Equity release specialists are crying out for greater innovation in its product range to lenders at a time when the lifetime mortgage market potentially enters the biggest growth phase of its history. Failure to do so could result in products such as the new Marsden Building Society Retirement Mortgage & the Vernon Interest Only Retirement Mortgage shaping retirement lending to the over 55’s in the years to come.
Here I would like to share my views on why the equity release industry needs a major rethink of its products, understands more of its consumer requirements & how some of the smaller lenders such as Marsden & Vernon may have an impact on this thought process, even future product design.
Is Equity Release Innovating Sufficiently?
The launch in September 2015 of the Marsden Retirement Mortgage could represent a wake up call to equity release companies, which until now have offered little in the way of sweeping changes, consistent with driving the post retirement lending market forward.
Until now, lending into retirement has been hampered by the after effects of MMR (Mortgage Market Review) and how lenders gauge affordability for pensioner mortgages. This has seen terms ‘interest only time bomb’ being banded about as high street lenders start reigning in their mortgage book, when normally then would have renewed or extended mortgage terms. This has left mortgagors stranded with the dilemma of having to decide whether to sell & downsize, or find alternative lending such as lifetime mortgages.
These mortgage prisoners have been one of the main reasons why the equity release industry has seen major growth recently & should not be fooled somewhat into thinking it itself has played a part in its own expansion. Equity release must not become Mr Complacency. People looking to offload their traditional mortgages in favour of a voluntary repayment lifetime mortgage or interest only lifetime mortgage has been clearly evident at Equity Release Supermarket. This market has still not reached its peak, yet innovative products are still out of reach for this purge in demand awaiting redemption & rebirth.
The Corridor of Uncertainty that exists between Residential Mortgages & Equity Release
With some recent relaxation in retirement lending rules, some residential mortgage lenders are set to take advantage by introducing retirement mortgage products that can fill the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ between the traditional mortgage market & equity release schemes. This void exists due to the gap in both distribution and the advisory process, but mainly the lack of products that can fill this area.
For instance people looking to borrow at age 60 over say a 20 year term looking for a 40% release of equity would struggle currently to raise such an amount. The reason being mortgage lenders are frowning upon lending beyond 70-75 and equity release providers have loan-to-value ratios at 60 that are insufficient to release this amount. So where can these people go?
Their prospects are currently limited to several companies, one of which is only accessible via advisers with lifetime mortgage permissions. This is the creditable Hodge Retirement Mortgage. Several smaller, local building societies will lend on an individually underwritten basis, but are obscure in research and not looking for large mortgage books for this kind of product. We saw this effect when the Halifax Retirement Home Plan eventually had to be withdrawn due to demand in July 2011.
The future of the equity release market lies in the hands of the lenders who define the products on offer to the over 55 lifetime mortgage brigade. 2015 for me is the landmark year that could evidence how these products are to be aligned in the years to come. With the upheaval to annuity sales and the new pension freedoms in place, equity release has remained too rigid in concept, yet has seen buoyancy, despite its many detractors in the press. Yes this is positive news, yet does not address the underlying issues within the equity release industry.
How Non-Traditional Equity Release Companies Can offer Equity Release
Recent news & industry talk is that smaller traditional building society’s are set to move in to the retirement lending space, which effectively could throw a spanner in the works of some equity release lenders and advisory firms who do not embrace these products. The term ‘equity release’ is generic, yet advisers & product providers alike, associate this term with either a lifetime mortgage or home reversion scheme.
Wrong! Equity release simply attributes itself to any form of mortgage vehicle then enables the release of equity from a homeowner’s property. The industry needs to move away from the stigma of historic equity release terminology & move into a new era of flexibility, innovation & a market not defined by just 9 lenders offering copycat products. If these lenders do not embrace the changes needed, other traditional lenders could spot their opportunity & move in.
This has started already. With news of two new bold retirement mortgages from what would be classed as two of the somewhat ‘smaller’ building societies. The first to launch was the Vernon Building Society’s Interest Only Retirement Mortgage with two rates dependent upon whether a LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) was in place & registered with the Court of Protection; an unusual move, but clever thinking behind this. The Vernon’s non-LPA rate at 4.45% (4.9% representative APR) is actually higher than the Hodge Retirement Mortgage at 4.39% (4.7% representative APR), so a welcome addition, but not groundbreaking.
Why the Marsden Retirement Mortgage is Competitively Advantaged
The launch of the Marsden Retirement Mortgage plan is significantly different to the Hodge Retirement Mortgage. The Marsden has no affiliation with the Equity Release Council and therefore no constraints with regards to no negative equity guarantees and membership. This can provide greater freedom & the passage of savings in interest, clearly evident on this products launch interest rates of either 2.79% or 2.99% discounted rates, dependent on whether the interest only, or capital & interest route is selected.
The Marsden Building Society have made this semi exclusive retirement mortgage plan only available only through qualified intermediaries. This is not a direct to consumer product and is a move commensurate with ensuring best advice is given to a potentially vulnerable age group.
The Marsden Retirement Mortgage Product in Finer Detail
The minimum age at application for this mortgage in retirement product is age 55, with a maximum term being 30 years, hence this is not a lifetime mortgage. It is available to anyone looking to make a new house purchase, remortgage away from an existing mortgage provider, maybe due to expiry, or even general capital raising purposes where no mortgage exists currently. This could be for home improvements, gifting to children/family or any other lifestyle choices that make an improvement to their standard of living in retirement.
This Marsden pensioner mortgage is available on an interest only retirement mortgage basis or even capital & repayment. The option selected will be reflected in the interest rate which at launch in September 2015 are discounted until 31.01.18 at which point it will revert to the Marsden standard variable rate currently 5.95%. At this point no early repayment charges will exist.
The minimum release of equity is £50,000 and the maximum loan that would be considered is £500,000. Properties are accepted in England & Wales only & must be valued at least £200,000.
Set up costs are competitive priced compared to equity release schemes. There is a free valuation on properties upto £500,000 and booking fee & arrangement fees of £299 each. For remortgages a fee assisted package is available where standard legals fees are covered along with free valuation fee as previously mentioned.
Other essential features of this retirement mortgage are as follows: -
- Income multiples are 4.5x single & joint incomes, subject to affordability checks
- Minimum income levels are £20,000pa, either single or joint.
- Only pension income can be accepted, but rental & investment income can be considered
- Maximum loan-to-values are 40% for interest-only & 60% for repayment mortgages
- For interest only a sensible repayment method must be in place at the end of the term
The way forward for the post retirement lending arena is a swathe of flexible, transparent mortgage plans that meet the varied need of retirees. Whether this be a lifetime mortgage, retirement mortgage or interest only lifetime mortgage the key word is CHOICE. The Marsden Retirement Mortgage is just the start of new lenders filling the void between equity release plans & standard residential mortgages.
For more information & advice on which form of equity release is best for you, or to request a Marsden Retirement Mortgage quote, please contact Mark Gregory on 07966 889597 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.