The equity release marketplace in 2015 has been undergoing a period of growth and innovation which has been long overdue. There are major factors influencing this potential golden generation of competitive equity release plans. Helping matters has been a new big brand household name – Legal & General who are aiming to take a large share of equity release business, but not necessarily in the conventional manner.
Realising the lifetime mortgage market needs a sea change in order to reach the heady predictions made, Legal & General are almost starting with a blank canvas & fresh approach to how equity release UK plans are marketed & advised. These ideas I’m sure will soon be rolled-out to the equity release broker community, who need to awaken to the concept of change, not much of which has really been seen over the past few years.
Personally, equity release brokers & lenders need a complete overhaul of its thinking & messages it needs to portray to the consumer to build confidence. Conventionality needs to be erased & brought into the 21st century using the latest of technology & wider distribution. This shouldn’t be just by one or two brokers strangling the marketplace, effectively restricting the entry of new lenders/funders, but an across the board approach by everyone (brokers & providers) working together.
Furthermore, for growth, new advisers are needed to be brought in from outside the industry & trained to meet the rigorous measures imposed by the Equity Release Council to ensure safe route to market for the consumer. There is a shortage of quality equity release advisers which needs immediately addressing, otherwise how can the market grow?
Legal and General Home Finance ‘Sea Change’
Let’s analyse what Legal and General Home Finance have achieved since entering the equity release arena by acquiring NewLife Mortgages in early 2015. They have provided a series of plans which have effectively matched the best crop of products in the market at entry point. Features such as the 10% voluntary repayment option, lowest interest rate, high loan-to-value products & inheritance protection facility have competed significantly well against its peers, such as Aviva Equity Release.
Understandably Legal and General had to start somewhere & their efforts so far are commendable. With product research underway & their own analysis of how the market should look moving forward, we welcome a fresh voice & innovative product development. With electronic applications & valuation instructions to commence in the New Year, these are exciting times for the industry, but not before time. Branding themselves as Legal & General Home Finance indicates their proposition will be more diverse than just traditional equity release plans.
Areas where development is needed is greater flexibility for all pre & post retirement homeowners and remedying the issues for the over 55’s sensibly borrowing into retirement which MMR has stunted. We have seen how the Marsden Retirement Mortgage has filled a niche in post lending advice & this gap between equity release schemes & residential mortgages is a void that needs consideration. Equity release plans in their current state, albeit the most flexible ever, will not meet the future needs & demands for all retirees. New ideas and new forms of retirement mortgages are needed, but maybe one’s that somehow interact with lifetime mortgages, switching between as the homeowner’s future circumstances dictate.
Can Legal & General Exert Influence?
There is a vision for the expected growth in post-retirement lending, which some market analysts have projected could reach £5billion by 2020! This is still a mere drop in the ocean compared to the residential mortgage market of over £200 billion, yet there is still almost £1 trillion in untapped equity remaining in the over 55’s property portfolio’s. Is the figure even realistic? Not in its current format & lenders thought process. This is why Legal & General’s introduction could be what the market needs.
We are aware of the history of equity release schemes, resulting in the lack of confidence with many retirees & press alike. However with the efforts from Nigel Waterson from the Equity Release Council & the voice of important members of the equity release sector such as Andrea Rosario, the market is starting to answer back. In essence, the external adverse publicity maybe due to lack of knowledge of equity release and of how the newer breed of lifetime mortgage schemes work in practice & how it’s strictly regulated by the FCA. But this is where the equity release industry has plotted its own downfall. Lenders themselves should stand up more & be accountable, especially when adverse publicity arises, as it tends to be the market correspondents alone who respond.
Frustration ensues when column inches and comments about equity release are misconstrued. But that will happen when the market is so inhibited by a few brokers who have their own interests at heart. We already have an ‘equity release club’ in the industry, but designed for brokers for equity release referral purposes. Equity release brokers themselves should form their own ‘club’, thus joining forces and work out they can ALL assist the growth in the equity release sector. A new era of consumer openness and transparency needs to develop so there is a clear voice representing the industry, with a collective approach from ALL, not just the monopoly of a few.
A Sea-Change of attitude, products, innovation and lenders is what’s required for equity release & retirement lending as a whole, to progress. At least one of these requirements seems to have been met, with the household name of Legal and General becoming a new lifetime mortgage provider. The next 12 months may define the future of this industry. These could be exciting times for all those involved from brokers through to lenders, but not forgetting the true beneficiaries to all this – homeowners over the age of 55 who genuinely need a mortgage vehicle to enhance their retirement!
For further information on the range of Legal & General equity release schemes, please contact Mark Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07966 889597.