Tag Archives: Advantages of Equity Release

Are Equity Release Schemes protected?

Equity release schemes have come a long way since they were first introduced in the market. Equity release plans proved to be a very popular concept, and it is their popularity that paved the way for new, improved and more flexible options. Equity release mortgages today are also better regulated when compared with older mortgages.

The popularity of equity release is due to a very real need in society. Living costs have gone up considerably, as have property prices. In this light, pensioners who own homes, but not have enough cash flow can find equity release to be a good solution. It allows homeowners to increase their income during retirement, without the need to sell the property and move into a different place.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is a body that regulates financial services and products. The FSA aims to maintain transparency and fairness in communication related to financial services, including advice issued to customers. It also aims to eradicate financial wrongdoing. Equity release schemes and mortgages today are completely regulated by the FSA. Equity release customers can seek support and protection from the FSA.

A common concern that people have with equity release mortgages is the potential risk of negative equity. Due to compounding interest built up over a long period of time, an equity release debt can become quite large compared to the amount borrowed. When the house is sold, if the amount owed is higher than the sale value of the house, a negative equity is created.

As the equity release market has matured and become more competitive, it has also become safer for customers. Safe Home Income Plans is a self regulated body that aims to serve customers by making the terms of equity release mortgages more transparent and safe. For instance, all SHIP equity release schemes offer a no negative equity assurance. This means that any negative equity does not need to be repaid to the lender.

Solicitors that can handle all the paperwork related to an equity release application, as well as provide specialist advice. The equity release solicitors’ alliance  ERSA, is a charter of specialist solicitors dealing with equity release mortgages. There is a wide variety of equity release schemes available in the market. It is important to seek professional independent expert advice regarding equity release. Independent experts can provide guidance on the potential risks and advantages of equity release for you.

Are Equity Release Schemes Safe and Could I lose My Home?

Equity release schemes have been around in some format since the 1960’s. However, they have undergone significant changes to ensure that today’s equity release mortgages are complaint & trustworthy in the eyes of the over 55 marketplace.

The first steps towards recognition of the need for consumer protection came in 1991 with the launch of SHIP (Safe Home Income Plan). SHIP brought about a voluntary code of practice that must be implemented within any equity release scheme in order to achieve SHIP status: –

  • The flexibility to still be able to move house. Therefore the equity release plan must be portable
  • You can repay the equity release mortgage at any time, subject to potential early repayment charges
  • All plans must have the inclusion of a ‘no-negative equity guarantee‘ option

The no-negative equity guarantee provides the protection in an ‘over’ roll-up situation, where the equity release balance supercedes the value of the property in the future.

If this does occur the lender will invoke the no-negative equity guarantee and only ask for the property value on eventual sale. This provides the reassurance that no debt can be transferred onto the beneficiaries.

Since then, the FSA (Financial Services Authority) has become involved in the equity release market & taken all schemes under its wing.

Therefore in 2004, lifetime mortgages became fully regulated by the FSA & provided greater consumer protection. This led to only qualified equity release advisers being able provide recommendations to the general public.

Three years later in 2007, home reversions plans were amalgamated with lifetime mortgages resulting in both types of plans becoming regulated by the FSA.

With recent developments in the industry & SHIP now reforming itself into the Equity Release Council to have a stronger presence & stance within the post retirement market, then greater changes are to follow. This in turn will lead to greater consumer awareness of equity release schemes & their benefits to the over 55’s.