Q I have been good with my personal financial planning and have been saving to buy a house with my partner. We each have about £25,000 in our individual lifetime Isas (Lisas) so have over £50,000 in total saved. We are in no rush to buy and were waiting for the market to calm a little bit post-Covid. Neither of us has ever bought or owned property.
Unfortunately my mother has been diagnosed with a rapidly spreading terminal cancer and she is likely to pass away in the next 18 months. At that point my sibling and I will jointly inherit her house. I have no intention of living in her property as I have established my life and career several hundred miles away. Either my sibling and I will sell the house, or they will buy me out of my half (most likely the former).
How will inheriting this house affect my ability to use my lifetime Isas to buy a property? Will I still be considered a first-time buyer? Will this have an impact on my partner’s ability to apply for a joint mortgage with me using their own Lisa money and getting the government assistance?
A If you buy a property after inheriting half of your mother’s home, you will still be able to use your savings in your lifetime Isa to put towards the purchase but only after paying a 25% withdrawal charge (which claws back the government bonus). That’s because already owning property – even if you’re not going to live in it – stops you being classed as a first-time buyer. On the plus side, your partner’s ability to use lifetime Isa savings – including the 25% government bonus – to put towards your joint purchase is unaffected by your inheritance.
If you want your Isa savings and bonus the be unaffected, the answer is to buy a property before you inherit your share of your mother’s home and while you are still considered a first-time buyer.
Buying before inheriting also means that you and your partner can benefit from relief from stamp duty land tax if you are buying in England or Northern Ireland, or relief from Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland.
In England and Northern Ireland the relief is available on properties costing less than £500,000. The first £300,000 is charged at 0% while the remaining £200,000 is charged at 5%.
In Scotland, first-time buyers do not pay tax on the first £175,000 of the purchase price.
This relief is available for joint purchasers only if they are both (or all) first-time buyers so you would miss out if you waited to buy until after you inherited.