Shared Ownership guide – the pros and cons

Take a look at how you can get on the property ladder by buying a starter stake in a house with a shared ownership scheme

Property prices are at an all-time high. The economic effects of the pandemic is likely to affect the young and those in low-paid jobs. People are struggling to save for a deposit. So, the need for affordable housing schemes, such as Shared Ownership, is greater than ever before.

According to The Office for National Statistics, house prices have increased by 11.8 per cent over the last year. The average UK house price is now at £270,000. And, if you live in London, expect to pay a bigger premium than any other region in the UK. The average property price in the capital a staggering £507,000.

‘Shared Ownership is a valuable help to buy product that supports first-time buyers who are unable to afford to buy a home on the open market,’ says Louise Mills, Sales and Marketing Director at St Arthur Homes (opens in new tab) explains.

Gemma Caulfield, Residential Sales Branch Manager at Bramleys (opens in new tab) agrees, ‘Shared Ownership a good scheme from an affordability aspect.’

Shared Ownership - explained

Follow this guide to find out everything you need to know about a Shared Ownership programme. Bear in mind, the rules vary when buying in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Shared ownership exterior Blenheim

(Image credit: Blenheim Estate Homes)

What is Shared Ownership?

This government-backed scheme is designed to get buyers, who are unable to afford a house on the open-market, the opportunity to get on the property ladder. Approved applicants buy a portion of a home from a non-for-profit organisation, instead.

Often referred to as the part own, part rent scheme, the buyer pays a mortgage on the share that they own, and pays rent to the housing association on the remaining share. You can then go on to buy a bigger portion as and when you are able to until (in most cases) you own the property outright.

At present, the minimum share is around 25 per cent. However, that’s set to change under the Affordable Homes Programme, which launched in April 2021. The new plan will run for five years until April 2026, where the minimum share will be 10 per cent.

However, new homes can take between 18-24 months to construct, so it may be a while before homes are available under the revised model.

What is the eligibility criteria for Shared Ownership?

To secure a Shared Ownership home, your total household income must be less than £80,000. Or, less than £90,000 if you’re buying in London.

The scheme is available to first-time buyers, those who have previously owned a home and can’t afford to buy one now, and existing Shared Ownership owners who want to move house.  You have to be over 18 years old.

‘You also need to be able to show that you’re not in mortgage or rent arrears,’ says Pete Mugleston, MD and Mortgage Expert for Online Mortgage Advisor (opens in new tab). ‘You must also be able to demonstrate that you have good credit history and can afford the regular payments that the mortgage involves.’

How do I buy a Shared Ownership home?

Firstly, register with Share to Buy (opens in new tab), where you can search for Shared Ownership homes nationwide, register your interest in properties and also contact housing associations for viewings.

When you have chosen a property, you need to get your finances in order to ensure you have the required deposit and can get a mortgage – a broker will be able to advise on the best mortgage for you.

Much like buying on the open market, you’ll need to instruct a solicitor to take you through the conveyancing process.

‘Make sure you instruct someone experienced in dealing with Shared Ownership purchases,’ says James Smith, Director and Co-founder at Holden Smith (opens in new tab).

‘The law around Shared Ownership can be complex so you need a solicitor who can understand and explain everything to you in detail,’ he says.

Your solicitor will do all the usual title checks, the only difference is that a third-party Housing Association solicitor will be involved in the transaction as well. ‘There will be a lease between the Housing Association and the buyers to consider. The Housing Association solicitor will need to review this, too,’ says James.

Once all the checks are complete, an exchange and completion date is agreed and monies transferred. It's much the same process as when buying on the open-market.

Exterior apartments Catalyst

(Image credit: Catalyst)

Like most financial investments there are Shared Ownership pros and cons to assess.

Shared Ownership - pros

Shared ownership can be lifeline for those struggling to raise a huge property deposit...

1. It's a way onto the property ladder

At the end of the day, regardless of what percentage you own, Shared Ownership allows you to become an owner-occupier. ‘It offers long-term stability without over-stretching yourself to try and get a mortgage you might not be able to afford in the long run,’ says Pete.

2. A lower deposit will be required

You will only need a mortgage for the share that you own. So, the amount of money required for the deposit tends to be a lot lower than if you were buying the property outright.

For example, if you’re buying a 25 per cent share of a flat with a market value of £300,000 your share would cost £120,000. A 10 per cent deposit would be £12,000. If you were buying on the open-market, a 10 per cent deposit on a property worth £300,000 would be £30,000.

3. A 'no fault' section 21 eviction notice is not applicable

‘Unlike private renting, as long as the rent is paid and mortgage repayments are made, you can live in the property for the duration of your lease. This is usually 99 to 125 years,’ says Pete.

4. You can eventually own the property outright

In most cases, you are able to buy more shares in the property. The process is known as 'staircasing'. Shared Ownership owners who have bought their property under the new format can now buy additional shares in instalments of just one per cent. That's down from the previous 10 per cent.

The Folium living room Catalyst shared ownership

(Image credit: Catalyst)

Shared Ownership - cons

Shared Ownership doesn’t grant you all the benefits of complete ownership until the property is bought outright...

1. There may be hidden costs

Different housing associations will charge different rents. Then, if the property is a leasehold, there is likely to be service charges. ‘Before starting the process, ensure that you have been advised about all the sums involved,’ says James.

2. It's a long-term commitment

From a financial point of view it makes sense to stay in the property for a number of years. ‘This is mostly down to new-build properties including an extra premium on sale price. This will depreciate as soon as you move in (similar to new car purchases).

If house prices fall, you may fall into negative equity. Which means you'll lose money if you then try and relocate,’ says Pete.

3. Selling can be complicated

Selling can be a time-consuming process. If you decide to sell, your home is valued by an independent expert and is marketed via the housing association for approximately eight weeks. If there are no takers, only then can you sell it on the open market through your choice of estate agent.

Interestingly, homes bought under the new model gives shared owners the option to end the eight-week period at the four-week mark. This gives you slightly better control over the resale process.

4. Renovations require approval

Although buyers are allowed to decorate, there can often be restrictions on what home improvements are allowed. ‘Permission may need to be sought from the housing provider before taking on structural alterations to the layout,’ says Louise.

Sophie Vening
Sophie Vening

Sophie Vening is a freelance journalist and editor with more than 16 years’ experience writing about homes and properties. She’s worked for some of the UK’s leading interiors, self-build and property titles including, Grand Designs, Ideal Home, House Beautiful, Build It, The Metro Homes & Property and The Evening Standard Homes & Property. 

She enjoys writing about complex issues in an easy-to-understand way.