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Want to buy your own home? We look at how forces personnel can get on the housing ladder

28 June 2018

As Armed Forces Day approaches concerns have been raised that troops are failing to take advantage of a vital mortgage scheme.

Thousands of military personnel may be missing out on buying their own home, despite having access to financial help from the Government, according to new analysis by Together.

Only 14,300 military mortgage applicants out of 194,140 serving personnel – or just seven per cent - have taken advantage of the Government’s forces help to buy scheme since it was launched, according to the latest Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures.

On the eve of Armed Forces day Richard Tugwell, director, has encouraged more armed forces staff to take advantage of the scheme.

He said: “These people who are fulfilling vital roles in protecting our country and it’s great to see the Government and some mortgage lenders supporting them when it comes to settling in a home of their own.

“Forces help to buy is an important part of giving our hard-working military men and women a vital step up onto the property ladder. However, the low take-up rate could suggest that many are not aware that this financial help is available and this needs to change.”

The scheme allows serving soldiers, sailors and airmen and women to borrow up to 50 per cent of their salary, up to a maximum of £25,000.

Loans are interest free, and can be used to buy their first home, move to another property on assignment or as their families’ needs change.

Chris Mason, regional mortgage sales manager at Forces Mutual, one of the UK’s largest financial services providers to the military, said: “We arrange a huge number of mortgages for members of the armed forces looking to purchase property under the Forces Help to Buy scheme, so we have seen a fairly good take-up. The scheme is a great way for first time buyers in the armed forces to get on the property ladder.”

Meanwhile, under the Armed Forces covenant, military personnel can now rent out their homes without having to get a specialist buy-to-let mortgage. Previously, they would have had to ask their mortgage lender to change their residential mortgage if they were sent away on a tour of duty.

However, lenders such as Together will give personnel “consent to let” to allow them to rent out their homes without the time consuming – and potentially costly – need to swap to a buy-to-let mortgage.

Some lenders will charge a higher rate under consent to let, however, others such as Together charge a one-off fee. They will also agree consent to let the first day after the house sale completes.

Mr Tugwell said troops may struggle to obtain mortgage finance from mainstream banks and building societies, because they could have an incomplete credit record from being stationed abroad, for example. They may also have adverse credit or be buying a home on non-standard construction, such as a concrete prefab, which, again, could mean them failing foul of high street lenders’ criteria.

The outdated tradition of housing troops in barracks is being phased out under the military’s Future Accommodation Model (FAM) for housing. The Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) housing review is expected to provide money for service personnel to buy or rent homes near bases, rather than live in them. For years, troops have complained of living in sub-standard and decrepit homes.

A pilot of the long-term FAM scheme began in October last year and is expected to be rolled out to the majority of army bases by 2030.