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I'm very interested in the soon to be released "help to buy isa". I'm unclear on the definition of a first time buyer.

I have owned a house (with my ex wife) but I am no longer on this mortgage, the house is purely in her name now.

My girlfriend has never owned a house.

So two questions:

  • Am I a first time buyer?
  • Can we still use the isa if we buy a house together (joint mortgage)?
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According to https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk/help-to-buy-isa/faq/#998e24ea-e1f7-648f-8ce9-ff0000ad17aa :

A first time buyer is someone who does not own, and has never owned, a home anywhere in the UK or the world.

So you don't count.

The most detailed government guidance I can find does say (section 3.11) that:

the government bonus can only be put towards a first home located in the UK with a purchase value of £450,000 or less in London and £250,000 or less in all other parts of the UK

the government bonus can only be used towards a property that is being used for the first time buyer to live in as their only residence and not buy-to-let. This will be enforced by the scheme administrator

...

accounts are limited to one per person rather than one per home so those buying together can both receive a bonus

Taken together I think that means that your girlfriend can get one of these ISAs and use it towards a jointly-purchased house. But you'd be wise to check that with the ISA provider.

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