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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

 

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

Are you Releasing the Potential from your Retirement Apartment?

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Releasing equity on a retirement apartmentWith an ever increasing ageing population, more and more retired homeowners find that their properties are becoming too big to live in. In conjunction with this another significant financial burden is the ever increasing energy costs associated with heating larger properties.

 

This could mean that they make a choice whether to ‘eat or heat’.  An old cliché yes, but a very apt and true one.

 

Specialist housing, or retirement apartments have been around for more than 30 years and just 1% of over 60’s are estimated to live in these types of properties.  For most, moving to a retirement property can ease the pressure of excessive bills, plus give a new lease of life and community spirit.

 

For others though, a retirement apartment could be seen as not being financially prudent or comes with some uncertainty for a number of reasons:

  1. Location: Specialist retirement apartments may be more expensive than the value of your own home.
  2. Service charges: These are payable annually, and in line with inflation, they tend to be an increasing sum.
  3. Pension income: May suddenly be reduced upon the demise of an occupier.

If you already live in a retirement apartment, you may have the concern that with increasing costs and service charges, you may not be able to maintain your cost of living, and have the worry of potentially needing to sell.

 

Did you know however, that there could be a solution?

 

As an Equity Release Specialist, I have over the last 12 years been able to provide homeowners with an alternate way of being able to purchase a retirement apartment or to raise funds to cover on-going costs and services if you already reside in one.

 

Firstly, if you are looking to purchase a retirement apartment, by releasing equity, you could raise the shortfall between the sale of your current home and the purchase price of your proposed new property.  The equity release could be raised on your new property and would complete at the same time as your sale and purchase. The equity release application could also be on a roll-up, or even interest only lifetime mortgage basis to fit in with one’s inheritance requirements, or household budget.

 

Secondly, if you are already residing in a retirement apartment, you could have the option of releasing equity to cover your annual service charges.  This could be by way of a lump sum lifetime mortgage which additionally has the option of a cash drawdown facility. This would particularly suit those looking to take annual withdrawals to supplement their income & cover the costs of maintaining residence in their retirement home. The drawdown facilities with many equity release schemes can allow as little as £1000 withdrawals at a time to suit those not wishing to withdraw too much.

 

Case study 1

Mr & Mrs F lived in the West Midlands, but had always dreamed of retiring to the coast and live out their remaining years in the peace and tranquility of a property with a sea view.  Their 3 bedroom house was worth £175,000.00 and they wanted to downsize.  Mr F was not in particularly good health and he wanted to make sure that Mrs F didn’t have the financial worry or burden that their large home would have if he pre-deceased her.  Downsizing though didn’t necessarily mean down-pricing.  The purchase price of their dream apartment by the sea was £200,000.00, meaning a shortfall of £25,000.00 plus the associated moving costs.

By giving Mr & Mrs F full impartial equity release advice and recommendation, I was able to offer them a Lifetime Mortgage lump sum through a specialist interest only lifetime mortgage lender for £35,000.00.  This allowed them to cover both the £25,000.00 shortfall to facilitate the purchase, plus £10,000.00 for moving costs. Overall, this not only assisted with the purchase of their retirement apartment by the sea, but also enabled them to live there in financial comfort.

 

Case study 2

Mrs S was already living in her retirement apartment when there was the untimely demise of her husband.  Now just in receipt of her own pension, Mrs S was concerned that she would not be able to cover the on-going living expenses.

The service charges amounted to £2,704.00 per annum (£52.00 per week) and being on a reduced pension, Mrs S would struggle to maintain her standard of living plus pay her normal household expenses.  Being a specialist in equity release, I was able to advise Mrs S of her options, including a full benefits check.

 

Mrs S was just over the threshold for benefits, therefore I could look at the option of a drawdown lifetime mortgage.  Mrs S released an initial amount of £10,800.00 to cover four years’ service charges, leaving her with a remaining cash reserve of £21,600.00.  The drawdown facility allowed Mrs S to release sufficient funds each year thereafter to pay her service charges on an annual basis.

 

How Equity Release Supermarket can help…

Over the years, I have helped many clients in the same or similar situation and have such pride in doing the job I love and being able to assist purchasers and homeowners alike. Being independent lifetime mortgage advisers Equity Release Supermarket have vast experience in assisting its clients with retirement apartment purchases or releasing equity on them.

 

In addition we have access to the best equity release deals including cashback, free valuations and specially reduced interest rates. We always offer a free initial consultation, to see whether we can assist the over 55’s with retirement mortgages and financial help.

 

If you would like more information on how these equity release plans work, please contact Marcelle on 0800 783 9652. Alternatively, please email mark@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

How Long Does the Equity Release Application Process Take?

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

The equity release market is currently at its peak with a record number of applications. For those aged over 55 and are considering releasing equity, here we review how the equity release application process works, how long it takes and the involvement required.

 

The equity release sales process is now the most streamlined since the product was originally conceived. Increased competition in the marketplace from new providers has resulted in equity release companies looking at ways to steal an advantage. As better interest rates for customers are now also on offer and today’s equity release plans are much more flexible than those available until a few years ago, never has there been a better time to consider a release of equity for the over 55’s.

 

Timescales

An equity release application usually takes somewhere between 6 to 8 weeks for a lifetime mortgage scheme and 10 to 12 weeks for a home reversion plan, assuming the title on the house is clear. The actual amount of time your equity release process takes, also depends largely on how efficient and experienced your solicitor is. Applying for equity release involves legal paper work, which needs to be handled by a solicitor and solicitors with expertise in equity release plans can help to avoid any potential delays in your application.

 

The First Steps

The whole process starts with completion of an application form which must come in conjunction with financial advice as NO equity release provider will accept an application without it. At this stage any fees required which would be clearly stated in the Key Facts Illustration (KFI) would need to be paid. Normally this would include the valuation fee made payable to the lender. Some equity release brokers do charge an advice fee on application; however Equity Release Supermarket would only charge their advice fee upon completion, so beware of paying unnecessary upfront fees.

 

Valuation

On completion of the application form, it is then submitted to the equity release provider who will instruct a local surveyor to complete a basic valuation on the property. The role of this surveyor is to complete a report which will advise the current market value based on a relatively quick sale. The surveyor’s role will be to assess the local proximity to the property and establish similar properties and the price they had sold for within the last 3-6 months. Additionally, the surveyor will ascertain whether any essential repairs will be needed should the property have material defects that could affect the long term structure or re-saleability of the property.

 

Legalities

At the same time as application submission, for speed of completion it is wise for the legal process to get underway. Unless a client specifically requests to use their own family solicitor, we would recommend an equity release solicitor from ERSA (Equity release Solicitors Alliance). One of the former members of ERSA is Goldsmith Williams, whose organisation offers a fixed fee agreement with Equity Release Supermarket clients of £395 +VAT & disbursements. Additionally, these solicitors will provide a ‘no completion, no fee’ agreement with our clients which should be considered for any future lifetime mortgage or home reversion application.

 

The solicitor’s role

Two sets of solicitors must be in place to carry out the whole process. Under Equity Release Council (formerly SHIP) rules different solicitors must be employed on behalf of the client and the lender. Once instructed by the client or broker, the solicitor acting on behalf of the client will send out an initial questionnaire requesting further information. This will include a request for information on whether any mortgage exists currently, the owners to the title, any restrictions, further tenants or major improvements that have been carried out with respective planning permissions. This questionnaire also provides the permission for the prospective solicitor to act on their behalf.

 

What about existing mortgages or secured loans?

Should any existing charges by way of mortgages or secured loans be present on the title deeds then they must be removed prior to, or upon completion. Any mortgage will usually be settled by the proceeds from the equity release scheme at funds release stage. However, another role of the solicitor will be to establish exactly how much will be required on the proposed completion date. This will be achieved by requesting a redemption statement from the mortgagee, who will provide the current balance and the daily accrual rate of interest being added during the interim period to completion date.

 

Provider requirements

For an application to proceed through to completion, the lender will carry out certain checks to meet money laundering and the consumer credit act requirements. This will be proof of ID including passport, driving licence or government backed evidence such as your annual state pension letter or Inland Revenue tax code notification. Should none of these be available most lenders will also require a birth and/or marriage certificate as satisfactory proof of who you are. Additionally, proof of address will be required, so a recent utility bill or bank statement will be necessary.

 

Equity release and adverse credit

Some lenders will carry out credit checks. You may ask why this would be necessary as NO monthly payments are usually required with a lifetime mortgage scheme. The lenders view is that if someone has been negligent with previous credit payments, then there may be a tendency to not look after their property, thus affecting the lenders security.

 

Nevertheless, there would have to be severe credit problems for a lender to decline an equity release application due to adverse credit. Most lenders will accept previously missed payments, defaults and even CCJ’s (County Court Judgements) on their credit file, unless they are significantly large. Even then, most lenders such as Stonehaven will accept the application as long as the applicant has been forthcoming with an explanation as to why the CCJ’s had been applied. Undischarged bankrupts would usually be unsuccessful with any equity release borrowings.

 

Latter stages

Upon successful valuation and title checks, the solicitor acting on behalf of the client will set the completion date. Once your equity release scheme has gone through, you can receive the money by having it paid directly into your nominated bank account, or if you wish to save the telegraphic transfer fee (approximately £30), you can receive the funds in the form of a cheque. Depending on the particular scheme, money can be borrowed either as a one-off capital lump sum or by taking ad hoc withdrawals from a cash reserve set up from the outset.

 

An equity release plan can be a great way to turn the equity tied up within your estate into something tangible and usable. But like any large loan, it has its own risks. Therefore, before you decide to release equity from your home, make sure you speak to your solicitor or independent financial adviser first.

 

Companies such as Equity Release Supermarket provide the ‘complete equity release service’ whereby we provide guidance to clients from the start to finish of the application process. If you have any questions with regards to the equity release application process please call 0800 678 5159 where a qualified adviser can discuss your requirements.

 

 
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