, please see the government guidance below:

Government advice on home moving during COVID-19

Government advice on staying alert and safe social distancing

NHS information on Coronavirus (COVID-19

Public Health England GOV.UK Page

Government advice for decontamination in non-healthcare settings

Government advice on how to sell a home

Government advice on working safely during COVID-19: Homes

Published 1 May 2020
Last updated 16 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated Summary and Introduction

  2. Edit - an additional question has been added to section 1 about the final date for reservations.

  3. Edited section 1- additional questions added

  4. Edited questions and answers to respond to extension - 31 July 2020

  5. Added section 9 questions on stamp duty.

  6. Edited 3 July 2020: Updated information about the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme 2013-2021

  7. Edited 3 July 2020: Updated information about the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme 2013-2021

  8. Edited 8 July 2020: Updated information in relation to Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme ending 31 March 2021

  9. Edited 3 July: Information updated in relation to Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme 2013-2021

  10. Edited to include updated content

  11. Edited June 2020 - updated COVID-19 guidance about end of the current Help to Buy scheme

  12. Edited June 2020 - to include information about home buyng at the end of the Help to Buy 2013-2021 scheme

  13. Information edited June 2020 - to include information about the Help to Buy: Equity Loan 2013-2021 scheme ending on 31 March 2021.

  14. We have updated section 6: Payment holidays

  15. We have updated info in section 3 around comparable properties and sale prices.

  16. We have updated the information to reflect guidence for the second phase of lockdown (May 2020)

  17. First published.