The Help to Buy Isa for first-time buyers launches today: Here's everything you need to know, including which banks and building societies will provide it and how much you can borrow

Emma Haslett
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First Anniversary Of Help To Buy
The Help to Buy Isa was unveiled by the chancellor in March (Source: Getty)

It was now many moons ago that George Osborne introduced the Help to Buy Isa (Help to Buy-sa to its friends), which will give savers £50 for every £200 they save, up to £12,000.

Nine months after it was first announced, the scheme is finally ready to be unveiled, with the launch slated for today. In other words: first-time buyers are about to be handed £3,000 of government money.

Want to know more? We've got everything you need here.

Read more: Osborne's housing measures risk making the situation worse

What is it?

Aimed at "kick-starting" savers' accounts, the Help to Buy Isa provides a £50 government "bonus" on every £200 put away, up to a maximum of £3,000.

There are catches - you can only deposit a lump sum of £1,200, and then up to £200 a month thereafter (even if you then withdraw it).

You must save at least £1,600 before you can start claiming your rewards (although if you can find a home at that price, we'll be pretty impressed...).

Here's how it works:

Amount in your Help to Buy Isa Government bonus Total
£1,600 (minimum) £400 £2,000
£2,000 £500 £2,500
£3,000 £750 £3,750
£4,000 £1,000 £5,000
£5,000 £1,250 £6,250
£6,000 £1,500 £7,500
£7,000 £1,750 £8,750
£8,000 £2,000 £10,000
£9,000 £2,250 £11,250
£10,000 £2,500 £12,500
£11,000 £2,750 £13,750
£12,000 £3,000 £15,000

So I can't earn a bonus of more than £3,000?

Actually, if you're buying with a partner or with friends, you could earn more. Each member of a "household" is allowed to open their own Help to Buy Isa - so if you're buying with a partner, for instance, you'll be eligible for £6,000, as long as you're both first-time buyers.

Read more: No, Mr Osborne, this is not a crisis of home ownership - it's a housing crisis

Who can open one?

The scheme is aimed at first-time buyers, so if you already own property, you won't be eligible. All the other usual limits apply: you must be over 16, have a valid National Insurance number and be a UK resident. You also can't have another active cash Isa in the same year.

What about the property I'm buying - are there any catches?

Naturally. If you're buying in London, you will only be eligible if the home is worth £450,000 or less. If you're outside the capital, it must be worth £250,000 or less.

It's also worth pointing out that it can't be a second home or a buy-to-let property, and you shouldn't be planning to rent it out.

How does the bonus work?

You'll never actually see the cash in your account. Once you've decided on which home to buy, it'll be up to your solicitor or conveyancer to apply for the bonus, which they will then transfer straight to the seller.

Which providers will offer the Help to Buy Isa?

The government said in July that Barclays, Lloyds, Nationwide, Natwest, Santander and Virgin Money had signed up to offer the accounts. So far, Virgin Money, Nationwide, Halifax and Natwest offer information on the scheme.

Don't go - I need more

The government's Help to Buy site has answers to all your frequently asked questions here.

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