If you are considering taking equity release and early repayment maybe on the horizon, then selecting the right equity release plan is essential to avoid potentially high penalties. Here we illustrate the pitfalls of early repayment of an equity release scheme and what to look out for, if one day you are considering paying off your plan early.
Equity release schemes are in simple terms a mortgage that runs for your lifetime & commonly has NO monthly repayments. The principle reason for the growing popularity behind equity release schemes is that they enable you to free up the equity tied up within the bricks and mortar of your home.
With hindsight, once we all reach retirement age we should all have sufficient income & capital in the bank to meet our retirement objectives. However, such forward planning doesn’t always materialise for one reason or another; ill-health, redundancy or poor investment return can always interrupt anyone’s best laid plans. So what contingency plans can one put in place, or how can one minimise the risk of achieving retirement age without the funds to enjoy the longest holiday of your life?
Equity release schemes
We have witnessed the virtues of equity release mortgages & how they have come to the rescue of many retirees over the past 15 years. However, what can be a life saver initially can become a financial liability in the future unless professional equity release advice is provided by a qualified & experienced lifetime mortgage adviser.
One of the fundamental advances in the emerging equity release market is the protection this industry is now affording to its customers. With FSA (Financial Services Authority) regulation, trade bodies such as the newly formed Equity Release Council (formerly SHIP) & in-built protection features such as the no-negative equity guarantee, equity release clients have never been more re-assured of the improvements in these lifetime mortgages for the over 55’s.
What are the potential pitfalls of equity release schemes?
One area that hasn’t seen much improvement in the equity release marketplace would be the impact of early repayment charges (ERC’s). As equity release providers are lending over a potentially long duration; in some cases in excess of 40 years, they need to set their long term borrowing plans accordingly. Equity release on the face of it may seem very profitable to lenders, however for a large initial outlay it can be many years before they receive their capital & interest in return. To ensure that their profitability & future of the plans remains they must make contingencies in case of early surrender.
Hence, like any mortgage the lender, equity release providers need to include a penalty on early repayment of an equity release plan. To many this would not be seen as an issue as we may have all experienced some form of ERC with our mortgage companies in the past. The difference between residential penalties & equity release penalties are the basis of, the size, & duration that the penalties can be levied over.
What kinds of penalties are charged?
Whereas all residential mortgages charge some form of fixed penalty over a fixed number of years, equity release schemes in general are nothing like. The majority of lenders have now reverted to the old Norwich Union formula of using government gilts as the basis for their early repayment charge. Companies that have now followed suit are Just Retirement, more2life, Partnership, Stonehaven and more recently New Life Mortgages switched from a fixed rate basis onto gilts also.
However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule who come from the likes of: -
- LV= (Liverpool Victoria) - who still use a fixed penalty of 5% of the capital borrowed in the first 5 years to 3% in the next 5 years, then nothing thereafter.
- Hodge Lifetime – who use a combination of a fixed rate penalty over 5 years and swap rates which relate to the long term effect of interest rates. However, they do have the advantage that if you move after 5 years, then no ERC’s will apply. Additionally, they permit 10% overpayments each year without penalty.
Is it all gloom and doom?
The answers to this could be both yes and no; depending if you have an existing equity release plan or not.
For equity release customers who took out a gilt related plan in the past it could be bad news. However, remember this is only bad news if you intend to repay early! If you have no intentions of early repayment, then no ERC’s would be applicable. All equity release schemes will NOT apply any penalty on repayment of the equity release due to death or long term care. Additionally, with the Equity Release Council (SHIP) rules in place if you are moving or downsizing you can take your existing scheme with you with no penalty. Equity release schemes have clearly made it known they are a lifetime mortgage. Therefore, the plans are not designed to provide short term borrowings.
You could however hedge your bets on occasions, but as the phase goes...let the buyer beware. For instance, with gilts rates currently at such low levels, unprecedented in the years that equity release has been around, could now be a good time to consider a gilt related equity release plan over the medium term?
The reason for taking out such a plan now would be the fact that these gilt related ERC equity release providers will not levy an ERC should the gilt rate have risen since the mortgage was taken out. In fact companies such as Aviva won’t charge an ERC if the gilt rate remains the same or even falls by a margin of 0.12%.
It is a gamble, as there is still much uncertainty in the economy, but the markets would expect that gilts are sure to go back up in the future when interest rates maybe rise. When though is the golden question.
So, gauging which equity release scheme is the best doesn’t all boil down to interest rates. A combination of assessing your future plans and how much, and when you actually require these funds can be just as important.
Afterall, what is the point of taking out an equity release plan with Aviva an interest rate of 5.66%, when upon early repayment you could be charged an enormous penalty of upto 25% of the amount you originally borrowed! It may be better to pay a slightly higher rate, with the knowledge that you either have no penalty or at least a known penalty from the outset.
Having an experienced equity release adviser is paramount in helping to decide which is the best equity release scheme, for your particular circumstances. By not only looking at your current situation, but also your future plans; your requirements now and also in the future will help your adviser assist in making the right equity release decision for you.
Equity Release Supermarket provide independent equity release advice from the whole of the market. Having the experience of actually working with the likes of Aviva, Prudential, NatWest and Norwich Union, gives our advisers the advantage of knowing the ins and outs of lenders early repayment charges and being able to give quality advice.
If you have any questions about equity release early repayment charges then please call one of our specialists on 0800 678 5159 or email [email protected].