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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.

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Buying a home is exciting, daunting and at times quite stressful. 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’re giving you and your homebuilder more time. You now have until 31 May to get the keys to your new home. There will be no more extensions, so ask your homebuilder and conveyancer to make sure you can complete on time.

There are many questions about what COVID-19 means for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers and we aim to answer some of these below.

If you have a question that your homebuilder or conveyancer cannot 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?

Help to Buy will end on 31 March 2021, but homebuyers using the current scheme will have more time to complete their purchase. We are extending legal completion to 31 May 2021 due to delays caused by coronavirus. This allows an extra 2 months for homebuilders to complete the build and for homebuyers to legally complete and get the keys to their home.

There will be no more extensions, so we are asking homebuilders to continue to build at pace. Please check with your homebuilder and conveyancer 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? 

Applications for the 2013-2021 scheme closed on 15 December 2020.

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

If your build is severely delayed and you cannot meet the legal completion by 31 May 2021, your homebuilder must unconditionally release you from the contract. Contact your conveyancer for advice.

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

Your homebuilder 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 homebuilder may be entitled to make certain deductions from your reservation fee, but they must tell you about these first. If you exchanged contracts the homebuilder must also return your deposit. 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 made an “Early Bird” reservation with my homebuilder in March 2020, but did not make a full reservation until July 2020 – do I qualify for the extension?

‘Early bird’ schemes are provided by the homebuilder and are not part of the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme. The legal completion date for your home purchase will be taken from the date you fully reserved with Help to Buy: Equity Loan. This is when your application for an equity loan began.

I cancelled my home purchase after the first lockdown, can I reserve the same home now that there is a new extension?

We acted as swiftly as possible to extend Help to Buy when we entered into this third national lockdown. This extension to 31 May 2021 will help people with homes already reserved that have been delayed due to coronavirus. We have been as flexible as we could be in these changing and uncertain times, and have tried to help as many homebuyers as we can.

What is the last date we can reserve a new home under the Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2013-2021) scheme?

The final date for homebuilders to take reservations under Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2013-2021) scheme was Tuesday 15 December 2020. This was to allow enough time for sales to legally complete before the scheme ends. It would have been 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.

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

The Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2021-2023) scheme for first-time buyers only starts on 1 April 2021 and it ends 31 March 2023.

When can I apply for Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2021-2023)?

First-time homebuyers who are eligible for Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2021-2023) can apply from 16 December 2020. You will be able to reserve your home with a registered homebuilder and complete a Property Information Form needed by your Help to Buy agent to start your application.

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 homebuilder can answer questions about when your home will be ready to move into. 

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 3 months. If your repayment mortgage lender has agreed to this, your Authority to Proceed will be extended up to the expiry date of your existing mortgage offer. This is 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 home 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

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.

Are there any circumstances when Homes England may be prepared to accept a desktop valuation?

We will only be prepared to accept a desktop valuation if you are able to demonstrate that you or a member of your household are classed as extremely vulnerable and are shielding due to a pre-existing medical condition. In all other circumstances a full valuation will be required and you must permit the surveyor access to your property.

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 3 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 3 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 homebuilders have returned to work on sites, but not all are taking the same approach. Contact your homebuilder 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, homebuilders 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 homebuilder to understand your options. If you’ve already agreed a repayment mortgage with a lender, you need to contact them to explain your change in circumstances and to discuss next steps.

Section 5 - Completions

Can I still move, during a lockdown?

Yes. At the moment, the housing market remains open. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance. Here is the government’s advice on moving during COVID-19.

Can the home building industry continue to work?

Yes, home building can continue in line with sector guidance. The Home Builders Federation has also published a Charter for working safely during COVID-19.

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 repayment 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 repayment 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 repayment mortgage offer, please contact your lender.

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

The first thing to do is speak to your homebuilder. Where possible the homebuilder 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 2 metres apart at all times.

Section 6 - Remortgaging

Currently the Land Registry needs 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 7 - Stamp Duty Land Tax

Does the announcement about Stamp Duty Land Tax (stamp duty) rates 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 30 June 2021, you do not have to pay stamp duty.

This rate will reduce to £250,000 between 1st July 2021 to 30 September 2021 and further reduce to £125,000 from 1st October 2021. Your conveyancer will also be able to advise you whether you qualify for any exemptions or partial reliefs.

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 homebuilder and conveyancer will be able to make any changes that are needed.

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

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

When do you normally pay stamp duty?

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

Published 1 May 2020
Last updated 11 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Have added the question 'I cancelled my home purchase after the first lockdown, can I reserve the same home now that there is a new extension?' to section 1

  2. Updated to reflect announcement that legal completion for Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2013-2021) has been extended to 31 May 2020 due to delays caused by COVID-19.

  3. Updated dates and removed reference to applying for the Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2013-2021) scheme, as applications closed 15 December 2020

  4. Updated with changes to dates, removal of reference to applying to Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2013-2021) as applications closed on 15 December 2020.

  5. Updated information as per requested by Raynor Risbridger.

  6. Updated Summary and Introduction

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

  8. Edited section 1- additional questions added

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

  10. Added section 9 questions on stamp duty.

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

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

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

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

  15. Edited to include updated content

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

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

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

  19. We have updated section 6: Payment holidays

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

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

  22. First published.