Local businesses set to help First Time Buyers beat rising East Lothian property prices

Local businesses Stisi Group and Clancys Solicitors and Estate Agents are set to give first time buyers a leg up on to the property ladder with a free virtual First Home Fund event this weekend, helping to beat rising local prices and the financial challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A recent report from Online Mortgage Advisor found that 11 out of 31 local authorities have become less affordable in Scotland over the last ten years – and revealed that East Lothian has seen the largest affordability ratio increase of any local authority over this time. The higher the ratio, the wider the gap between local earnings and property prices.

The latest figures from ESPC (Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre) found that properties in East Lothian experienced a 9.4 percent increase in average selling price year on year, from November to January, up from £247,950 to £271,211.

This continues a rising trend for house prices in the region – ESPC reported an 18 percent increase in average selling prices from 2010 to 2019. This trend has continued through 2020; despite the unprecedented closure of the property market with the first Coronavirus lockdown, average selling prices still rose, to £264,035 – an increase of 5.9 percent on 2019.

While the thriving East Lothian property market is good news for the region, it also means that first time buyers often cannot afford to purchase a home in their local area. To compound this, the Scottish Government has announced cuts to help to buy schemes, due to the current additional financial pressures on the budget. The main Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme has been closed for 2021 – 2022, and the Open Market Shared Equity (LIFT) scheme has been reduced to £44 million for the year.

There is however some hope for first time buyers, with the First Home Fund – currently closed due to these extraordinary circumstances – now due to reopen on 1st April 2021. This scheme hasn’t escaped the budget cuts though, and has been reduced from £200 million last year, to just £60 million for 2021 – 2022.

Local family businesses Stisi Group mortgage experts and Clancys Solicitors and Estate Agents have teamed up to offer a free First Home Fund information session, in a bid to ensure that local first time buyers don’t miss out. The shared equity scheme offers a free loan of up to £25,000 towards a first property deposit; the buyer needs only to provide a five percent deposit.

Funding is offered on a first come, first served basis, across Scotland. With the additional financial pressures of the Coronavirus pandemic making it more difficult than ever to save a deposit, the main Help to Buy scheme closed, and the severe cuts to the LIFT and First Home Fund, it’s expected that demand will be high and the available funding will run out quickly – long before the March 2022 end date.

Ross Stisi, Stisi Group Managing Director, said: “Strict lending criteria is making mortgages with low deposits harder to obtain and we know it’s not easy for everyone to save up for a large deposit. As the First Home Fund is a shared equity scheme, it works like an interest-free loan with no monthly payments. Anyone interested will need to act quickly though, as industry experts expect demand to soar. I wouldn’t be surprised if funding ran out within months, or even weeks, due to uptake.”

Paul Clancy, Property Director at Clancys Solicitors and Estate Agents, added: “We’re keen to make sure local first time buyers hear about this opportunity, as it could be the difference in making a home in East Lothian affordable to them.

“A great advantage of the First Home Fund is that it’s not means-tested like other shared equity schemes, so I feel this will be able to help a lot more first-time buyers in the EH postcode area.” 

The free information event First Time Buyers – How to get £25,000 towards your new home – will be held on Saturday 6th March, at 10am, via Zoom. Bookings is via Eventbrite – see bit.ly/FirstHomeFundEvent .

Anyone wishing further information can call Stisi Group on 0131 510 1240, email info@stisi.co.uk or follow @StisiGroup on social media.

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