Using Equity Release as a Retirement Strategy

A look at how equity release factors into retirement plans, and whether it's a good strategy post-retirement.

Using Equity Release as a Retirement Strategy

Equity release mortgages allow older borrowers (55 or above) to take out a loan against the equity held in their homes.

Normally, you don't pay any interest or have any obligation to repay anything for the lifetime of the loan, which runs until you enter into care or pass away.

Instead, the lender sells the property and recoups the debt, including the accrued interest. Any remaining balance passes over to your beneficiaries.

Because there isn't any affordability assessment, retirees often choose equity release as a relatively straightforward way to access a large lump sum to use as a retirement fund or top up their pension income.

Is Equity Release UK an Option for Me?

With ever-rising living costs, pensioners may find that their pension and savings don't provide sufficient income to live on or enjoy luxuries such as travel beyond the essentials.

Interest rates are climbing, but the returns on savings often sit below inflation, which means it can be very difficult to find an alternative way to boost earnings.

Retirement mortgages and equity release products can help and offer regular payments, one larger lump sum, or a facility you can draw down from as and when you wish.

If you own a property worth £70,000 in the UK as your primary residence and are over 55, you are likely eligible - but it's important to be armed with all the facts before you make a big financial commitment.

Are Equity Release Schemes Helpful for Pensioners?

Equity release is certainly available to pensioners to add to their income or access a larger value than they would be able to access through their pension scheme.

It may be helpful if you:

  • Need to borrow capital, but want something more affordable than a personal loan or a credit card.
  • Are ineligible for other forms of borrowing.
  • Want to invest in home improvements, buy a new car, or other larger outlays.
  • Don't have a sufficient pension income to live on.

Of course, the downside is that you won't be able to leave your home to an heir in your will, and only a proportion of the value will likely remain after the sale.

If you live for a long time, the interest charges may accumulate to more than you originally borrowed. When the lender sells the property, there may be nothing left for your beneficiaries.

What Are Equity Release Schemes Used for?

There aren't really any limits on what you can do with the cash you access through a retirement equity release scheme, and you might plan to:

  • Avoid downsizing and live in your home for life.
  • Improve your living quality by having a higher expendable income.
  • Consolidate or repay other debts, including a mortgage.
  • Support family members by repaying debts or gifting cash.
  • Pay for home improvements.
  • Finance a holiday or another leisure activity.
  • Set money aside to pay for a care home.

These are just some examples, and you can apply for equity release even if you don't have a specific plan about how you'll spend the capital.

What Are the Benefits of an Equity Release UK Product?

The key benefit of equity release is that it's pretty easy to apply. Unlike other mortgages and loans, the lender won't be worried too much about your other income or affordability since you won't typically make any repayments.

Retirees with a bad credit score are more likely to qualify for equity release than other loan types.

You also have lots of choices about how you receive the capital. You might want one big payment or to take smaller amounts when you need them, reducing the total interest payable.

Other advantages of equity release as a retirement strategy include:

  • Tax-free payment - you incur interest on the loan but don't pay any tax.
  • No repayments - unless you go for an interest-only equity release product, you don't make any repayments.
  • No relocation - equity release gives you the right to live in your home for life or until you move into long term care.
  • Inheritance management - you can cap the amount of equity to borrow against to, say, 50%. That assures you that 50% of your property value will go to your beneficiaries.

The other factor to consider is that equity release mortgages are regulated and must have a guarantee against negative equity.

Even if you live considerably longer than expected, the lender can never recoup more than the sale value when they sell the property.

The Disadvantages of Equity Release Explained

It's vital to grasp the pitfalls and the advantages, and if we discuss equity release, we'll ensure you understand the disadvantages.

  • Loan interest - if you’re not making any payments, the interest can roll up to more than the original loan value - although it's capped to avoid a negative equity situation.
  • Benefits - retirees receiving means-tested benefits might find that a lump sum payment takes them over an income threshold, and they are no longer eligible. Note that this doesn't impact access to the State Pension.

Moving Home and Equity Release Explained

A common misconception is that if you take out an equity release loan, you have to move or won't be allowed to move in the future - neither is true.

Firstly, you have the right to live in your house for as long as you need it, whether that's five years or 50.

Secondly, you can move if you wish. Some people decide to downsize, sell their current property, buy somewhere smaller and use the rest of the proceeds to pay back the debt.

Alternatively, you could keep an equity release product but transfer it to a new home, although the lender would require a valuation to check how much the new property was worth.

What is the Cost of Equity Release if I Am Already Drawing a Pension?

Normally, the cost is nothing to you, but that doesn't mean an equity release product is free (far from it!).

You don't have to make interest payments if you don't want to, but the interest charge is still being added to the original loan.

When you die or go into care, the lender will sell the property and recoup their funds, including the capital plus interest.

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The primary eligibility criteria are your age and the value of your home.

Most equity release lenders will consider any applicant provided they are 55 or above and own a property worth £70,000 or move.

You need to have enough equity in the property to justify the amount you want to borrow, normally capped at around 50% or 55% of the home's market value.

The simplest way to explain equity release is that you own your home and that equity is worth a market value.

You can borrow cash against that equity, but it doesn't need to be paid back immediately - only when you don't need to live there anymore.

When you go into care or pass away, the lender sells the property and claims back the debt they are owed.

The catch of equity release is that however much you borrow, it will be repaid when you die or leave the home. That means you cannot leave your house to an heir - although you can leave them the residual value after the lender has sold it.

You can choose to repay an equity loan if your circumstances change or you decide to downsize and don't need the loan anymore.

Please check whether your lender levies any early repayment charges as they can make it very expensive.

The right product for you depends on your age, property, financial circumstances and expectations.

If you need help working out which product to apply for, please contact the Revolution team for independent whole-of-market advice from the experts in equity release mortgages.

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The content included in our articles, blogs, web pages and news publications is based on information accurate at the time of writing. Note that policies and criteria can change regularly throughout the UK mortgage lending market, and it remains essential to contact the consultation team to receive up to date guidance. The information included on the Revolution Brokers site is not bespoke to any circumstances or individual application scenarios and therefore is not intended to be used as financial advice. The content we share is designed to be informative and helpful but cannot be relied upon to provide individual advice relevant to your mortgage requirements. All Revolution team members are fully qualified, trained and experienced to provide mortgage advice of an independent nature. We collaborate with lenders and providers who are regulated, authorised and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Should you require specific mortgage borrowing types, some products such as buy to let mortgages may not be FCA regulated. The Revolution team can provide further information about regulated and unregulated lending as required. Please remember that a mortgage is a debt which is secured against your home or property. Your home can be at risk of repossession if you do not keep up with the repayments or encounter any other difficulties in managing your mortgage borrowing responsibly. This also applies to any remortgage or home loan secured against your property, including equity release products.

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