Having been in the equity release industry for the past 14 years, there has never been as much optimism & confidence in this sector as there is now. Against a backdrop of reductions & barriers to lending in retirement, the equity release marketplace is expanding faster than most other areas of financial services.
Equity release 2014 holds the greatest number of reasons why the over 55 age group are now considering equity release schemes as their route to financial freedom & lifestyle improvements.
But first we need to understand the issues arising in 2014 for many retirees and how the stress associated with managing retirement finances can be alleviated. Furthermore, we’ll discuss why there is a change in attitude towards equity release, people’s inheritance and how the equity release lenders are developing products to meet the future needs of today’s baby boomers.
So why now & what are the reasons?
Firstly, it looks like 2013 laid the foundations for the recovery of the equity release market. A record £106billion equity release lending took place, which was a 10% increase on the previous year and this takes us back to the halcyon equity release days of 2006. But the numbers do not explain the underlying reasons, only the resultant effect.
I believe the huge growth in demand is down to a number of factors as follows:-
1. Baby Boomers - Primarily there are a record number of so called ‘baby boomers’ who are reaching retirement age. It is estimated that up until 2018 record numbers of upto 700,000 people will turn 65 each year and begin to draw their pensions and purchase annuities.
At that point, once the new financial landscape is established, will it dawn on many that the difference that retirement has made to their disposable incomes & the sacrifices & cut backs that will need to be made. But surely retirement should be time to retire & relax & enjoy the fruits of one’s career?
The transition from a paid salary to a reduced fixed pension can be difficult and for some, one many never really come to terms with. There have been many cases at Equity Release Supermarket, whereby following the first few years of retirement we are arranging equity release for the consolidation of debts such as credit cards & loans. This was a result of continued spending following retirement without carrying out what should be a mandatory income & expenditure analysis.
2. Indebtedness - Many of these baby boomers reaching retirement have grown use to managing debt during their working lives. This generation have lived through vast fluctuations in the economy such as interest rates, inflation & the recent credit crunch. Having come through the worst of this & still showing such positive signs of equity, gives them the confidence of maintaining such debts into retirement. Afterall, this age group are probably the ones with the best repayment history, credit record, guaranteed incomes and all coming with security of tenure in their properties!
A recent study showed that one in six over 65’s expect to borrow money in retirement to meet their retirement goals. In fact in the last year alone, 16% of over 65’s applied for a loan or credit card. The issue nowadays is of course that credit is not as readily available and one in ten applications from over 55’s will be declined, as lenders become far less willing to lend into retirement.
This applies to mortgages also. Lenders are increasingly calling in mortgage balances from customers aged over 55. It’s estimated 1.3 million households over 55 are still paying their mortgage, of which 289,000 over 65 year olds are still saddled with a mortgage debt! These are the people who will be looking towards equity release solutions in 2014 & beyond.
3. Interest only Mortgage Prisoners - Worse still are the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) figures confirming the size of the ‘interest only time bomb’ looming. Of the volume of interest only mortgages due for repayment by 2020, 1 in 10 of these mortgages have NO repayment plan and upto 1.3 million interest only borrowers face shortfalls averaging £72,000.
So how will these people find these shortfalls and where do they turn for advice?
Well as we mentioned, lending into retirement has been constricted by the FCA’s stance and with MMR (Mortgage Market Review) being implemented in April 2014, lenders are under further scrutiny as proof of affordability becomes entirely their responsibility.
Therefore, as we are already seeing by the upturn in the volumes of business, the equity release industry is becoming the saviour for the interest only mortgage short fallers. In providing an equity release safety net, many of these trapped borrowers have another option than having reluctantly to sell their homes to fund the shortfall.
However, the solution will only be made available should loan-to-values fall within lender criteria, which for lifetime mortgages are currently stand at a maximum of 30% at age 65, rising to a maximum of 54% by age 85. These calculations can be confirmed using the Equity Release Supermarket calculator.
However, two further factors could influence these results; health & lifestyle and incomes.
Firstly, should a history of adverse health be prevalent then a range of enhanced lifetime mortgage products are available which will release a greater lump sum than standard equity release schemes. Secondly, the signs are more retirement mortgages could be introduced during 2014. Already the Hodge Retirement Mortgage has been bravely launched against the tide of lenders withdrawing such products. Currently, the Hodge Retirement Mortgage will lend upto 50% of the property value at the current interest rate of 4.75% (5.1% APR), subject to income(s). Click here for details on the Hodge Retirement Mortgage or call 0800 678 5159.
4. House Purchase/Moving Home – we are seeing the data already in 2014 from mortgage lenders regarding the upturn in mortgage lending which has been due to the housing market improving significantly. With support from the government with its ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, this has stimulated the housing market from the bottom end and resulted in a knock on effect up the ladder.
We are seeing an increasing number of Equity Release Supermarket clients using interest only lifetime mortgage products to assist with their house purchase. We can advise on products from Stonehaven, Hodge Lifetime & more2life whereby the interest element & possibly more can be repaid back to the lender with no penalty, & are becoming a high percentage of our overall equity release plan recommendations.
Additionally, we are experiencing retirees at a critical point in their lives looking to downsize, or move nearer to their families. This could be for disability or financial reasons and moving into a retirement properties where less maintenance is required. Purchasing such property may still require finance to bridge any shortfalls, or create surplus funds for other financial/personal reasons.
5. Burgeoning Confidence & Optimism – There has been a silver lining to the issues of retirement finance… PROPERTY. Staggeringly, 69% of the over 65 year old population own their home outright & unencumbered. The most recent research has calculated the over 65’s own a combined £752 billion in housing wealth!
With this kind of security behind them and the changing attitude towards inheritance is beginning to shape the equity release landscape we are seeing & being developed as we speak. Traditionally, roll-up equity release schemes were the norm. Compounding of interest put many people off releasing equity. As a consequence, interest only lifetime mortgages have come to the fore. In being able to control the balance by making regular or ad-hoc repayments, one can now maintain a level balance, or even reduce it year-on-year. We have evidenced the growth in inheritance protection via lifetime mortgages and will become another of the factors affecting the growth in equity release for 2014.
Flexibility is key for many now entering the market. One major step forward for equity release mortgages came with the advent of drawdown lifetime mortgages. Here borrowers can withdraw tax free cash in stages from a pre-agreed facility. Drawdown equity release now accounts for over 64% of all plans written during 2013. Hence, another good factor to influence the popularity moving into 2014.
Finally, we have the latest news there will be a new equity release provider in early February - Pure Retirement will be entering the market with an initial 2 product launch, followed by more products they anticipate later in the year. This comes hot on heels of recent press murmurings over the weekend that L&G could soon be re-entering the equity release arena after originally departing in 2004 when they white labelled Northern Rocks equity release proposal. There is also much product development behind the scenes with Aviva revamping their lifetime mortgage. Details once known will follow on this website.
All this development and equity release press coverage stokes up the interest in a market that has previously been in the doldrums, but has listened to the consumer & now developing products to match retirement planning needs.
Summary - Equity Release 2014
Equity Release will take off in 2014 because providers have listened to their customers and they can be very demanding and rightly so. Customers want flexibility, they’ve got it, Customers want no early repayment charges, they’ve now got it, Customers want to repay capital without penalty, they’ve got it, Customers want to pay off the interest, they’ve got it, and customers want to partially repay the interest without being tied or committed, guess what? …they’ve got it!
There has never been a better time to consider equity release, so here’s to looking forward to 2014.
Call freephone 0800 678 5159 to discuss any aspects of this article or complete our contact form to register for 2014 updates as & when they are announced.