Older People’s Shared Ownership (OPSO) scheme: What you need to know

Struggling to make ends meet in retirement? This scheme could help. Here's what you need to know.

The Older People’s Shared Ownership (OPSO) scheme is a government-backed scheme, offering a way for people aged 55 or over to own a home without having to buy it outright.

It’s designed to be a good option for those who need accommodation, but with support services in place, too.

How does OPSO work?

Under this scheme, you can buy a share of between 25% and 75% of the full purchase price, with the rest owned by a housing association.

Rent is payable on the share of the property that the housing association owns and as time goes by, you can increase your percentage of ownership by purchasing more of a share in the property.

This is commonly referred to as “staircasing”, with the upper limit set at 75%.

If you choose to purchase the maximum 75% share in the property, you do not have to pay rent on the remaining 25%, which is owned by the housing association.

It gives people options if they like the security of home ownership but need to free up cash, while also offering buyers a flexible, low-cost way of purchasing a new home, even if they can’t afford the full market price.

How does shared ownership work?

General shared ownership schemes allow you to buy a share of between 25% and 75% on your chosen property, and then pay rent on the rest, much like OPSO.

Unfortunately, with any shared ownership scheme, you cannot own 100% of your home. This is to make sure the home stays available as affordable housing for an older person in the future.

Are there any pitfalls?

The downside of OPSO is that a proportion of the property’s value must be returned to the housing association when it’s sold.

But the fact that residents have the right to live in the property for as long as they choose more than makes up for that.

As with buying any property, whether through shared ownership or on the open market, if house prices fall, you may fall into negative equity and lose money if you try to move.

Eligibility requirements

  • If you’re over 55 and can afford to buy one of the homes on offer, you’re eligible.
  • You must also be able to buy the share and have savings left to pay your legal fees and moving costs.
  • You can buy the share with savings, a mortgage or proceeds from selling your current home.
  • No need to find a buyer for your current home until you’re offered one of the OPSO developments.

How to apply

To buy a home through a shared ownership scheme, it’s best to contact the help to buy agent in the area where you want to live by visiting the Help to Buy government site.

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