In the UK, parents are fuelling a £6.2 billion boom in equity release loans to help younger people get on the property ladder.
Households have doubled the amount they’ve borrowed through loans tied to the value of their homes in the past five years, according to the Equity Release Council. Estate agent Knight Frank said that rising interest rates, being wealthy but cash poor, and the need to help relatives are driving more people to access cash through products known as lifetime mortgages.
The finding reveals the scale of what families can do for children after a decade of soaring house prices left millions with big buffers of wealth. Even though prices have been falling for the past few months, housing affordability is at its worst in almost 150 years, putting ownership out of reach for many first-time buyers, according to Schroders.
“Older homeowners who have enjoyed many years of growth in the UK housing market now hold the vast majority of property wealth,” said David Forsdyke, head of later life finance at Knight Frank. “There is a growing need for older family members to pass this wealth down to the younger generations, who are struggling to afford property on their own.”
About 93,400 homeowners borrowed a record £6.2 billion last year through equity-release loans, data from the Equity Release Council indicates. It’s equivalent to about £66,400 per household.
The total value was up 29 per cent from the previous year and double the levels seen in 2017.
Equity release products allow older homeowners (over 55) to release cash tied up in their properties. The most popular product is a lifetime mortgage, where people take out a loan secured against the property while still owning it.
Lifetime mortgages are offered to people over 55, allowing them to borrow a lump sum and then draw down cash when needed. This is a pre-agreed, tax-free amount and the interest can be rolled up into the loan rather than paid monthly. When the borrower dies or moves into long-term care, proceeds from the sale of the home pays off the loan.
Forsdyke said many “asset rich but cash poor” homeowners are using equity-release as a source of income.
The loans also can work for wealthy households using interest-only mortgages to reduce the amount of money tied up in the property as they are facing much higher interest costs when they renew their deals.
“Lots of borrowers are currently receiving an interest rate shock as their current mortgage term ends and the terms of renewal or remortgage are significantly higher,” he said. “Equity release provides a way to overcome the shock, keep payments at a manageable level, and even bring some flexibility over payments that borrowers did not have before.”
“In the midst of a fall in product choice and concerns surrounding interest rates, consumers may feel pressured to take out a lifetime mortgage,” said Rachel Springall, a finance expert at Moneyfacts Group. “If it is the most appropriate choice, then they must be conscious of how equity release works and its resulting impact.”
Even so, those loans can be costly – more expensive than a regular mortgage.
The average rate for a lifetime equity release mortgage was 6.61 per cent in February, according to Moneyfacts. The rate had jumped to 8.13 per cent in November, after Liz Truss roiled markets with her budget plans during her short term as prime minister. The effective rate on new mortgages rose 21 basis points to 3.88 per cent in January, a jump from 1.58 per cent a year earlier, the Bank of England said this month.
Even with the borrowing boom, many lenders have pulled equity-release products off the market since the Truss budget, which put a chill on the appetite banks have for risk. The number of lifetime equity release products has fallen by 70 per cent since September last year, plummeting to 597 deals to just 178 last month.
Still, Forsdyke said that using equity release products is likely to remain popular because of a number of benefits it can unlock for consumers. One is that it’s a way to gift money to children that also can reduce tax bills.
“By creating debt against your property and allowing that debt to increase, you can reduce the potential taxable value of the property itself so there are inheritance tax planning applications there as well,” Forsdyke said.
If you would like to explore further how releasing equity in your home could help you or your family, please contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation in the comfort of your own home.