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Equity Release Schemes – Do The Sums Actually Add Up?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

The main concern of equity release schemes is the reduced inheritance which is passed down to beneficiaries. Here we discuss the pro’s & con’s of roll-up equity release plans.

 

First, let’s look at the effect on the beneficiaries & the source of the causes for concern. This then leads us to the equity release calculator with facts & figures showing how these schemes fair for the beneficiaries on final redemption of the plan.

 

Ok, we’ve have all heard the saying; bad news travels faster than good news & this is synonymous with terminology ‘equity release’.

Although equity release plans were initiated in 1965, the news damaging these schemes generally dates back to the late 1980’s when the first home income plans were launched.

Linked to an annuities or regular income investment bonds & an interest only mortgage, plans such as these were destined to fail, relying heavily on investment performance in a period of falling property values & rapidly rising interest rates.

 

The mid 90’s then introduced the much derided & chastened Shared Appreciation Mortgages (SAM’s), the focus of most causes for campaigns against equity release including Trevor MacDonald’s Tonight TV programme.

Therefore, its no wonder the industries reputation was soured.

 

So what has the equity release industry done about repairing this negative sentiment?

At the time of the SAM’s debacle, SHIP (Safe Home Income Plans) was launched. Formed from its originators – Ecclesiastical Life, Hodge Equity Release, Home & Capital Trust & GE Life all members agreed to abide by a strict code of conduct, which still exists today.

Soon new lenders entered the equity release market, with household names such as Norwich Union & Northern Rock with their newly developed roll-up equity release schemes bringing a significant boost & trust to the industry.

Although equity release schemes began to blossom around 2003 with approximately 25,000 equity release loans completed, a lack of regulation still overshadowed the equity release sector. The market was still somewhat bighted by the previous misdemeanours.

 

Thankfully, partial regulation was soon imposed on the equity release industry with lifetime mortgages coming under the auspices of the Financial Services Authority on 31st October 2004. Home reversions soon joined lifetime mortgage schemes & by 2007 full regulation & confidence was brought back to the equity release marketplace.

Therefore, the market has evolved & strived to restore pride; a far cry from the negative perceptions of decades ago.

 

So what does this all mean for today’s beneficiaries?

The main ‘clean up act’ came with the introduction of SHIP & its rules imposed on the members. The ‘no negative equity guarantee’ affords the greatest level of protection the industry has to offer.

Safe in the knowledge that any amount borrowed by their parents can never escalate to more than the eventual sale price of the property, they are at least guaranteed no debt can be passed onto themselves.

A crumb of comfort maybe, but certainly peace of mind for parents.

 

As an equity release adviser, encouragement must always be shown to involve the heirs to the estate. With their input & assurance, feelings can then be vented either for or against equity release being taken as for many this is a major financial proposition.

Again qualified advisers should play an important role in explaining the pro’s & con’s of equity release mortgages & convey these issues to all parties concerned.

 

What else does the equity release sector afford by way of protection?

Interest rates for home equity release schemes, albeit not the lowest ever, are still historically low. One positive feature of these schemes is the lifetime fixed rate on all equity release loans now.

 

So what is the benefit of this?

If you borrowed an amount of capital, with a fixed interest rate for life it enables you to calculate the exact future balance.

This is building further reassurance for potential equity release applicants.

We know the equity release balance escalates over the lifetime of the scheme; this is the nature of plans & should never be entered into unless this has been clearly explained. The effect of the interest compounding annually, approximately doubles the balance every 10-11 years, depending on interest rate charged by the equity release companies.

 

Sounds daunting? Well, let’s now look at the sums as promised earlier:

One of the lowest interest rates around at present would be the Aviva Lifetime Lump Sum scheme, which  currently has a fixed interest rate of 6.65% (6.9% APR) annual.

 

A male, aged 65 borrowing a lump sum of £25,000 on the 6.65% Aviva Lifestyle lump sum would know exactly what the future balance will be, even before taking out the equity release scheme. The Key Facts Illustration provided by the equity release adviser will confirm these figures & also the costs & additional features involved.

For instance, based on a release of £25,000 in this scenario would lead to a balance in 10 years of £47,594 & after 20 years would be £90,606.

This may seem expensive given only £25,000 was borrowed initially; however there are two factors that could still rule in the equity releases favour.
One common issue overlooked is the potential for property prices to increase. If so, & with 100% ownership of the house still retained the homeowner will fully benefit from any future escalation in the house price. This will then offset some of the compounding effect of the interest & mitigate its effect on the overall estate. Again, we are looking longer term & no guarantee can be given prices will go up; nevertheless historical data confirms they still have.

As a consequence, a rule of thumb is never to borrow anymore than required beyond the initial 12 months. Plans are now flexible enough with drawdown schemes being available that funds can even be drip fed over time as & when required.

Hence, by taking a lower initial amount would result in less interest being charged, meaning more inheritance passed to the beneficiaries.

 

 

The second factor affecting the balance accruing & is the main cause of equity release roll-up is purely down the fact that NO monthly payments are required. This helps retirees to have access to the equity tied up in their property & at the same time leave their budget unaffected.

Nevertheless, equity release schemes do have an increasing role in retirement planning for the over 55’s. Care must always be taken & never rushed into without discussion & involvement of third parties.

Advice should always be provided by an industry qualified equity release consultant. If so, & in the right circumstances equity release can provide a comfortable & enjoyable retirement.

 

Finally, hopefully lessons have been learned from the past & the industry can move forward, innovate & develop further over time.

 

To discuss any of these issues & with no obligation whatsoever, please contact the Equity Release Supermarket team on 0800 678 5159 or email mark@equityrelease supermarket.co.uk

 

 
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