A Knee Up Onto the Property Ladder

50% of buyers had help buying their first property [1]

Buying your first home is often seen as a sign of financial stability and personal growth. Yet, for many, homeownership remains challenging due to various financial and logistical barriers. According to a study by The Mortgage Lender, 50% of homeowners received some form of assistance to make their first property purchase [1]. We’re here to dissect the different avenues of support available to first-time homebuyers, both from private and public sectors, while examining whether current systems meet their needs.

The Bank of Mum and Dad

Family financial support, affectionately termed “The Bank of Mum and Dad,” remains an integral part of several first-time home buying stories. The survey shows that 11% of new buyers relied on the family network for loans or gifts to fund their initial deposit. While family financial support can be helpful for some, it’s important to note that it is not an option for everyone. 

For some, the Bank of Mum and Dad is either low on funds or nonexistent, which can exacerbate societal inequalities. The growing economic divide between generations further complicates matters. This form of aid is increasingly becoming a privilege, not a widespread practice.

Government-Backed Schemes

Government programs offer some relief for those without family support. According to the study, 6% of buyers who had opened a Help to Buy ISA before the scheme ended have used the government savings scheme, which provides bonus payments for those aiming to secure a deposit. Another 5% tapped into the Lifetime ISA, another incentivised savings program, while 6% used Shared Ownership schemes.

How Do These Schemes Work?

  • Help to Buy ISA:  The Help to Buy ISA has now closed to new savers, but you can add money to one you’ve already opened until 30 November 2029 [2]. This savings account offers a government bonus of 25% on the amount saved, with a maximum bonus limit. The deadline for claiming the Help to Buy ISA bonus from the government is on or before 1 November 2030.
  • Lifetime ISA: You can use a Lifetime ISA to buy your first home or save for later life. You must be 18 or over but under 40 to open a Lifetime ISA. You can put in up to £4,000 each year, until you’re 50. You must make your first payment into your ISA before you’re 40.
  • Shared Ownership: Allowing you to buy a share of a property, ranging from 25% to 75%, and pay rent on the remaining share. You can buy more shares later, which is called ‘staircasing’.
  • Right to Buy: If you are a public housing tenant, you may have the option to buy your home at a discounted rate. This accounted for 5% of the respondents in the study who received help to buy their home. 

Room for Improvement

Despite the availability of these government-backed schemes, a significant 42% of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts to assist first-time buyers. The main criticisms often revolve around several key issues. First, there is the matter of affordability. Even with government support, housing prices in many areas remain prohibitively high for the average earner. Next comes accessibility; not all schemes are universally accessible, and some are no longer available or require specific qualifications, thereby excluding certain demographics from utilising them. Finally, there’s awareness; limited information often leads to a lack of knowledge about the range of support systems available.


Climbing onto the property ladder can be a complex journey, with numerous financial, emotional, and logistical considerations. While family and government support have helped many first-time homebuyers, there is a pressing need for the government to evolve the support systems in line with changing economic conditions. The goal is to make homeownership achievable for a broader segment of the population.


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Approved by The Openwork Partnership on 23/10/2023



[1] The Mortgage Lender – Half of homeowners with a mortgage had support getting on the ladder – The Mortgage Lender surveyed 2,005 nationally representative UK adults, of which 403 were homeowners with a mortgage – May 2023.


[2] Gov.uk – Help to Buy ISA