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What is the First Home Scheme and Its Benefits?

The First Home Scheme (FHS) is a shared equity scheme, designed to help bridge the gap for first-time buyers and eligible homebuyers between their deposit and mortgage, and the price of their new home. 

The First Home Scheme is funded and supported by the Government of Ireland (Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage) in partnership with Participating Lenders – AIB / EBS / Haven / PTSB / BOI. Ultimately, this means that the Government will own a share – up to 30% of your home when it is purchased. If you were ever to sell the property, the Government would be in receipt of that 30% out of the agreed sale.

SYS Mortgages Manager Helen Slattery said, “We are delighted to see the First Home Scheme being introduced into the Irish market. Many people will benefit from this, and it will give them the helping hand they need to access the homeowner ladder. We are delighted to be working with lenders who offer the scheme.” 

First Home Scheme Eligibility

There are a number of criteria that one must meet before successfully applying for the FHS.

This includes:

  • Applicants must be over 18 years of age,
  • The applicant must be a first-time buyer. This is defined as someone who has not previously purchased or built a dwelling in the Republic of Ireland for his/her/their occupation, and – does not own or is not beneficially entitled to an estate, or has interest in any dwelling in the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere
  • Applicants must have a right to reside in the Republic of Ireland

Some may be eligible if they have previously purchased or built a property in the Republic of Ireland:

  • With a spouse, civil partner, or partner, and that relationship has ended. For this to be considered, the applicant must not retain a beneficial interest in the previous property, or
  • If you have sold (or divested of) that property as part of a personal insolvency or bankruptcy arrangement, or other legal process as a consequence of insolvency

Meeting Requirements

There are certain criteria that must be met when availing of the FHS. It has been made clear that this will only apply to newly built houses or apartments in a private development in the Republic of Ireland. It will not be made available to those who are building their own homes, also known as ‘self-builds’. 

Other factors that must be met include:

  • The house must be the principal private residence of the applicant
  • The scheme can fund up to 20% of the purchase price of the property if the Help to Buy Scheme (HTB) is being used. If not, then up to 30% can be funded.
  • The scheme is subject to property purchase price ceilings based on the local authority area in which the property is located. These ‘ceilings’ per local authority area apply to both houses and apartments. This means that the applicant cannot avail of the scheme if the cost of the property is more than this amount. In some local authority areas, the price ceiling for houses and apartments is different. More information on these limits is available on firsthomescheme.ie 
  • The minimum equity share is 2.5% of the property purchase price, or €10,000, whichever is higher
  • There will be no fees or charges applied to the equity facility for the first five years. At the start of the sixth year of ownership, if the person has not fully redeemed the equity share, a service charge will begin to accrue against the account.

What do I need to qualify?

There are a number of ‘must-haves’ when applying for the FHS. You will need to have mortgage approval with a participating lender. If you choose to apply for a mortgage through SYS Mortgages, we can ensure that you are paired up with lenders who are offering the scheme.

The applicant must be borrowing the maximum mortgage amount that is made available to them. This means the person will need be availing of up to 3.5 times their income. Each applicant(s) must also have a minimum of 10% of the property purchase price or 20% if they qualify as a non-first-time buyer. If a person(s) wish to apply for assistance through the FHS, they cannot be availing of a Macro Prudential Exception (MPE) with a lender who is offering the scheme.

Where do I start?

Like anything, the thoughts of the application are worse than the actual process itself, especially if you use a mortgage broker like SYS Mortgages. Our team Helen Slattery and Donagh O’Shaughnessy have a plethora of experience between them and are experts in getting mortgage applications over the line.

So, where does the applicant begin:

1.Each applicant must acquire mortgage approval with a participating lender. As mentioned previously, this includes AIB, EBS, Haven, PTSB and Bank of Ireland. If you find that you have a shortfall in funds, you can then visit firsthomescheme.ie and use the FHS eligibility calculator.

2. Although the applicant is not required to have the actual property in place/mind, a general idea of the area and local authority will be required.

3. While on the website, the applicant will need to register and apply for the FHS through the customer portal. There will be documentation required to submit, which includes:

    • A copy of the AIP (approved in principle letter) from a participating lender
    • Photo ID for the homebuyers. This must be valid for at least six months post application
    • Current address verification (dated in the last six months) for all homebuyers

4.The application and documentation will then be reviewed and, if it is approved, the applicant(s) will receive an Eligibility Certificate.

Please be aware that the Eligibility Certificate is not an offer from the FHS. It’s indicative of the minimum and maximum amount of equity the applicant can qualify for based on the information that they provided the customer portal.

  1. If the application is approved, a copy of the Customer Contract for the equity facility will be sent to the applicant. This the formal and legal contract between you and the FHS. This will also be sent to the solicitor.
  2. The signed contract, and all declarations and forms should be returned to the FHS by the solicitor to complete the application. The FHS will release funds to the solicitor’s account. The solicitor can then finalise the purchase on the applicant’s behalf.

First Home Service Charges

When applying for a mortgage, we like to ensure transparency. This includes being up front with any and all additional payments that might be included in the monthly cost. For example, some people are unaware that as well as the mortgage rate, there is an added fee for home insurance and protection. With the FHS, a service charge is applied from the start of year six. This is a payment for services in relation to the maintenance, servicing, provision of the equity facility. The service charges are calculated as below:

Service Charge Rates

Years

0-5

0.00%

Years

6-15

1.75%

Years

16-29

2.15%

Years

30+

2.85%

The service charge rates are fixed for the life of the equity facility. These charges accrue daily and are applied to the account monthly in arrears. This means the charge can vary given the number of days in the month. Before any charges are applied, the FHS will contact the applicant and confirm the preferred payment option.

Payment Methods for First Home Scheme

There are a handful of options to choose from for the payment option. This includes:

  • Monthly direct debit, Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or debit card.
  • One annual payment or 12 monthly instalments
  • Pay a reduced amount where the applicant cannot afford the full monthly service charge
  • Defer payment until another date

There is no additional cost associated with deferring the payment of the service charge, however, the service charge will continue to accrue against your equity facility and will need to be paid in full at a later date.

Redeem the Equity Share

Under the FHS, you can redeem part or all of the equity share at any time. The applicant is not obligated to do so, unless a mandatory redemption occurs.

If the applicant chooses to redeem the equity share, they must be able to show where the funds came from. When doing so, an up-to-date valuation of the property must take place. This must be undertaken by an independent FHS approved valuer. Where the applicant chooses to fully redeem their property, any and all service charges that have been accrued will need to be paid back.

Redemption of Equity Share in Part

Where the applicant chooses to redeem part of their equity share, at least 5% of the original amount must be made to the FHS. These can be made through up to two separate redemption payments and within any 12 month period.  

Full Redemption

In certain cases, the applicant will need to fully redeem their equity share as well as the service charge that have been accrued over time. This includes:

  • The property being sold
  • Where the property is no longer the principal private residence
  • Where the applicant moves or switches mortgage to a non-participating lender
  • If the person(s) die (or, in the case of joint applications, the last applicant dies)
Start Your Application

SYS Mortgages DAC is fully regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and can help you achieve your goals and secure your mortgage. As a large broker with access to the leading lenders in the market, we are confident we can secure you the best rate and help you save money along the way.

For more information or to arrange a consultation, please contact Helen Slattery at Helen@sysmortgages.ie or Donagh O’Shaughnessy at Donagh@sysgroup.ie.

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