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Archive for December, 2013

Can Equity Release Schemes Prevent you Becoming an ‘Interest Only Mortgage Prisoner’?

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Can equity release schemes help unlock interest only mortgage prisoners?It seemed such a sensible thing to do at the time. Perhaps you were just starting out on the property ladder or you wanted to move up market to afford that dream home and as a result your income was stretched?

 

Back then an interest only mortgage was a perfectly reasonable option for a few years until your earnings increased and then you could switch to a full repayment mortgage. Or perhaps, very sensibly, you set up a repayment vehicle such as an endowment plan or you relied on the anticipated growth of your pension fund to take care of the mortgage in the dim and distant future?

 

Reaching retirement with an interest only mortgage

Life never quite works out as expected and here you are, approaching or beyond retirement, with a mortgage still outstanding and with a mortgage lender demanding to know how you intend to repay. Either you never got around to switching to a repayment mortgage or, by reason of poor investment performance or poor advice, your repayment fund has fallen woefully short of target.

 

You are not alone! Earlier this year the Financial Conduct Authority report that that almost half of those borrowers with interest only mortgages, approximately 1.3 million people, may not be able to repay their mortgage. And the average shortfall is estimated to be £71,000.

 

Can the high street lenders help?

So how have high street mortgage lenders responded? Mainly by applying higher interest rates to existing interest only mortgages or by forcing borrowers into repayment plans, usually very short term for borrowers over 60, with little regard to affordability or even existing and adequate savings plans.

 

So how do you break free from this “mortgage prison”?

Firstly, you must consider your options for the future;-

  • If you have savings, do you want to use them to reduce the outstanding mortgage, bearing in mind that the cost of the mortgage will certainly outweigh any return you are making on your savings?
  • How much of your savings do you want to retain as a cash emergency fund?
  • Do you intend to move now or within the next few years and, if so, will this allow you to repay the mortgage, cover all the moving costs and leave sufficient finds to re-house yourselves?

 

Secondly, if these options are not available to you and you want to remain in the family home, then you could consider an equity release mortgage, preferably after eliminating all other possibilities and following consultation with your family.

 

How can equity release schemes help?

There are two types of equity release plans approved by the Equity Release Council and they come with the following written guarantees:

  • You can stay in your home for life or until you go permanently in to care. In the case of joint applicants, this is until the survivor dies or goes in to care.
  • The plans are portable to other acceptable properties if you want to move.
  • No further monthly interest payments to make, unless you elect to do so.
  • You will never leave a debt to anyone due to the inclusion of a ‘no negative equity guarantee’

 

The two types of equity release mortgages are

  1. Home Reversion Plans – where you sell a percentage share of your home in exchange for a cash lump sum or regular income.
  2. Lifetime Mortgage Schemes – where you release funds secured on your property with the option to either roll-up the interest with no monthly payments, or to pay monthly interest in full or part.

 

Case Study example

A couple aged 66 and 65 living in their home valued at £300,000 and desperately wanting to repay an interest only mortgage of £60,000. The maximum they could raise from a standard lifetime mortgage would be 29% of the property value, i.e. £87,000. They have options and the following are examples of mortgage products currently available:-

 

a)      They can choose to borrow £60,000 (plus more to cover fees) to repay the existing lender and have the interest rolled-up for life with no further monthly payments. The valuation fee could be free with some of the current equity release deals available. The other costs taken by lender, solicitor and adviser could amount to approximately £2,000 which could be deducted from the loan. The interest rate fixed for life on equity release plans such as the Aviva Lifetime Flexi could be as low as 5.62% (5.80% representative APR) and, in addition, they could have ready access to a cash reserve if they wanted to borrow more in the future.

 

b)      They can choose to borrow the £60,000 (plus more to cover fees) and pay the monthly interest for life or for a fixed number of years. Dependent upon income, the lifetime fixed rate could be fixed as low as 4.75% (5.10% representative APR) resulting in a maximum monthly interest payment of £238pm. However, if this is too much for their budget they could elect for alternative plans such as Stonehaven’s Interest Select range & opt to pay a lesser sum each month (minimum of £25). The remaining unpaid monthly interest would be rolled up and repaid at the end. The fees are approximately the same, but a valuation fee of £252 would be payable with the Stonehaven application form. Hence, we have interest only lifetime mortgage options to suit.

 

A new breed of lifetime mortgages

Recently, a new form of lifetime mortgage has been developed to help those looking for the maximum possible release. The enhanced lifetime mortgage, or ‘ill-health equity release plan’ has been developed with the maximum release in mind.

 

Although the maximum equity release isn’t suitable for everyone, it has its place for those who desperately want as much as they can release for either health reasons or a ‘needs must’ basis.

 

They differentiate from standard lifetime mortgage schemes by assessing someone’s medical history. Essentially, the worse one’s health has been, the greater the potential release. These plans are underwritten & are offered by actuarially based companies with experience in the field of pension annuities where similar principles are employed.

 

Therefore, an enhancement can make the difference between be able to repay that interest only mortgage, or not, so enhanced lifetime mortgages should always be considered with your adviser.

 

Summary

Equity release is a sensible option to escape becoming a “mortgage prisoner” but expert advice from a qualified equity release adviser is always essential. Explore the alternatives first and discuss matters with your family to obtain a second opinion.

 

If you would like a free initial consultation to assess your interest only mortgage options, please contact Mike Vicary of Equity Release Supermarket, on 07795 195302.

 

Mike has successfully helped people make the interest only remortgage transition, thus enabling retirees to remain in their home & avoid becoming an ‘interest only mortgage prisoner’.

 

Can an Equity Release Adviser Provide Advice on Means Tested State Benefits?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Claiming council tax benefits & pension creditDuring 13 years of giving equity  release advice, one of the first questions I ask new clients is whether they receive any means tested benefits or not. It’s a crucial part of the advice process as a professional adviser needs to check what impact, if any, equity release might have on vital state benefits that they receive.

 

It’s also really important to find out the exact income of every client to check for potential means tested benefit entitlement. I’ve interviewed equity release clients who didn’t even realise their entitlement and thereafter have subsequently made a successful claim which has led to extra available income.

 

How do I check to see if I’m eligible for benefits?

I would strongly recommend anyone who is about to retire, or is already retired, call the pension credit Freephone number to check for eligibility on 0800 991234 to get their situation individually assessed.  You can also click on the attached link: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator to check your eligibility online.

 

Similarly, you should also call your local council tax benefit enquiry helpline number to check for council tax benefit. The telephone number will be on your last annual statement. Usually, if you qualify for pension credit you should also be able to get a reduction of some or all of your council tax benefit.

 

As a part of my recommendation process, I would fully assess your financial situation which would also include reviewing your means tested benefits during our meetings. As the initial consultation is free, I place no financial burden on you, so use my experience to the maximum & see if there are further entitlements you could claim.

 

Qualification rules and how much benefit can I receive? 

The earliest age you can qualify for pension credit was aged 60, but this is gradually increasing to age 66 from 2020. For tax year 2013/2014 pension credit should be available if a single person’s income is less than £145.40 per week, or £222.05 for a married couple. Your savings can also impact your eligibility for pension credit and council tax benefit but the relevant agencies do ignore the first £10,000 of savings that you hold. Savings between £10,000 and £16,000 can still mean that you receive some benefits but savings in excess of £16,000 normally mean you’re not entitled to any benefits.

 

From age 65 you may also be entitled to savings credit of up to £18.06 for single person and £22.89 for a married couple. You might be eligible for this as long as your income is less than £190 per week for a single person or £279 per week for a married couple.

 

Will I lose my benefits if I take a release of equity?

With advice from a skilled adviser at Equity Release Supermarket, you shouldn’t normally lose any benefits. If you’re already receiving means tested benefits and you’re thinking of equity release it’s best to have your situation analysed by finding a qualified equity release adviser. I also suggest that you contact the pension credit and council tax benefit helplines to discuss your situation. However, the rule of thumb is that if after releasing equity your savings are less than £10,000 your benefits shouldn’t be affected. Equity Release can be carefully planned to ensure that this this remains the case.

Let’s look at recent clients I’ve met and provided lifetime mortgage advice to:

 

Brian was aged 65 and his home was worth £200,000.  He wanted to release equity of £20,000 to buy a new car and bathroom but he was in receipt of pension credit and council tax benefit. As Brian was spending the money straight away there wasn’t any changes to his benefits, as he only kept his existing savings of £5,000 in the bank. He released £20,000 on the Aviva Lifestyle Flexi Plan and also had another £23,500 available in the reserve facility we created by recommending a drawdown equity release lifetime mortgage. Again, this money in his reserve doesn’t impact his benefits as it falls below the £10,000 limit imposed. He can thereafter take small amounts of at least £2,000 whenever it’s needed. This will mean that his savings are still kept below £10,000 and therefore not affect his benefits.

 

Terry & Margaret were both aged 67 and their home was worth £180,000. When they retired 2 years ago, Terry received a tax free lump sum from his pension which paid for a new car, a conservatory and they had a couple of holidays, but were left with less than £2,000 in the bank. They were in receipt of pension credit and council tax benefit. They could manage on their income but wanted funds to pay for a new kitchen costing £5,000 and wanted money for holidays over the next 10 years. Although they could release over a one off lump sum of around £50,000 from various equity release providers this would have proved catastrophic as they would have lost their entitlement to their much needed benefits. This is where careful planning by an equity release adviser can help. Instead they took out a drawdown lifetime mortgage with an initial loan of £10,000 to pay for their kitchen and for 2 holidays. They were also able to set up a reserve of capital of £41,000 with New Life and will be able to release regular withdrawals of at least £5,000 to fund their future holidays. This doesn’t have any affect on their benefits.

 

Additional lenders offering drawdown equity release schemes are Hodge Lifetime whom allow further withdrawals of £1,000, with Just Retirement, LV= and Aviva having a minimum of £2,000 cash reserve withdrawal limit.

 

Please remember that state benefits rules can change at any time. Special rules apply to making gifts with equity release. The benefit figures above relate to tax year 2013/14 & maybe subject to change.

 

How do I get more information on equity release and state benefits?

 

Whenever you consider equity release it’s important to get a fully authorised equity release adviser to carefully check your situation regarding means tested benefits, as well as checking overall suitability of the schemes.

 

Here at Equity Release Supermarket, we’re able to help you with this during our meetings. We do not charge for your initial consultation which can be conducted either in the comfort of your own home or over the telephone, to suit.

 

Please feel free to contact myself if you have any queries on equity release schemes and how they could affect your state benefits. My name is Mark Rumney & can be contacted on mobile 07957 974826 or email markrumney@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

Drawdown Lifetime Mortgages Offer the Key to Buying a New Static Caravan or Motorhome

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Buying a Static Caravan with a lifetime mortgageOne the great advantages of Equity Release or Lifetime Mortgages is the ability to raise extra cash to enjoy in your retirement. Although a recent study showed that up to 42% of Lifetime Mortgages are taken out to pay off loans and mortgages, almost 30% are being used to enjoy holidays.

 

Equity Release Experience Counts

As an equity release specialist, I personally have had clients who have spent money raised to visit family and friends in the Far East, usually travelling in comfort as 1st class passengers on their long-haul flights. Some have taken the occasional Mediterranean cruise or a trip with the family to Florida. All these expenditures may seem extravagant. However, as a more down to earth extravagance has been the number of clients who have raised money to spend on something a little more permanent and closer to home – a Static Caravan.

 

The issues with purchasing a static caravan

Before anyone purchases a static caravan they must undertake research as to the implications & costs involved. With the cost of caravans and site fees often approaching £3,000 per annum, they have until now been out of the reach of many potential buyers, but things are changing.

Many people who own or looking to purchase a static caravan tend to be of retirement age & it’s now dawning on many who previously couldn’t afford, that they now have a financial opportunity to purchase the caravan of their dreams.

 

Case Study

I can refer to one particular couple, who until retirement had been able to afford to stay at a particular holiday site on the East Coast. With a reduced income and a smaller than expected pension they realised that they would no longer be able to do this. They missed being with their son and his wife and their grandchildren on what had been a regular holiday, an increasingly rare time when all the family was together.

 

A finance meeting with all the family took place to discuss how they were to fund the purchase of the static caravan, which was to cost, including fees a little over £25,000. Following a review of their current financial situation and understanding their objectives, I was able to make an equity release recommendation. To enable them to fund the purchase of the static caravan, it was decided that a drawdown lifetime mortgage would suit them best. This would allow them to borrow the initial £25,000 lump sum required and by creating a cash reserve, it would additionally provide access to more cash in the future to pay for annual maintenance and site fees.

 

The family who were present & involved by request at the meeting were all in agreement. During the meeting I would understand the lifestyle benefits the drawdown lifetime mortgage advice would create. For instance, he grandchildren would be able to stay for extended holidays, which pleased everyone and their children could see the advantage to themselves of sharing a place at the coast to get away for a few days. (free of charge of course!)

 

The on-going and future benefits were interesting. Not only did they spend more and more time at the caravan, away from the stresses of town life, but they found they increased their circle of friends, joining in social events arranged at the park and in the locality. This is something that many forget about the virtues of equity release schemes; how equity release can change one’s life.

 

They also had the opportunity to holiday with friends and former work colleagues which added to the sense of being part of a community, and they also found there was an element of camaraderie amongst owners as each owner kept a watchful eye on their neighbours caravan and there was always someone willing to inform them about the area and it’s facilities. Such as, where to get the ‘best cup of tea’.

 

In a similar situation, one item on their ‘bucket list’ for clients in the Peterborough area was to continue to take regular holidays in retirement. With the increased cost of holiday insurance due to health reasons and the problem of putting their two ageing dogs into kennels, holidaying abroad was becoming too expensive and impractical so they decided to buy a motor home and travel,  as and when they wanted.  They too were able to do so by taking a release of equity from their home to fund the purchase of their own static caravan.

 

Summary

In essence, equity release schemes come in various guises. Both lifetime mortgage and home reversion plans are designed to ultimately provide the tax free cash to effect life changing events. This can be for both lifestyle changes and life changing purposes.

 

As an Equity Release Supermarket adviser, I feel privileged to be able to offer this service to people over the age of 55.

Should you have an interest in purchasing a mobile home or static caravan and need assistance or advice then please contact Equity Release Supermarket on 0800 678 5159 or email admin@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

 
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