Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You should check the FAQs below to see if they answer your question. These cover the main issues that customers raise.
If you can't find the answer to your question you should continue to search for a home [find a property section] that meets your requirements and discuss your question with the experts at the housing provider selling or letting the home you are interested in.
You should check the Am I eligible? page for the headline criteria you must meet.
Additional criteria may be specified by local planning authorities for specific developments. You should check the property listing you are interested in for further details.
Anyone who cannot afford to rent or buy a suitable home on the open market, but who meets the headline eligibility criteria on the Am I eligible? page.
The Mayor has set out his priorities for FIRST STEPS:
- Armed forces personnel
Where there are multiple customers looking to purchase or rent a home priority will be given in the first instance to British Armed Forces personnel, and then, on a first come, first served basis. Once you have found a home that meets your requirements you should discuss this with the housing provider.
If you have a poor credit rating you are not automatically excluded from FIRST STEPS. However, you may have difficulties obtaining a mortgage.
If you cannot obtain a mortgage, you may be able to rent through FIRST STEPS. However, not all housing providers will accept you if you have a poor credit history.
You should discuss your situation with the housing provider before you go to view a home.
You should always seek independent financial advice when looking to purchase a home through the FIRST STEPS programme.
To buy you will need to be able to cover the cost of the mortgage valuation or survey, legal fees, and stamp duty (if applicable). You will need access to approximately £4,000 in savings.
In most cases buying a home involves paying a deposit, which is in addition to the approximate 4,000 in savings needed to cover the costs of buying. The amount of deposit required will depend on the mortgage provider you chose, the terms of the mortgage and your credit rating. To rent you will need to be able to cover the first month's rent in advance. You will also need to be able to provide a deposit / bond, which is usually 4-6 weeks rent.
When you share ownership of a home with another person, that is a private arrangement (e.g. a joint mortgage with a friend or relative). The FIRST STEPS Shared ownership scheme refers to the longest-running affordable home ownership product in London. This type of shared ownership is where you share ownership with a housing association and is often called 'part buy part rent' or 'part rent part buy' because you buy part of a home and pay rent on the remainder . Read about FIRST STEPS Shared ownership.
No. FIRST STEPS shared ownership homes are specific properties that have been built by housing associations. They include new build shared ownership apartments and houses. It is also possible to purchase second hand shared ownership homes in London through a process called resales whereby the existing shared owner sells their share to a new owner.
There is no London-wide scheme for purchasing any open market property through a shared ownership or shared equity scheme.
There is no longer a restriction on the number of bedrooms within the property you wish to buy. Previously shared ownership purchasers were eligible to apply for properties with up to one extra bedroom than the household size required. Now, as long as you can afford it, you can apply for properties with as many bedrooms as you wish.
The size of home you can buy will depend upon what you can afford.
Every month, you will need to make the following payments:
- Your mortgage repayment, which you make to the lender
- Your rent, which is set at a low rate to help make your home affordable - you pay your rent to your housing provider on the share of equity that you do not own
- If you buy a flat (or house on an estate with shared areas), you will also pay a service charge for maintenance and upkeep of these common parts
No. You are unable to use housing benefit to buy or rent a FIRST STEPS home.
Yes. This is called 'staircasing'.
You should check with your housing provider as to the specific terms of staircasing arrangements for the home you intend to buy. Normally, you will be able to staircase as and when you can afford to in a minimum of 10% tranches.
You can staircase to the point that you own outright. The price of the additional share being bought when you staircase will be based on the value of your home at the time you want to staircase.
You are required to buy the maximum share you can afford.
An Independent Financial Advisor will assess your income and expenditure before you purchase to determine the maximum share you can afford to buy and sustain.
Often developments specify the minimum share that is being offered if this is higher than the product minimum of 25%. You should still seek independent financial advice to assess your income and expenditure before you purchase to determine the maximum share you can afford to buy and sustain.
In the case of a resale shared ownership property you will be required to purchase, as a minimum, the share that the existing owner is selling. You will still need to be assessed by an Independent Financial Advisor to see what the maximum share you can afford to buy is.
You can sell your home at any time but you need to contact your housing provider before you start.
An independent survey/valuer will value your home and advise you and your housing provider what the selling price should be based on the current market valuation of the home.
Your housing provider will normally help you to sell your home by looking for another eligible buyer from customers registered with FIRST STEPS. This should help reduce the cost and the time it takes to sell your home.
Dependent on the terms of your lease, your housing provider is normally given an exclusive eight week window to resell the home as FIRST STEPS Shared Ownership before you are permitted to sell your home on the open market.
Please also see the Guide to selling your Shared Ownership Home.
If you are unsure you should discuss your lease with your housing provider.
If you die, your home will be passed on in the normal way under the terms of your will. If you have not made a will it will pass under the laws of intestacy.
It is your responsibility to pay the Council Tax.
As the homeowner, it is your responsibility to repair and maintain your new home. New homes often come with a guarantee that will cover defects in your home for the first year after it was built - the guarantee usually only covers defects in the builder's workmanship.
If your family grows or you simply want to move you should inform your housing provider that you would like to sell your current home.
If you still meet the headline eligibility criteria on the Am I eligible? page you will be able to purchase or rent another home through FIRST STEPS as long as you sell your existing home.
You are eligible to rent (providing your leave to remain covers the rental period). It is possible for you to buy through FIRST STEPS, providing you can demonstrate you are able to take out a suitable mortgage, and maintain payments. This will be assessed on a case by case basis, usually by a financial advisor familiar with the FIRST STEPS and lenders requirements.
Shared ownership leases prohibit renting out or sub-letting by the leaseholder to protect public funds and ensure customers are not entering into shared ownership for commercial gain. The FIRST STEPS programme is intended to help low and modest income Londoners to get a foot onto the property ladder.
On occasion, and in very exceptional circumstances, you may be able, with written permission from your housing provider to agree to a temporary arrangement to mitigate exceptional unforeseen circumstances. Requests should be discussed and agreed in writing with your housing provider.
You need to be able to afford the costs of buying and sustaining the home yourself.
You will have a financial assessment carried out by an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) prior to buying your home - the IFA will verify that the costs of home ownership are affordable for you.
Most shared ownership leases do not prohibit the leaseholder from taking in a paying guest or lodger.
Shared ownership, often known as 'part buy, part rent', because you only have to buy a share and the other part is owned by a housing association, to whom you pay a rent to. In contrast, with shared equity, you legally own the whole property and receive an equity loan that is secured against your property to help you purchase the home. There have been various shared equity schemes available over the years, usually provided by major housebuilders and developers in conjunction with the Government. The latest shared equity housebuying scheme to be announced by the Government is 'London Help to Buy' from 1 February 2016 the Government is increasing the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme's upper loan limit from 20% to 40% for buyers in all London boroughs.
20th September 2017
Shared Ownership Week returns for its fifth year, 21st - 27th September. Shared Ownership week raises awareness this home ownership scheme which offers a life line to thousands of first time buyers.
19th September 2017
Countdown to the London Home Show Autumn 2017: Our sponsor Crest Nicholson give you the low down on their fantastic development Dylon Works, available via Help to Buy London.
18th September 2017
Countdown to the London Home Show Autumn 2017: Hear Marco and Olga's story about buying their first home for their young family with Notting Hill Sales.
16th September 2017
Countdown to the London Home Show Autumn 2017: L&Q's Lucy Chitty dispells some of the myths about home ownership.
FIRST STEPS is committed to the promotion of all types of accessible housing in London. We want to make the journey into your new home as simple as possible and to be sure that you know what to look for when searching for an affordable accessible home. All developments must be rated according to the type of accessibility they offer. That is why we have the following guide, based on the information provided in the Mayor of London's Accessible Housing Register, to help you understand what the rating of each property actually means.
A - Wheelchair Accessible Throughout
Meets the design standards from the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide which superseded the Housing Corporation wheelchair design standards. These properties have been designed to meet latest wheelchair accessible housing design standards, offering extra space and full access to all rooms and facilities. This standard provides more space than previous wheelchair housing design guidance and also ensures that all rooms are accessibly. In view of the high density of new build housing stock in London, the parking features have been excluded from this category. This will enable wheelchair accessible homes built above ground floor level to be categorised as such.
B - Wheelchair Accessible essential rooms
Complies with the Wheelchair Housing Design Guidance within the Housing Corporation Scheme Development Standards. Properties designed of adapted to provide access for wheelchair users to essential facilities of the property (that is, a bedroom, bathroom, toilet, living room and kitchen). Other rooms in the house such as additional bedrooms or bathrooms may not be wheelchair accessible.
C - Lifetime Homes
Meets the space standards of the Lifetime Homes developed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Designed to meet the space standards of Lifetime Homes. Main features include a level approach/entrance and wider doorways. This category will capture all new general needs housing built to Lifetime Homes standards. Properties achieving this category will not necessarily meet all Lifetime Homes design guidance as the LAHR framework does not assess features other than space and access. Properties may have an internal flight of stairs. If so, these will be wide enough to accommodate future provision of a stair lift subject to technical feasibility.
D - Easy Access
Compatible with the design standards in Mobility Standard Housing (1974) produced by the DoE and Housing Corporation Scheme Development Standards (pre-1999) and Part M of Building Regulations (2000). The main features of these properties include a level approach to the entrance, wider doorways and more space than in general needs housing. These properties may also have an internal flight of stairs and if so, there is enough space to accommodate future provision of a stair lift subject to technical feasibility.
E - Step Free
No published access design guidance. These are properties that are considered general needs housing but have a level approach/entrance into the property and throughout. Properties in this category that have an internal flight of stair will be likely to accommodate future provision of a stair lift subject to technical feasibility.
E+. Minimal steps
No published access design guidance. Properties that do not meet any accessibly housing design guidance and have a limited number of steps to enter the property. Properties in this category will have no more than four steps to access the front door and are likely to be ground floor properties or properties in a block with a lift and a small number of communal or property front door steps.
F - General Needs
General needs housing does not meet any of the above criteria. Properties in this category will have more than four steps or a ramp access that is steeper than 1:10 to access the property front door. These properties should be marketed with the number of steps to access the property as this will provide an additional factor for helping people choosing what to bid for.
The Accessible Housing Register captures the essential information which determines the category awarded to a property. Additional information is also collected. This includes:
- Details of major adaptations such as level access showers and stair lifts
- Private garden or balcony
- Proximity to local shops
- Proximity to public transport
If you have questions about Shared Ownership, Help to Buy, or affordable rent schemes in London, and you do not see an answer to your question in our FAQs, please feel free to contact us