Have you been caught out in the rain in the past few weeks?

The government's latest Isa should be making it easier for first-time buyers

IF you're hoping to buy your first home, the recent weather may have focussed your mind on finally putting a roof of your own over your head.

In that case, you'll be glad to hear that this year's Budget has introduced a new Individual Savings Account (Isa) designed especially for you, including a generous government top-up to your house deposit savings.

The ‘Help to Buy Isa' gives you a 25 per cent bonus on savings to buy your first home.

You can put away up to £200 a month, which the government will top up by an additional £50, subject to an overall maximum contribution over time of £3,000 per Isa. The bonus is available on homes up to £250,000 in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and £450,000 in London.

Introducing the new Isa, Chancellor George Osborne said: “This government is determined to help working people, and encouraging the aspiration to home ownership is central to that.”

The initial reaction to the Help to Buy Isa by the big lenders has been very positive.

Last week, six of the heavy-hitters said they will be offering an Isa within the scheme later this year: Barclays, Lloyds, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander and Virgin Money will offer their new savings products from December.

According to some new info from Aviva this month, it sounds as if the new Isa could be very helpful most first-timers.

Aviva's new consumer survey says three-quarters of first time buyers (or FTBs) under-budget.

Here are some of the hidden costs that emerge, above and beyond the basic cost of a mortgage deposit. All of the costings here are averages for the 2,000 homebuyers who took part.

Knocking an older house into shape is one of the key areas where people can be taken by surprise.

One in five FTBs consider buying a property in need of significant DIY and repairs, but find that even just essential repairs to a first-time home come out at £1,680 more than expected, costing £3,727 against an expected £2,047.

The most commonly underestimated costs include the deposit itself, expected to be £6,381 but coming out at £8,672, stamp duty expected to be around £1,500 comes out at £2,389, and solicitor's fees, expected to be £489, come in at £756.

Other areas where buyers pay out more than planned include solicitor's fees, the survey, mortgage fees, furniture, and buildings and contents insurance.

In fact, taking all costs into account, you will probably under-budget for the cost of buying your home by an average of £6,481.

This can knock back your progress towards finally settling into your new (or new-to-you) home.

More than half of the 2,000 FTBs who talked to Aviva were forced to wait an extra two years and eight months, before finally getting on to the property ladder, and nearly half said they came close to giving up plans to buy their first home altogether.

First-time buyers typically take nearly four years saving for a first home, banking an average £12,143 during that time. In reality though, the average total amount needed is closer to £18,624.

It sounds as though the Help to Buy Isa, with its built-in government top-up, could be just the thing for housing your savings over the next four years to finally get that roof over your head.

There is one certainty in this country - you can always depend on the rain!

:: Michael Kennedy is an independent financial adviser and pensions specialist, and can be contacted on 028 71886005


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