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Posts Tagged ‘Lifetime Mortgage Advice’

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

The Halifax Retirement Home Plan – The Quest To Find Mortgages For Pensioners?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Planning for your retirement in essence should start in your earlier years; however as we know life unfortunately doesn’t always go to plan!

Here we discuss the merits of the niche interest only mortgage product; the Halifax Retirement Home Plan which is becoming an increasingly popular way of providing mortgages for pensioners.

Since writing my original article on the Halifax Equity Release plan (click here to view), interest has certainly been escalating. The main reason being that people in retirement are unaware of their mortgage options once they finish work. But life must go on.

 

What is the history of the scheme?

Established in 1984, the Halifax Retirement Home Plan was initially available through the Halifax branch network and was developed to provide low cost mortgage finance for the retired & elderly.

However, under the Financial Services Authority review of the lifetime mortgage market in 2006, Halifax withdrew the branch license to offer lifetime mortgage advice.

Therefore, the responsibility for providing advice on the Halifax Retirement Home Plan was left completely with lifetime mortgage qualified advisers including independent specialists Equity Release Supermarket.

 

So what is the Halifax Retirement Home Plan?

In simple terms the scheme is an interest only mortgage for people who are retired & facilitates the release of equity tied up in the property. The release of funds can be for almost any purpose including:-

  • Debt consolidation including paying off credit cards/loans or mortgages
  • Holidays including cruises or just day trips
  • Replacement car or caravan
  • Home improvements
  • Gifts to the children providing a deposit for house purchase
  • Supporting your lifestyle through retirement.

Qualification for the Halifax equity release scheme is based on income. Halifax will only accept non-earned income & this must be in the form of: –

  • Occupational pensions
  • Private pensions such as personal pensions or retirement annuities
  • State pensions
  • State benefits including pension credits & disability benefits

The stated minimum age for the Halifax Retirement Home Plan is 65. However, as long as there is no earned income & justification for the size of the mortgage can be based solely on the above income, then ages lower than 65 can be achieved.

 

How much can be released?

The minimum release on the Halifax Retirement Home Plan is only £15,000. However, to establish the maximum release possible would require the use of an affordability calculator.

Halifax does not base the size of release on a multiple of income, but whether the interest only mortgage can be afforded through retirement.

The data Halifax requires for this calculation includes income, credit status, number of applicants & credit commitments outstanding after the new mortgage commences.

This procedure can be carried out by qualified adviser such as Equity Release Supermarket & is an accurate assessment of the potential borrowings on this scheme.

The overall maximum release available can never be more than 75% of the valuation of the property. Therefore, should the affordability calculator show a figure greater than this, it will still be capped at 75% of the property value.

 

Does Halifax require a repayment vehicle?

The answer to this is NO.

As the Halifax Retirement Home Plan is an interest only mortgage for pensioners, no form of repayment is required.

In contrast, the mainstream mortgage market is actually tightening its grip on new interest only mortgages, whereas this Halifax equity release scheme will still accept repayment by virtue of the eventual sale of the property. This would be on death of the surviving partner, moving into long term care or earlier property sale.

The term allocated to the Halifax home retirement plan is 40 years which should provide ample time for it to run for the rest of one’s life! This removes any concern about having to find the funds to pay off the Halifax scheme during your lifetime.

Most mortgage providers will only accept a mortgage term upto age 70-75 or in rare instances age 85. However, this only buys time as eventual repayment would be required. However, this scenario may still be suitable should one be downsizing at a predetermined date in the future.

The Halifax Retirement Home Plan therefore removes any element of capital repayment risk.

 

So what interest rates & products are available?

Dependent upon whether you are a new or existing Halifax customer will determine the interest rates & products applicable.

 

Currently, the better deals are offered to new customers as they have access to the whole mainstream Halifax product range. This is a great advantage, as there is full access to current low rate tracker & fixed rate products. Click here for the latest interest only mortgage rates…

These include deals such as the current 2 year tracker rate at just 2.59%. Based on borrowing £50,000 this currently would only cost £107.92pm (3.6% APR).

 

Additionally, if remortgaging from another lender then there is the benefit of a free valuation & free standard legal fees, which reduces the set up costs significantly. I have experienced clients who have just £800 outstanding on a mortgage or even documents kept in deed store that qualified for this free remortgage package!

 

What if I already have a Halifax mortgage?

The good news is you can still apply for the Halifax Retirement Home Plan. However, the situation here requires completely different advice & procedure. Should you wish to merely transfer onto the Retirement Home Plan then you can port over your existing rate which can be good news if on a standard variable rate. However, if you wish for additional borrowing then the process becomes a little more complicated.

The product range for existing Halifax customers is rather sparse & with the best deals starting currently at 4.99% fixed, hence there is a distinct advantage for new customers.

 

Such applications will be paper based & therefore processed manually which involves more human input. Experience has shown this results in a different underwriting approach to the process undertaken on new applications.

 

Can I pay off the Halifax Retirement mortgage early?

The simple answer to this is YES.

Unlike equity release plans where penalties can potentially apply for the rest of your life, the Halifax interest only mortgage will only have early repayment charges for the initial product term. Therefore, should you have opted for the 2.59% 2 year tracker product discussed previously, the penalties would only apply for the first 2 years. After, this 2 year period the mortgage would then revert to the Halifax standard variable rate, currently 3.5%.

However, before the initial rate expires you will have the option to take out a new product from the Halifax mortgage range available at that time.

 

So what is the advantage of the Halifax Retirement Home Plan over an equity release scheme?

The obvious answer to this is the fact that the Halifax mortgage is interest only & therefore requires a monthly payment of interest. The balance will always remain the same throughout the term of the plan. E.g. borrowing £50,000 today, will result in £50,000 requiring repayment once the house is sold.

In contrast, equity release schemes do not require any monthly repayment & therefore the balance will increase over time. Roughly speaking the balance of equity release schemes will double every 10/11 years.

From a beneficiary’s point of view, the Halifax interest only mortgage will guarantee an inheritance, as the final balance of the mortgage will always be known. This would be favourable for people who want to ensure the children definitely receive an entitlement to their parent’s inheritance.

 

With all this information & options available it is more important than ever to receive specialist advice to obtain the best deal for your personal circumstances.

Equity Release Supermarket can provide independent advice on both equity release schemes & interest only mortgages for pensioners.

For further information or to request a quotation, please ring Mark on 0800 678 5159 or email mark@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

 
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