Help to Buy: Is it helping the North East?
There are two sides to every story. With government critics claiming Help to Buy - the government's initiative to help home buyers purchase a property - is creating an unsustainable housing bubble, other experts claim scrapping the scheme may hinder house prices across the country.
Under the equity loan segment of the scheme, buyers are able to purchase an old or new-build home with a five per cent deposit and can borrow up to 20 per cent of the property's value from the government. Under the mortgage guarantee scheme, up to 15 per cent of buyers' loans are underwritten by the Treasury.
The scheme has either helped or hindered, depending on which side of the fence you're on, but there's no argument over the facts surrounding the initiative, which were released by the Treasury last month. The numbers - the first comprehensive measure of the scheme since it was launched late last year - show some 7,313 homes have been sold so far (Oct 2013 - March 2014) as part of the mortgage guarantee scheme. Overall, the number of homeowners helped onto the property ladder as part of the overall scheme has exceeded 35,000.
Percentage of total completions
Despite Help to Buy being targeted as one of the reasons for the significant inflation of London house prices, the figures show the majority of sales under the scheme were outside the capital. Interestingly, the North East registered four per cent of total completions - a mere one per cent lower than London.
In turn, house prices have started to rise in the region. Separate figures from the Land Registry show the average price of a property sold last month in the North East was £99,001, up by 2.9 per cent over a year.
Has it helped the North East?
Speaking to thejournal.co.uk, chartered surveyor Paul McSkimmings believes Help to Buy has delivered huge improvements to the area: "The Help to Buy scheme has made a difference. A young couple in their early 20s, the typical first time buyer, can find it very hard to save up for a deposit," he said.
"The scheme bridges the gap and allows them on to the property ladder. It's first time buyers that drive the market."
In addition, Hexham Conservative MP, Guy Opperman exclaimed nine out of ten properties on a new-build development in Prudhoe were purchased using the scheme.
"When I spoke to several of the couples who had just moved in, they all made it very clear that without Help to Buy they could not have purchased their first home," said Opperman.
Nevertheless, Help to Buy continues to come under criticism. Rob Wood, an economist at Berenberg Bank, suggests via telegraph.co.uk that while today's buyers might find it easier, rising property prices will make it "more difficult for the next wave of buyers" to get on the ladder.
For buyers seeking a property, Help to Buy is certainly worth considering. However, only time will tell whether the scheme will be a friend or foe to the housing market.