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Buying a home using shared ownership: the pros and cons

If you’re struggling to find a home you can afford to buy, shared ownership may be a possible solution, although you may be curious as to whether it’s worth it and the pros and cons.

Shared ownership is a halfway house between renting and buying, and it helps to reduce one of the biggest obstacles facing first-time buyers: raising a large enough deposit.

For many people, shared ownership can provide a stepping-stone out of renting and onto the property ladder, and it can set you on the road to full home ownership.

However, there are some potential pitfalls, so consider the pros and cons when deciding if shared ownership is right for you.

Summary

  • Shared ownership schemes are run by housing associations and are often open to first-time buyers

  • There are many criteria you need to meet in order to apply for shared ownership

  • Typically, a housing association will charge you 2.75% rent on their share

  • The main advantage of shared ownership is that it can be easier to achieve than full ownership

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What is shared ownership?

Shared ownership schemes are run by housing associations, and are often (but not exclusively) open to first-time buyers.

They enable you to take out a mortgage on a portion of your home, ranging from 25% to 75%, and pay rent on the remainder.

This means you don’t need as big a mortgage as you would if you were buying the home outright.

Who is eligible for shared ownership?

There are many criteria you need to meet in order to apply for, including both:

  • Having a combined household income of less than £80,000 (or £90,000 in London).

  • Being unable to save for a deposit and afford monthly mortgage payments for a home that meets your needs.

You must also meet one of the below criteria:

  • Be a first-time buyer.

  • You used to own a home but cannot afford to buy a new one.

  • You’re forming a new household.

  • You’re already using the shared ownership scheme and want to move.

  • You already own a home and want to move, but you can’t afford a new home, which will meet your needs.

Some housing associations may need you to prove that you live, work in or have a connection to the area where you want to buy a home.

How much rent do you pay on shared ownership?

How much rent you pay on a shared ownership home varies, depending on your property’s value, how much of a share you own and the percentage of rent charged.

Typically, a housing association will charge you 2.75% rent on their share.

For example, if you buy a 50% share in a property worth £150,000 and were charged 2.75% on the housing association's share, you would pay £2,062.50 annually or £171.87 per month.

While this sounds affordable, you’ll also need to pay monthly mortgage payments, service charges and ground rent – so ensure you can afford all these costs before you apply.

Can you rent out a shared ownership property?

You usually won’t be able to sub-let a shared ownership property unless you fully own it but you may be able to accept a lodger.

It’s worth asking the housing association before you apply.

What are the advantages of shared ownership?

The main advantage of shared ownership is that it can be easier to achieve than full ownership.

As you only need a smaller mortgage, the deposit will also be smaller.

Even though your mortgage repayments plus rent may be as much as, or more than, repayments on a full mortgage, a smaller deposit makes it easier to get onto the property ladder.

Shared ownership is also preferable to renting, as the portion of the home you own will grow in value if the price of your property rises.

If this happens, you’ll have some equity that will help you take your next step on the property ladder.

Can I buy the rest of the property?

You can increase your owned share of a property up to 100% in a process known as ‘staircasing.’

This may be possible if your circumstances improve – for example, if you get a pay rise, or have saved or otherwise received a lump sum to enable you to buy more equity.

You can usually do this at any time during your tenancy, but some housing associations may only allow you to do this a maximum of three times.

If you start by buying a property with a 25% share, you could staircase to 50%, then 75%, and finally buy the whole property.

Each time you staircase, your housing association will carry out a property valuation of your home, so you’ll buy each share at the current market price, not the price at the time you bought your first share.

You should bear this in mind when timing your decision to staircase.

You’ll also need to remortgage - a mortgage broker can be helpful in finding the best deal for your circumstances. Unbiased can quickly connect you to a qualified mortgage adviser.

How does stamp duty work with shared ownership?

While most first-time buyers do not pay stamp duty, this exemption doesn’t always apply to shared ownership purchases.

You have two options when it comes to paying stamp duty: pay it on the full value of the home upfront, or on the portion you are buying.

If you choose to pay it on just a portion, you won’t qualify for the exemption, and you’ll also have to pay it again if your share in the property exceeds 80%.

If you opt to pay the full amount upfront, you will qualify for the exemption, but this only covers properties up to £250,000.

You should talk to a mortgage broker about which option will be most cost-effective for you.

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How do I sell a shared ownership home?

Selling a shared ownership home is essentially the same as selling a home.

The only real difference is that you must give the housing association the option of finding a buyer before you put it on the open market.

You will receive a share of the sale price in proportion to your owned share of the property. So if the home sells for £300,000 and you have a 25% share, you will receive £75,000.

Are there any downsides to shared ownership?

As the name suggests, shared ownership doesn’t give you all the benefits of complete ownership.

So, there are a few pros and cons to consider:

1. You are still a tenant

As you are still paying rent on a portion of the property, you remain a tenant of your landlord.

So, you can be evicted on many grounds, such as failure to pay rent, nuisance behaviour or sub-letting.

Worse still, there is a risk that if you are evicted, you could lose the portion of the home that you have already ‘bought’, since you don’t own it in a fully legal sense until you have staircased up to 100%.

The housing association is not legally obliged to reimburse you if you are evicted – you are only legally entitled to be paid for your share on the sale of the property.

This is why it’s vital to ensure you can afford your mortgage payments and rent before applying for shared ownership.

2. Stamp duty

As we mentioned above, you may not qualify for the first-time buyer exemption.

3. Service charge

You’ll have to pay a service charge to cover the maintenance of communal parts of the building.

4. The lease 

Shared ownership properties are leasehold, and homes with a short lease (of under 80 years) become increasingly hard to sell.

You should check that you can obtain a lease extension if necessary.

5. Sub-letting

As we mentioned, you are not allowed to sub-let a shared ownership property unless you have staircased to 100% ownership.

While you are allowed to let out one or more rooms to lodgers or flatmates, you must be living in the property permanently yourself.

Find out more about Help-to-Buy.

Can I apply for shared ownership?

You may qualify for shared ownership if your combined household income is less than £80,000 (or £90,000 in London).

Usually you will have to be a first-time buyer although you may be eligible if you meet other criteria. If you own a home, you must already be in the process of selling it.

You will also need a good credit, rent or mortgage history, and enough savings to cover the mortgage deposit and moving costs 

To apply, contact your local council’s housing team to asking about housing associations in your area, or look on websites such as Share to Buy or Homes for Londoners if you live in the capital.

Not all mortgage brokers will offer mortgages for shared ownership, but it’s worth getting in touch with one as they may be able to find you the best deals.

If you found this article useful, you might also find our articles on how to get a single person mortgage and shared equity informative.

Considering shared ownership?

It’s a good idea to talk to a qualified mortgage broker who can help you find the most competitive mortgage for your unique circumstances.

Find your local broker via Unbiased today.

Get mortgage advice
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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.