For many years, shared ownership was restricted to public-sector key workers, but the programme, backed by the Government and offered by housing associations, has been spruced up and rolled out to a much wider audience.
Since April this year, buyers in London with an income of up to £90,000, previously £71,000, have qualified, in recognition of the capital’s high property values. Moreover, some existing property owners, including divorcees and couples upsizing to a family house, are given equal priority.
Depending on your income, you can buy from 25 per cent to 75 per cent of a property, and need only put down five per cent of the share being purchased. In many cases, this amounts to a deposit of less than £10,000, sometimes less than £5,000.
"Normally, total monthly outgoings are less than buying outright"
Rent has to be paid on the remaining, or “unowned”, share, but normally, total monthly outgoings are less than if you bought the same property outright on the open market, as the rent element is discounted.
As your income improves, you can “staircase” to full ownership by buying more equity, useful for young professionals moving up the career ladder.
There are stamp duty savings too. But you have to pay service charges, which can be high if you live in an apartment block with concierge and extras such as a swimming pool and gym.
Housing associations are launching more shared-ownership developments, but there is still a huge undersupply of homes, meaning buyers face stiff competition. The best way to proceed is to register with the First Steps programme on sharetobuy.com/firststeps.
Then you can search not just by area, but by the deposit and budget you can afford.
Thousands of homes are listed on the website and new developments are added regularly, including riverbank and canalside schemes in central London.
Some properties are available “off-plan”, usually several months before they are complete, allowing buyers to organise their move.