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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Scheme to help buy your first home

August 13th, 2022 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Criteria for the scheme includes that the property must be a newly built home in a private development. The scheme does not cover second-hand homes or self-build homes. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Q. What is the First Home Scheme?

A. The First Home Scheme (FHS) is an affordable housing scheme, which supports people to buy new homes. The FHS is a shared equity scheme, where the State and participating banks pay up to 30% of the cost of your new home in return for a stake in the home.

If you want, you can buy back the stake at any time, but you don’t have to. The scheme is available nationwide for first-time buyers and certain other people who want to buy a new home but can’t afford to. Your income is not assessed for the FHS.

Q. How do I qualify for the scheme?

You must meet certain criteria. You must be a first-time buyer or ‘fresh start’ applicant who is over 18 and has the right to live in Ireland. You will not qualify as a first-time buyer if you have owned a home abroad or have previously inherited a home. If you are buying the property with someone else, they must also be a first-time buyer or fresh start applicant

The property you buy must be a newly built home in a private development. The scheme does not cover second-hand homes or self-build homes. The scheme only applies to properties that are bought as your home. You must live in it as your only place of residence

Q. Who is considered a ‘fresh start’ applicant?

This is if you previously owned a home, but you no longer have a financial interest in it because you are now divorced, separated, or your relationship has ended or you have gone through personal insolvency or bankruptcy

Q. Are there any limits on the price of the property I buy?

Your new home must cost less than the price limit for your local authority area. These limits are different depending on where you buy and what type of property you purchase.

The limits are linked to the median price for first-time buyers in each area. They will be reviewed regularly and changed if needed. The limit for Cork County is €350,000 for all properties while in Cork city the limit is €450,000 for houses and €500,000 for apartments.

Q. Are there restrictions on where I can get my mortgage?

Your mortgage must be with a lender that is participating in the scheme. Participating lenders currently include, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and Allied Irish Bank which includes AIB, Haven Mortgages and EBS.

Q. How much funding can I get and are there any costs?

The First Home Scheme is a shared equity scheme. This means you can get funds from the scheme in return for a percentage ownership of the property.

You can buy back this percentage if and when you want, and then you will fully own the home. You can get up to 30% of the market value of your new property with the First Home Scheme. This is reduced to 20% if you are also getting the Help to Buy Scheme.

The minimum amount you can get is 2.5% of the property purchase price, or €10,000, whichever is higher.

Q. Can I buy back the equity share in my home?

You can buy back the equity share in your home at any time. But, you don’t have to.

If you choose to, you can buy back the full equity share in one payment, or pay it back partially as you can afford to.

However, the minimum amount you can pay back is 5% of the original equity amount and you can only make 2 partial payments a year.

The equity share in your home is a percentage of the market value of your home. So, if property prices increase, the amount you have to pay back will increase.

Q. How do I apply for the First Home Scheme (FHS)?

Contact the FHS on 0818 275 662 and www.firsthomescheme.ie

For further information call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in West Cork on 0818 07 8390. They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you. The offices are staffed from 10am-5pm from Monday to Thursday and on Friday from 10am-4pm.

Alternatively you can email [email protected] or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie

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