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Marketing Help to Buy homes effectively - what agents need to know

Thursday 17 October 2019

Meeting advertising requirements may not be the first thing you think of when you think Help to Buy. But it’s very important when advertising to homebuyers interested in the Government’s Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme. If you don’t know the rules you may mislead customers, and be suspended from the scheme.

Misleading advertising has the potential to damage public trust in Help to Buy. Homes England operate a zero tolerance policy on requirements for marketing the Help to Buy: Equity Loan. Because of this, it’s crucial that estate agents are aware of the guidelines on misleading advertising in order to inform their vendors correctly and ensure that when working with developers that they’re also providing customers with the right information.

The Help to Buy: Equity Loan is the largest Government scheme for supporting home buyers, supporting more than 210,000 households into home ownership in the last six years. The scheme is having a positive social effect with more than 80 per cent of its customers being first-time buyers. Since it started in 2013, more than 3,400 developers have registered to sell homes using Help to Buy.  

To stop misleading advertising, Homes England:

  • works with stakeholders, such as the House Builders Federation, to distribute information to their members
  • monitors a range of channels; carries out spot checks and “mystery shopper” exercises throughout the year
  • issues regular briefings and updates to developers reminding them of advertising requirements and provides guidance on best practice.

At the start of this year, processes around misleading advertising were reviewed and updated formal guidance reissued. 

What is misleading advertising of Help to Buy?
  • Quoting anything other than the full purchase price of the property
  • Using inaccurate references such as: "Price on Application" or similar statements
  • Erroneously referring to a "net" or "reduced" purchase price or a "Help to Buy price"
  • Deliberately not referencing important terms, such as interest rates and arrangement fees
  • Using dubious mortgage estimates, such as “move in for £100 weekly or £400 monthly”

As well as misleading advertising, Homes England monitors selective targeting of Help to Buy as this is a breach of contract. For example, from April 2021, Help to Buy: Equity Loan will only be available to first time buyers, and it will have regional price caps. Developers targeting people moving home with statements like ‘Get Help to Buy now before it’s too late’ would be in breach of contract.

Homes England will contact the developer or their agent to let them know they’re in breach of contract, giving five working days to put it right and provide evidence. Multiple breaches of the advertising requirements results in a suspension from taking reservations for Help to Buy until they are compliant.

Help to Buy is a big financial commitment on top of a mortgage. It’s not a discount on a property or a way to save money, it’s a way to help people buy a home with a lower deposit. Homes England aims to work with developers and their agents to maintain positive representation of the Help to Buy; Equity Loan scheme.

For more information about how Homes England monitors Help to Buy: Equity Loan advertising, or to request a copy of the branding guidelines, please email: helptobuycomms@homesengland.gov.uk

Glow for Myton

Property Professional

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