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Steps to Finding the Best Equity Release Scheme

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Best equity release schemeEach year the equity release industry celebrates its achievements at the Merchants Taylors Hall with its version of the Equity Release Awards 2014. This year in particular, equity release schemes have been taken out in record amounts & have led to unprecedented growth. This has been for a number of reasons, but primarily the innovation of new equity release plans from the likes of Aviva, Hodge Lifetime & lately Stonehaven.

 

However, it is the Aviva Flexible Lifetime Mortgage Plan that here at Equity Release Supermarket has seen the greatest impact & has helped many of our clients achieve their retirement goals. It was therefore no surprise that Aviva won the category of Best Lifetime Mortgage provider in 2014. This followed a series of enhancements to their lifetime mortgage plans this year, coupled with the lowest equity release interest rates, currently starting as low as 5.63% (5.83% representative APR).

 

These successful changes include:

  • Allowing clients to voluntarily repay up to 10% of the original capital borrowed each year, in up to 4 installments with a minimum of £500 a time.
  • On joint life equity release cases they now allow the surviving partner to sell their home and repay the scheme without penalty as long as it’s within 3 years of the first person dying or entering long term care.

 

Thanks to these extra features, Aviva has increased their market share even further but despite winning their equity release award it would be wrong to view their product as the best on the market for everyone. In order to find the best equity release scheme for you it’s important to get independent, whole of market advice from a company like Equity Release Supermarket.

 

Equity Release Supermarket’s philosophy is to spend valuable time to find out exactly what you’re goals are so that we can recommend the most appropriate scheme based specifically on these requirements. So, once we’ve gathered sufficient information based on your current situation, identified no alternative solutions exist, it is only then that we would enter the realms of recommending equity release schemes.

 

But how do we work out which equity release scheme is the ‘best’ plan for my clients? We consider a range of factors, such as:

  • Equity release interest rates
  • Maximum equity release calculation including maximum cash reserve facility
  • Early repayment charges
  • Set up costs
  • Flexible repayment options
  • Health and lifestyle factors for enhanced lifetime mortgage plans
  • Future retirement plans
  • Inheritance plans – attitude to risk

 

Seven Factors to Help Find the Best Equity Release Plan

Equity release schemes are constantly innovating and keeping up with their progress can be a minefield for those looking for the best equity release plan today. To help provide guidance on understanding the various aspects of equity release plans that can influence this decision, I have provided seven features and areas of research that Equity Release Supermarket advisers would analyze and discuss with you.

 

  1. Best Interest rates:

There are some excellent online comparison websites such as www.EquityReleaseSupermarket.co.uk where you can compare the best equity release deals in the market at any given time. The equity release comparison sites will currently highlight Aviva as offering some of the lowest interest rates for both drawdown lifetime mortgages and their lump sum counterparts.

However, simply offering the lowest lifetime mortgage interest rate may not make their scheme the ‘best’. Aviva do charge a higher interest rate to access the funds in any cash reserve facility than the initial rate and they cap the reserve amount if you initially release less than 50% of the overall loan amount. This may not therefore be suitable if you are looking to have a maximum cash reserve facility for your future retirement needs.

 

Therefore, it is down to your equity release adviser to assess & understand what your priorities are in leading to their recommendation of the best equity release scheme for you.

 

For instance, if you need to take the maximum equity release loan from your property, interest rates tend to be higher than the drawdown lifetime mortgage schemes. Hence, the ‘best’ scheme could depend on any of the other factors names above. The possible reason for the higher interest rate for the maximum equity releases could be the potential of invoking the no negative equity guarantee is likely to be greater the higher the release borrowed. This cost being passed on by way of the higher interest rate to compensate.

 

Currently, at the time of writing, the lowest lifetime mortgage interest rate is 4.75% (5.10% representative APR) which is the Hodge Retirement Mortgage. If you want to make monthly payments of interest to maintain a level balance, this scheme is excellent but it wouldn’t be the ‘best’ scheme if you don’t want to make any interest payments. As you can see, the lowest equity release interest rate alone does not determine it being the best scheme.

 

  1. Maximum Equity Release Plans

Equity Release Supermarket would always recommend that you only release the capital that you need, rather than releasing the maximum loan. This one area alone, in assessing the best equity release scheme, can have the greatest influence on the final inheritance for your children or beneficiaries. In fact, this aspect we find is where clients need to be guided carefully by their adviser, as many do not understand the consequences of taking too much equity from their home.

 

In fact, drawdown lifetime mortgage plans are now the most common form of equity release taken in 2014 & will surely be for equity release 2015 aswell. By taking the home equity plan funds in small staggered amounts, rather than all upfront makes practical sense for your own future balance & the inheritance for your beneficiaries. These drawdowns can be taken in little amounts as an initial £10,000, and then followed by smaller £1,000 tranches from the likes of Hodge Lifetime. This can be utilised to suit any future spending plans as & when they arise.

 

During my 15 years of advising clients on equity release, one of the most common queries I receive is ‘Can I access further funds?’

Let’s look at an example:

 

Margaret and Graham are both 70 and live in a bungalow worth £300,000. They want to be able to take regular holidays and buy a new car. In the future they’d like to gradually improve their property and supplement their income. My advice was to take an initial loan of £25,000 and set up a reserve facility. In order to work out the ‘best’ scheme for them we discussed whether the interest rate or the size of the reserve was more important to them. They opted for a larger amount of money on reserve. Therefore, after the initial loan – Pure Retirement offered a cash reserve of £83,000, while the Aviva Flexi Plan with a lower interest rate only offered a reserve of £48,000.The clients therefore opted for the Pure Retirement Drawdown Plan based on the future reserve facility.

 

Another important factor to a recent client was that she wanted the certainty that the funds available on reserve were guaranteed to be in place. Many lenders do not ‘guarantee’ the future of their drawdown facilities in case of change of circumstances, economic reasons or they just decide not to lend again in the future.

 

My client was concerned in case the lender withdrew her cash reserve funds in the future. In her circumstances LV= proved to be the best equity release scheme for her as they’re the only company to offer a guaranteed drawdown reserve, which is guaranteed to be in place for a minimum of 15 years.

 

  1. Best Early Repayment Charges (ERC’s)

Equity release schemes are designed as a lifetime commitment and are not aimed for short term borrowings or people who wish to repay the balance before the plan ends; on death or the last person moving into long term care. That said, there are a growing number of people who would possibly repay their equity release scheme early; due to change in circumstances, future health reasons or maybe family reasons. Therefore the ‘best’ scheme would be one that offered flexibility on early repayment charges over a limited number of years, either none at all or the lowest fixed rate possible if acceptable to the client.

 

An equity release company plan that has considered the topic of early repayment charges has been Hodge Lifetime. Two of their lifetime mortgage plans have been carefully thought out on this particular subject. The Hodge Lifetime Mortgage Plan allows homeowners the ability to downsize after 5 years of taking their plan & repay their lifetime mortgage with NO penalties. In fact even leading upto this 5 year period, should one downsize the penalty reduces by 1% each year; from 5% down to 0% over this duration.

 

The second Hodge product that assists with early repayment charges is the Hodge Retirement Mortgage. This product is an interest only lifetime mortgage and has a fixed interest rate for a period of 5 years. The Hodge Retirement Mortgage therefore mirrors this time by aligning the early repayment charges (ERC’s) to match the same term. Subsequently, the early repayment charges are just 5% for the first 5 years of the retirement mortgage term.

 

Most equity release lenders use government gilts as a measure in working out any potential ERC’s. This means that the early repayment penalty is variable and could be as high as 25% of the initial loan amount. For the standard lifetime mortgage plans, LV= are currently the only company who offer a fixed early repayment charge, which is 5% for the first 5 years and 3% from years 6 to 10. After the 10th year you can repay the scheme without penalty, so this may prove to be the ‘best’ scheme for some clients knowing what their future holds, or the Hodge Lifetime schemes should they have plans for moving house after 5 years.

 

  1. Equity Release Set Up Costs:

Typically the lowest set up costs doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘best’ plan, although keeping a check & comparing equity release set up costs is important for a number of reasons, particularly to save money! Why pay more to a broker for their advice fee when another company can advise on exactly the same plan, but for a lower cost.

 

Equity releases set up costs are made up of a series of fees levied by different parties to the equity release process. These consist of the valuation fee, lenders application fee, solicitors’ fees & your adviser’s advice fee.

 

Valuation fees vary between lenders, however through certain specialist brokers such as here at Equity Release Supermarket there are now many lenders that will offer ‘free’ valuations by process you application through us.

 

Lender application fees can also vary, with some either being added or deducted from the release. Remember if the application fee is added this will cost more over the long run if the interest is to compound with no repayments made. The Hodge Retirement Mortgage application fee is the highest at £995, but they do offer the lowest interest rate. Pure Retirement offer a cash-back on some of their plans which can cover all of the set up costs, but their interest rate isn’t the lowest. Just Retirement offer one of the lowest admin fees at £500, but not necessarily the lowest interest rate either. As you can see this is an area where careful advice is needed to find the best equity release plan.

 

  1. Interest & Capital Repayment Options

The major change to equity release schemes in the past few years has been the ability to pay either monthly interest or voluntary interest payments in order to cover some or all of the accruing interest. Again, the lowest interest rate might not equal the best plan.

 

We have already identified that the Hodge Retirement Mortgage offers the lowest rate, but you need to maintain a fixed monthly payment throughout its whole term. However, companies such as Stonehaven & More2life will offer an interest only lifetime mortgage too. However, rather than the concern of possible repossession should payments not be maintained, both Stonehaven & More2life will allow the switch from monthly payments to roll-up (ceasing payments), thus removing the concern of repossession.

 

Schemes which offer voluntary repayments, such as the Aviva Flexi, Hodge Lifetime and with effect from 1st December Stonehaven Interest Select range all allow upto 10% capital repayments. They all charge a higher interest rate, but they do include greater flexibility with regards to permitting these 10% voluntary payments.

 

The Hodge Flexible Lifetime Mortgage Plan & Aviva offer these schemes, and have now been joined by Stonehaven. Having a flexible approach has proved a popular way forward for many that wish to retain control over their future balance. These voluntary repayment lifetime mortgages can be planned so that either just the interest is repaid, thus keeping the balance level, or repaying the full 10% and actual seeing the mortgage balance reducing & even repaid over a period of 16-17 years!

 

  1. Health & Lifestyle Factors

Your health & lifestyle won’t affect your eligibility for equity release but can actually improve the amount you receive, or the interest rate you obtain! There are currently four equity release companies that offer enhancements to their schemes.

 

More2life & Partnership Assurance specialise in enhanced lifetime mortgages, however they may not be the ‘best’ plans as the interest rates are often higher. However, this for some retirees interest rates may not be priority, but the maximum equity release lump sum is. Aviva also offer enhanced lifetime mortgages and can either offer a higher maximum release on its Lump Sum Max plan or alternatively reduce their interest rate, if the maximum is not required & taken on their drawdown flexi plan. Depending on your health criteria, some lending may not accept certain ailments. However, certain enhanced lifetime mortgage companies such as Just Retirement, will go deeper into their health & lifestyle questionnaire & consider illnesses the others won’t accept.

 

  1. Inheritance guarantees

It’s sometimes important that my clients can leave a set inheritance for their families and some lifetime mortgage providers, such as More2Life, Aviva & New Life offers such guaranteed inheritance features. The inclusion of these guarantees can impact the interest rate and the amount of capital available, so careful consideration is needed to work out the ‘best’ scheme.

 

On forgotten equity release scheme that is over looked by many advisers are home reversion plans. Companies such as Bridgewater, New Life & Crown still offer this older form of equity release. Its popularity has waned considerably over the years, however the major benefit of home reversion plans is their ability to guarantee an inheritance at the end of the day. This works by selling a percentage of the property to the reversion company in exchange for a cash lump sum. The proportion of the property not sold is guaranteed to be passed on to the heirs once the house is eventually sold.

 

Summary

Overall, equity release advice is a specialist area of retirement planning. As we’ve seen there isn’t one scheme which is the ‘best’ on the market or fits all. There are far too many features & personal issues to consider that could have relevance to your recommended equity release plan. Thankfully, there are plenty of different options from many different providers. By receiving quality, bespoke advice from Equity Release Supermarket we can work out the ‘best equity release scheme‘ for you, without any obligation.

 

If you are looking to source the best equity release scheme for your particular circumstances & in need of specialist advice then please contact me – Mark Rumney on 07957 974826 or email – markrumney@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

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Now Aviva Accept Voluntary Repayments – Does this Change the Future of Equity Release?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Aviva equity release voluntary partial repaymentsAviva equity release plans have proved the most popular form of lifetime mortgage scheme over the past 15 years.

The reason for their popularity has been down to a combination of brand name, simplicity and the fact that Aviva have regularly provided the lowest equity release interest rates.

 

However, during that time there has been a cloud hanging over their lifestyle flexi mortgage range and that is the issue over the maximum early repayment charge & the lack of a partial repayment facility. It’s always been a case of all, or nothing with regards to paying off Aviva’s equity release schemes – now we have a choice.

 

Aviva – time for change

In the past few weeks Aviva have bravely taken steps to alleviate these issues with some bold amendments to their lifetime mortgage range. In fact the impact these changes could make, will dramatically alter the way equity release schemes will be used & managed in the future. Other equity release companies will undoubtedly take note of these new features & it can only signal the start of further innovation in lifetime mortgage industry.

 

Aviva have introduced three new approaches to equity release: –

  • new voluntary repayment features can be used to actually clear the equity release loan over a set number of years
  • Aviva apply a different approach to enhanced equity release rates by actually reducing the interest rate on offer (see later article)
  • An early repayment charge exemption can be applied on first death for any new joint equity release lifetime mortgage (see later article)

 

Why Aviva needed to up the ante

Monday 28th April heralded the start of swinging changes to the Aviva Lifestyle Mortgage range. All Aviva’s new equity release applications from this date forth would have the ability for partial repayments to be made back to Aviva.

 

However, from our company perspective during 2013, Equity Release Supermarket had seen its share of applications move significantly towards the Hodge Flexible Lifetime mortgage range. This has been due to Hodge Lifetime’s two pronged attack on becoming the most popular & flexible lifetime mortgage product. Their innovative move towards being able to repay upto 10% of the original capital borrowed & the ability to downsize after 5 years & repay the loan with NO penalty has captured a large market share.

 

Aviva has now responded to the popularity of the Hodge Flexible Lifetime Mortgage plan by matching the 10% repayment option & additionally providing more beneficial features!

A new dawn for the equity release market has started.

 

How does the Aviva Voluntary partial repayment option work in practice?

From inception of the new Aviva equity release plan there is the inherent ability to make repayments of an ad-hoc nature back to Aviva. Aviva do have a cap of 10% of the original capital borrowed that can be repaid in any one year. Additionally, the earliest date that the first repayment can be made is 12 months from the commencement date of the plan. So some forward planning needs to be made & this ideally would have been made with the involvement of your equity release adviser at recommendation stage.

 

Consideration needs to be borne in mind that interest will be added to the plan in the meantime for calculation purposes. For example, if a sum of £40,000 equity was initially released at an interest rate of 5.68%, the balance before any repayment could be made would be £42,272.

 

This is where the first decisions on how much to pay back need to be made, and there are three options available:-

  1. If only a fixed budget is available, then a contribution towards the interest accruing could be made. Should this be less than the annual amount of interest charged, then the balance will still increase, albeit at a lower rate than would otherwise have been should nothing have been repaid.
  2. Should a level future balance be the choice moving forward, the sum of £2,272 could be annually sent back to Aviva, thus reverting the balance back to its original starting point of £40,000. This process could theoretically continue infinitum until the plan ends, which would be upon death of the last borrower or them moving into long term care. The balance would always flicker between these two figures, dependent at what point the repayments of £2,272 were made.
  3. If total repayment of the £40,000 is required, then a repayment strategy could be put in situ which would see this whole amount repaid over a set number of years. Dependent upon how much is initially borrowed & assuming maximum repayments of 10%pa can be maintained for the duration, Equity Release Supermarket can calculate at what point the plan can be fully repaid with NO penalty!

 

As an example Equity Release Supermarket have calculated someone borrowing £40,000, on the popular Aviva interest rate of 5.68%pa, & repaying the maximum £4,000pa could repay their Aviva lifetime mortgage shortly after the end of the 16th year.

Could this be classed as the first capital & interest equity release mortgage?

 

Please contact us on 0800 678 5159 for your personalised Aviva repayment calculation or click this link.

 

How do I physically make voluntary repayments back to Aviva?

A reminder to make repayments will begin with the receipt of your first annual Aviva equity release mortgage statement. This will evidence the amount of interest that has been added to your plan. It is at that point that the first repayment can be made back to Aviva. The question is how much to pay & this will be down to an individual’s personal preferences.

 

Aviva have cleverly side stepped the issue of MMR (Mortgage Market Review) here. Whereas companies such as Stonehaven & more2life have had to adapt their interest only lifetime mortgage process to the new MMR regime, Aviva due to their ad-hoc approach to repayments have avoided the MMR obstacle. Regular payments cannot be set up to repay the Aviva equity release schemes. Although Aviva do permit upto 4 payments each year, subject to a minimum amount of £500, the repayment process has to still be managed through their head office.

 

This repayment process would initially involve a phone call to the Aviva offices advising them of the fact a repayment is due to be sent to them. In reply they will provide a verbal form of quote which acts as confirmation. This can be confirmed in writing to you & optionally your adviser aswell so they are aware of your intentions.

 

The next step would be to send the money which can be in the form of a cheque, credit or debit card or a bank transfer for which Aviva will provide their details & reference number to track. They will not accept payments without this process having been accomplished, or contact being made beforehand. In fact they could return the funds should this process was not followed.

 

Important repayment points to note

As previously stated, repayments can only commence after 12 months from inception of the loan. However, Aviva have imposed further 12 month conditions on when repayments can be made following certain events: –

 

  1. Following withdrawal of cash funds from the drawdown facility of the flexible lifetime mortgage
  2. Should any additional borrowing be taken in the future

 

In both situations, no repayments can therefore be made for 12 months following these two events also.

 

Additionally, the same applies in reverse;

Should a customer have made repayments and has an available cash reserve under their drawdown plan, they cannot gain access to the reserve or additional borrowing until 12 months following their last repayment has been made.

Aviva may consider requests for a further release of equity in exceptional circumstances outside of that rule.

 

These rules are effectively to prevent to the to-ing & fro-ing of cash funds within the plan which would undoubtedly have made the Aviva equity release plans unmanageable and unprofitable.

 

Functional planning ideas for managing voluntary repayments & retaining a cash reserve

Although it’s still early days in the life of the new flexible repayment options, some ideas on managing the Aviva voluntary repayments have already sprung to mind.

 

Unlike Hodge Lifetime, Aviva do not impose a £10,000 lower capital threshold by which no further repayments can be made without penalty. In fact Aviva will allow the continued repayment of interest & capital with NO minimum amount down to zero, or even almost zero.

 

This could be beneficial for those who want to see the equity release balance to be reduced to a minimum level (e.g. £100 or less), yet still maintain the option of keeping their drawdown lifetime mortgage cash facility for the future. Bear in mind the small outstanding balance will accrue interest (albeit minimal), yet for many the comfort of retaining a cash reserve may have massive benefits should cash be required still in the future.

 

Summary

Aviva have responded well to the changing needs of the baby boomer generation as equity release moves into the next stage of its development. Retiree’s financial needs are becoming more complex with almost 75% of pensioners owning their own property, even carrying debt into retirement & living much longer than previous.

 

Aviva’s latest changes will therefore appeal to both advisers and consumers alike who are looking for more flexible loan terms on the long road ahead.

 

To request an Aviva Flexible Lifetime mortgage quote with voluntary repayments please click here.

Click the following link for your FREE Aviva capital repayment calculation.

 

To discuss any of the points raised in this article please contact Mark on 0800 783 9652 or email mark@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

 
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