First-time buyer definition: Who qualifies and who doesn’t?

The definition of a first-time buyer is a person buying property for the first time who has not previously owned property before.

In November 2017, the government announced stamp duty relief for all first-time buyers in the UK.

Under this relief, first-time buyers will pay no stamp duty on purchases up to £300,000 and a rate of 5% on portions between £300,001 and £500,000.

This new relief makes it important to understand who the UK government defines as a first-time buyer.

In laymans terms, the definition of a first-time buyer is an individual who has never owned a property before. To put it another way someone getting a mortgage who isn’t a homeowner, homemover, buy-to-let investor or just remortgaging is classed as a first-time buyer. However, there are a few nuances which make it a bit more complicated than that.

Instances where you’ll commonly be accepted as a first-time buyer

  • If you’ve never owned a property before and you’re applying for a mortgage alone. You’re a bonafide first-time buyer in this situation. There are no sneaky rules or loopholes to worry about.
  • If you’ve owned a commercial property, but never owned a residential property. First-time buyer status only applies to residential properties, so if you’ve owned a shop or a pub, you could still qualify for stamp duty relief. However, if your commercial property had a residential element (and was therefore defined as a semi-commercial property), you won’t qualify.
  • If you apply for a joint mortgage and none of you has previously owned residential property. Your stamp duty bill will be reduced in this situation too.

Instances where you’ll commonly not be accepted as a first-time buyer

  • If you’ve previously owned a property and sold it. To qualify, you need to have never owned a property.
  • If you inherited a property or were added to the deeds. First-time buyer status is based on ownership of residential property, not whether you bought it.
  • If you’ve previously owned a buy-to-let property. If you’ve previously owned a buy-to-let property, you no longer qualify as a first-time buyer.
  • If you part-owned a property in the past. If you previously had a shared ownership mortgage or a joint mortgage, you’ll no longer qualify as a first-time buyer.
  • If you owned a residential property overseas. Overseas properties still count when it comes to first-time buyer status.
  • If your co-owner has owned a residential property. With joint mortgages, all applicants have to be first-time buyers in order to qualify for stamp duty relief.
  • If your spouse has owned a residential property. Spouses count as a single buyer in property law. If your spouse isn’t a first-time buyer, you’re not either, even if you’re applying to buy a property in your own name.

What to do if you qualify as a first-time buyer

If you qualify as a first-time buyer, this means you’ll be able to access some of the cheaper mortgage deals on the market. You can compare mortgages and browse rates here.

Who is most likely to be researching first-time buyer definitions?

Finder data suggests that men aged 25-34 are most likely to be researching this topic.

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4 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    TuckerMarch 2, 2023

    Hi , me and my girlfriend are looking at buy a house , I’m just wondering if I’m a first time buyer or not ? I had a mortgage with a friend many years ago but we sold it so I’ve not had a mortgage for a few years now , I still have no mortgage am I a first time buyer then ? It’s very confusing , some places say I am and others say I’m not , my partner is defo a first time buyer she has never had any mortgage

      KateMarch 6, 2023Finder

      Hi Tucker,

      It is best to directly check with the lender first, especially if you are looking to take advantage of a first time buyer offer. However, typically you are not classed as a first time buyer if you have already owned a property. This is the case even if you are buying with someone who has never owned a property before.



    Default Gravatar
    BobbyMarch 4, 2020

    I have owned property before, but was declared bankrupt in 2009.
    Changed surname in 2013.
    Am I a first time buyer now or not ?

      nikkiangcoMarch 5, 2020Finder

      Hi Bobby,

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you are doing well. To answer your question if you are a first-time buyer after declaring for bankruptcy, as you have already owned a property before (even after bankruptcy in 2009 and changing surnames in 2013), this excludes you from being a first time home buyer.

      Hope this clarifies!


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