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How Equity Release Schemes Can Help Generate Extra Income in Retirement

Monday, March 10th, 2014

How equity release can provide extra income in retirementThroughout our working lives, retirement always seemed a distant destination. Plans to ensure that financial security is bestowed upon us are often postponed, while more pressing needs are fulfilled. Yes, the date to start a pension or retirement planning was always the proverbial ‘tomorrow’.

 

Unless you were fortunate enough to become a member of an employer’s final salary scheme, which even today are becoming a rarity, then it’s likely that the penny has dropped and there will ultimately be a reduction in income, once state pension age is reached.

 

However, all is not lost & although many people haven’t necessarily funded a pension or savings contract for their retirement, they may have inadvertently been savings via their biggest asset…their property!

 

Should any of these comments strike a chord, then please read on. Using my wealth of financial services & the last 14 equity release experience, I want to explain how your property can become your pension & take you down the road of enhancing your pension in retirement.

 

The inevitable expense of retirement…

First let’s start by establishing what the perception of retirement is & the future expenditures that maybe incurred during its reign.

These could encompass simple lifestyle costs such as any of the following: –

 

  • A new car?
  • Regular holidays?
  • Home improvements?
  • A caravan or motorhome?
  • More leisure time for golf or bowls?
  • Enjoy days out?

 

However, for many the reality of meeting these expenditures becomes a pipe dream as once retired, they could find their income severely reduced. In fact in some cases, pensioners have seen a reduction of two thirds of the income that they enjoyed whilst working. The danger of this becomes apparent. From experience many retirees DO NOT curb spending habits to realign their expenditures following a reduction in income.

 

This situation has led to a dramatic increase in post-retirement debt counselling, with many building significant credit card debt, which then spirals out of control. During times of employment debt can usually be easier to manage, with the ability to repay using extra hours, bonuses, overtime or even a 2nd job. These options are somewhat reduced for the silver surfer generation, albeit more retirees are considering working, & actually are filling vacancies that once were not considered unnecessary in retirement.

 

So what are the options, should the over 55’s find themselves with an income shortfall & need advice on their retirement solutions?

 

Well as stated earlier, your home may have become an extremely valuable asset with potential escalation its value over the decades. So let’s look at how your house could become your pension and provide a level of financial security.

 

Home equity plans have been around many years, but have never been as popular as they are today, so here I attempt to explain the pros and cons of equity release schemes.

 

Why do people take out an equity release plan?

More and more people are turning to equity release to fund home improvements, pay off debts and to enjoy holidays, but the underlying reason for this is that their income has reduced so much since they retired, they’re no longer able to save for larger purchases.

 

Similarly, many retirees are spending their tax free cash from their pensions on larger purchases, such as a new car and conservatory, but are finding that their disposable income has reduced to the extent that there’s hardly anything left each month having paid their household bills and bought their groceries etc.

 

We’ve all seen in the news that pensions aren’t producing the expected level of income that people hoped for: some final salary pension schemes have closed; annuity rates are historically lower as life expectancy improves; interest rates on savings have flat lined since the economic downturn, with even the highest instant access cash ISA rate only offers 3.02% variable (Newcastle Building Society).

 

Explore potential sources of additional income

Assuming that you’ve spent your lifetime savings, don’t wish to move or downsize yet, and have exhausted all other alternatives upon discussion with an equity release specialist like Equity Release Supermarket, there’s a number of other alternatives for you to consider:

 

  • The first step should be to check if additional income could be sourced from elsewhere such as local government? Always check whether any means tested state benefits or such as pension credit, or local authority benefits now labelled ‘Council Tax Reduction’ may be available. Please see my recent article on this – ‘Can an Equity Release Adviser Provide Advice on Means Tested State Benefits?

 

  • Finally, if you’ve got any existing debts, these could be refinanced & consolidated, potentially leaving you with one lower monthly payment.  These savings can then be used towards providing extra income in retirement.

 

What’s the best way to get an income from equity release?

No current lifetime mortgage providers actually offer a monthly income equity release plan. In fact only one provider ever has; Northern Rock offered an income producing lifetime mortgage. This was pulled once Northern Rock Equity Release (now Papilio UK) was closed to new business during the credit crunch. Even during its lifetime, the Northern Rock Cash-Plus plans were fairly inflexible in the sense that once income was arranged, it was fixed for life and could not be amended.

 

Nowadays, the majority of equity release applicants would rather have the flexibility of deciding when the take the tax-free cash, not to be dictated to with a fixed income for life. The most prudent & popular way is to use a drawdown equity release scheme. This is available from most lifetime mortgage providers and I can carefully assess which scheme is most suitable for you. By accepting a cash reserve facility from the equity release company, the applicant can then decide how much of this reserve facility they need to spend initially. The remaining balance untaken, is then held by the lender until such time the customer requires further cash drawdown. The beauty of the drawdown lifetime mortgage is that NO interest is charged whilst monies are left with the provider.

 

Let’s look at a couple that I met recently and witness how a drawdown equity release scheme works in practice:-

 

Case Study – ‘asset rich, income poor’

Jim & Mary, both aged 70, own a property worth £250,000 and are both retired. They manage reasonably well from their pension income, but this only pays for their normal day to living expenditure and they’re unable to afford the small luxuries in retirement that they’d always dreamed of. They’d like an extra income each year to pay for regular meals out, a cruise each year plus they like exploring National Trust type properties and country villages.

 

The solution: They’re able to release the minimum loan of £15,000 which will easily cover their first 2 years of expenditure as they also need to use £5,000 for a new bathroom.  In order to supplement their on-going income needs they’d like £4,000 ‘spending money’ each year. With the versatility of the Hodge Flexible Lifetime Mortgage Plan, they’re able to achieve this as Hodge would set up a reserve of £55,000 that can be accessed at any time, with a minimum withdrawal amount of £1,000. These extra withdrawals attract NO further charges.

Jim described this as ‘like having a bank account with £55,000 in it.’ The benefits to Jim & Mary are that none of this £55,000 reserve facility attracts any interest until it’s actually taken. They plan to withdraw around £4,000 a year for approx. 10 years, whilst they’re fit and healthy to enjoy it. The Hodge Lifetime Flexible Mortgage Plan comes with a free valuation offer currently.

 

 

When equity release should NOT be used to create an income!

Some equity release customers in the past have been advised to release the maximum lump sum from their property and reinvest into an investment product. Problems have arisen, as the income has reduced and the investment has often dropped in value, while interest on the equity release has rolled up and provided poor value for money.

 

Similarly, some customers previously released a lump sum to buy an annuity but it has proved difficult to get a good income from a relatively small lump sum. It normally takes considerable time to benefit from a pension annuity, but interest will have been charged on the full amount of equity that you originally released from your home.

 

Other customers have taken the maximum lump sum from their home and invested into deposit accounts or investment bonds, but have been dismayed with plummeting interest rates. With interest rates on equity release loans currently averaging over 6%, yet the best savings rates currently only 3%, this obviously represents poor value for money & certainly not best advice.

 

These are NOT ways that equity release mortgages should be utilised and why the drawdown lifetime mortgage scheme is the correct vehicle to use.

 

What are the main advantages of a drawdown scheme versus a maximum lump sum plan? 

  • Interest isn’t charged on the reserve amount, until you decide to take it
  • You can withdraw money from the reserve at any time
  • No further charges for each withdrawal made (except New Life & more2life)
  • Limiting your savings in the bank, can help eligibility for means tested benefits
  • The less money you borrow, the less interest your beneficiaries will need to repay when the plan ends

 

How much can I release under a Drawdown equity release scheme?

The amount depends on a number of factors, including property value, age of the youngest applicant and property type. With recent innovations in equity release schemes there is now an enhanced drawdown lifetime mortgage plan which can offer a greater cash reserve facility for those with a history of poor health, yet requiring the maximum cash facility available.

 

Equity Release Supermarket’s free equity release calculator found here our website can certainly assist in helping to ascertain the maximum equity release possible. This will provide a guideline which can then be qualified further by myself dependent upon your financial requirements, both now & in the future.

 

Therefore, please contact myself, Mark Rumney for your personalised illustration. Your request can be discussed over the telephone & once I have identified your requirements & checked eligibility. Following that, I can conveniently post or email out the best recommended scheme for your needs.

 

To follow up any aspects of this article, please contact me via my mobile 07957 974826 or email markrumney@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

Can I Move Home with Equity Release?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Moving Home With Equity ReleaseOne of the most common questions we get asked as equity release advisers is whether a lifetime mortgage is ‘flexible’ enough to meet any future change in circumstances?

 

Having reached retirement, experience has taught us all that life can be full of surprises and quite rightly this question is always high on the agenda.

 

This article has been written using my 10 years equity release experience & how I have helped guide my clients towards their ultimate goals, but at the same time alleviating any inhibitions surrounding equity release and moving home in the future.

 

The most common apprehensions regarding flexibility and moving or buying a new home can be summarised as follows:

  1. Can I move home if I have already taken out an equity release plan?
  2. Can I use equity release to purchase a new property
  3. How much can I raise on a new home using maximum equity release schemes?
  4. Can I transfer my existing equity release scheme to a new home?
  5. Can I still take out equity release if I downsize?
  6. If moving house, is it worthwhile transferring, or taking out a new plan?

 

So how does an equity release adviser dispel the fears and help their clients overcome the concerns that a release of equity mustn’t feel like a noose around their neck?

 

Considerations on Moving Home from an Equity Release Advisers Point of View

When we consider the question of a possible future house move, we can divide this into three very different scenarios; each one deserving separate consideration in its own right: –

  1. The first equity release scenario captures the proposition of using a lifetime mortgage, or home reversion plan to help fund the purchase of a new house
  2. The 2nd situation analyses the advice & legal process required when purchasing or moving home, utilising an existing equity release plan.
  3. Lastly, we explain the advisers perspective on what options are  available to a client with their existing equity release mortgage, upon moving home

 

Scenario 1 – Can I use Equity Release to help fund a house purchase?

An increasing number of enquiries seem to be coming in from people who are looking to move home, and this can be for various reasons. Some are looking to move nearer to their family for support, others are looking to downsize to repay loans and mortgages. Still others simply want to buy that bungalow they had always dreamed of for when they retired.

 

In the majority of cases, the best way to use equity release schemes to help fund a house purchase is to transact them simultaneously. This means involving an equity release application to be used as part of the legal process to buy. Consider this theory as exactly the same principle as using a conventional residential mortgage to help buy a new property.

 

In essence, by taking equity release at the same time as house purchase will save money by not duplicating the legal work, should a release of equity be needed at a later date. The rationale is that only one set of legals are required should equity release & the purchase be transacted simultaneously. However, if a release of equity is taken post purchase, then two set of legal costs are incurred; at the time of the house purchase, but then again later when equity release is done in isolation.

 

The rules are fairly straightforward, whether you use a lifetime mortgage or a home reversion plan for this purpose. A given percentage of the value of the proposed purchase property would be made available, depending on the age of the youngest applicant, and some or this entire figure would be sent to the conveyancer on the day of purchase to enable completion to take place.

 

Case Study:

Mr & Mrs Townley are aged 65 and looking to buy a property nearer to their daughter at a cost of £200,000. Their own home has been sold for £180,000 and, bearing in mind the additional costs involved, they feel they would need a further £30,000 to complete the purchase.

Following research, their lifetime mortgage adviser has recommended the Aviva Lifestyle Flexible Option where they could release upto 25% of the value of their new property. This potentially could provide them with a maximum release of £50,000.

They decided that they only want £30,000 of this for now but, as they don’t know what the future may hold, they ask for a cash reserve facility to be set up so that they could access the other £20,000 in the future, just in case they need it later.

 

Scenario 2 – Can I move home AFTER releasing equity on my home?

This is a different question altogether, but is definitely another one that comes up most of the time. Most people want to know before they enter into an equity release agreement, what would happen if they moved home in the future? This could be downsizing when one partner is left on their own, or moving into sheltered accommodation, if health dictates it becomes necessary.

 

First of all it is important to acknowledge that any lender that is a member of the Equity Release Council (which recently replaced SHIP) will allow the transfer of an equity release plan to a new, suitable property. Portability is an important facet of all equity release schemes.

 

Important considerations for anyone releasing equity include what they think MAY happen, or which is MOST LIKELY, as none of us know what’s around the corner.

 

If downsizing is the most likely outcome, then it should be very easy to find a lender that will allow this with the facility to move the equity release plan at the same time. A valuation would be carried out on the new property and the maximum configured equity release would be calculated. Having access to a lifetime mortgage calculator would be an advantage.

 

If the amount currently owed, is in excess of the maximum amount available for release on the new property, then the excess would need to be repaid from the profit made through selling and buying the cheaper property.

Of course some people want to have the flexibility of repaying the loan in full if they downsize later on and this is where some care is needed from outset to ensure this is possible.

 

As lenders become more attuned to what is important to equity release customers we are seeing some innovative thinking and I for one hope that this is a trend that will continue to grow over the coming years.

 

Scenario 3 – What should I do with an existing equity release if I want to downsize or purchase new?

This scenario is a continuation of the previous section, albeit taking into account in greater detail the options available & what should be done with an old equity release plan. It would be amiss of any adviser to automatically assume it would be in the client’s best interest to port an old lifetime mortgage or home reversion plan to the new property.

 

This is a key opportunity for an overall review of the older plan to establish its competitiveness in today’s equity release environment. From my experience of working at Norwich Union Equity Release (latterly Aviva), I am aware of older legacy equity release plans that in today’s world are outdated and uncompetitive.

 

My Experience of Norwich Union’s Legacy Equity Release Plans

The forerunner of all of Aviva’s equity release plans was called the Capital Access Plan. The Norwich Union Capital Access Plan had an interest rate, not charged against the balance, but calculated against the property value escalating over time. People with these plans who have seen a large increase in property value, will also had seen a proportionate increase in their equity release balance.

 

Another legacy plan which is no longer available is the Norwich Union Index-Linked Cash Release Plan. This a scheme which offered a maximum equity release lump sum from age 55, but with an interest rate linked to Retail Price Index (RPI). This Index Linked Cash Release Plan had a minimum interest rate of 4.89%, rising to a maximum rate of 10.14%. The calculated rate was dependent upon on the annual change in RPI which was then added to the minimum rate of 4.89%. Hence, this scheme did not provide as much certainty as today’s lifetime mortgage fixed rates.

 

From thereon in, Norwich Union or Aviva Lifetime Mortgage schemes had interest rates over 8%pa and potential early repayment charges of 100% of the original balance borrowed. Its schemes such as these that need assessing as to whether they should continue, or if favourable, could be repaid upon sale & a new plan taken upon simultaneous purchase of the new property. With rates today from Aviva as low as 5.68% annual, it could make sound financial sense to consider a new scheme which could save many £1,000’s over time by switching.

 

Free Initial Consultation

It is therefore essential for an experienced independent equity release adviser to undertake a full review of the entire situation & provide an impartial recommendation as to what is best advice moving forward. This will involve requesting an upto redemption statement from the existing lender, analysing the existing scheme & importantly assessing all the features including potential early repayment charges.

 

Equity Release schemes that were taken out some time ago are usually not as competitive, or flexible as plans around today, given the period of low interest rates incumbent over the last 2-3 years.

 

I would advise ANYONE thinking of moving to take advice as it may well be cheaper to change lender than staying with your current one and transferring your plan to the new property. The only way of finding this out is to take advice from an Independent Equity Release Adviser that is able to research the WHOLE of the market. By conducting a switch plans analysis, Equity Release Supermarket can address whether it would be worthwhile, or not, to switch equity release plans when moving home.

 

 

Examples of lenders already attuned to the option of downsizing – Hodge Lifetime

At the moment if anyone is thinking of downsizing in the future and repaying their equity release plan in full, then serious consideration should be given to a new plan such as the Hodge Lifetime Flexible Mortgage Plan.

 

This plan allows the borrower to repay the whole amount WITHOUT PENALTY if they decide to move home & downsize, as long as this is at least 5 years after inception of the plan.

 

Alongside this downsizing protection option is the fact that, if something unforeseen should happen and you need to move and repay during the first 5 years then the Hodge Lifetime penalty for doing so would be capped at 5% of the initial release in year 1, 4% in year 2, 3% in year 3, 2% in year 4 and then 1% in year 5. Significantly, the Hodge Lifetime penalty is more favourable than many of the gilt linked product related early repayment charges.

 

I believe this gives an added degree of flexibility for equity release consumers, and I hope it’s an indication that lenders are changing the way they change tact & begin providing greater flexibility as the need to move home in the future increases.

 

The fact remains that it is possible to move home and it’s imperative that you get the right advice when considering equity release initially AND when thinking of a house move as well.

 

Summary

It is probably one of the most important decisions you will make financially, as the decision you make now will not only impact on your future, but also your children & grandchildren’s future.

 

These are the reasons why we at Equity Release Supermarket always offer a free, no obligation, initial consultation which can be in the comfort of your own home or over the telephone, whichever is preferable.

This initial consultation gives us the chance to ask our clients about their objectives as well as their future plans, so that we can tailor any Equity Release scheme we recommend to each individual set of circumstances.

 

For your FREE, NO OBLIGATION, initial consultation (whether it’s your first time or if you want to review your current scheme) please call Mark on 07966 889597 or e-mail mark@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

 
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