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SOLD: First-time buyers race to sign-up for council mortgage scheme
Wednesday 27th February, 2013

The extent of the problems first-time buyers face getting onto the property ladder have been exposed in Wigan Borough where a scheme designed to help new buyers has proved such a success it’s had to close after just a month.

House-hunters flocked to join the local authority mortgage scheme run by Wigan Council and Lloyds TSB. But it’s now closed to new applicants as the £1 million the council set-aside for the scheme has already been allocated.

Approximately 50 people looking to buy their first home should soon be able to move in – depending on the usual legal requirements. Now Wigan Council is looking at ways to extend the scheme and offer more people help securing a property.

Among those who have benefited are 23-year olds Kyle Massam and Jodie Stirzaker from Wigan. The couple’s offer on a three bedroom semi-detached house is currently being processed. “It’s so exciting,” says Jodie. “I just can’t wait to get in. It’s almost too good to be true. I feel really privileged to get this kind of help.”

Kyle says: “The council scheme is brilliant. The repayments will be much more affordable and we didn’t have to save a huge deposit. Without this, we would have had to wait a lot longer before buying.”

The Local Lend a Hand scheme allows people buying their first home to get a mortgage on more affordable lending rates. It means home-buyers with a deposit of five per cent can borrow at rates normally reserved for borrowers with a 25 per cent deposit.

The buyer still owns the property but benefits from having access to a lower rate of interest than would normally be available to someone with their level of deposit. Wigan Council will underwrite up to 20 per cent of the loan. The council put £1 million into the scheme. Lloyds TSB, who have run it in other areas of the country, have described the demand in Wigan Borough as “phenomenal”.

Local estate agent Ben Price says it’s made a significant difference to the property market in Wigan Borough. The director at Ashton’s estate agency says: “Over 60 per cent of the sales in our Wigan office were made from first-time buyers in February. That shows the impact the council’s scheme is having.

“When a similar scheme was run in Warrington, our office there saw a 20 per cent increase in sales. That’s good news because a healthy housing market is for good residents and good for the local economy.

“Bringing in first-time buyers is key to the health of the whole housing market because they kick-start the chain. It means existing buyers can move on. The difficulties of the last few years have been caused by too few new buyers entering the market.”

Cllr Chris Ready, Wigan Council cabinet member for housing, says: “We’ve been blown away by the response from the public. It just shows how important it is for councils to come up with a solution to the problems people face securing their first home.

“It might be difficult considering our current financial constraints but we will now see if there is any way we can extend the scheme. We do have a number of other programmes across Wigan Borough to help people get on the property ladder and I’d encourage first-time buyers to look into these.”

Subject to Lloyds TSB's usual lending criteria, borrowers are able to buy property in Wigan Borough with a loan of up to £123,500. Buyers have to put down a minimum five per cent of the property price and Wigan Council provides a cash backed indemnity of up to 20 per cent as additional security. The council will then earn interest on this amount.

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