Is equity release the right choice for you? Protecting yourself If it isn t right for you, what are the alternatives?

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1 Buyer s Guide

2 : Content Page 1: What is equity release? Page 2: Is equity release the right choice for you? Page 3: Protecting yourself If it isn t right for you, what are the alternatives? Page 4: Lifetime mortgages in more detail - Advantages of lifetime mortgages - Disadvantages of lifetime mortgages Page 5: Lifetime mortgage variations - Drawdown - Interest payment plans - Advantages of interest payment plans Page 6: Home reversion plans - Home reversion plan advantages - Home reversion plan disadvantages

3 What is equity release? An equity release scheme allows a property owner to access the value of their house without having to put it on the market and buy another property. It is different to a second mortgage or re-mortgage and comes in two different flavours: lifetime mortgages and reversion schemes. Equity release schemes are generally only available to older homeowners - typically those over 55 - and can be used to take the money as a lump sum, in smaller instalments or as a combination of the two. Typically, you will need 60,000 or more of equity in your home to be considered. Equity release is not something that you should go into lightly. Alongside buying a house, it is one of the biggest financial decisions anybody ever makes and will affect many areas of your financial affairs including whether you are eligible for a state pension and means-tested benefits as well as how much of an inheritance you will be able to leave to your children when you die. With a lifetime mortgage, the homeowner takes out a loan which is secured against his or her main residence. The householder retains ownership of the property and can choose to ring fence a certain portion of the value of the house for future use (as inheritance, for example). When it comes to repaying the loan, the property owner can either choose to make repayments or just to allow the interest to build up. With the second option, the total loan amount plus any interest is paid back after the homeowner dies or goes into care and the house is sold. With home reversion, the homeowner sells a portion or all of the house to a provider. In return, he or she gets a payment - either as a lump sum or in instalments. The homeowner is then allowed to remain in the house until he or she dies and does not have to pay any rent. However, he or she will have to continue to maintain and insure the property. Under home reversion, it is possible to set aside a portion of the home s value for future inheritance. That portion will be in the form of a percentage of the home s value which will go up or down depending on the state of the property market. Once in a home reversion scheme, the householder can decide to take further payments in return for giving up more of their share of the house. When the plan finishes, the house is sold and the proceeds are divided according to the ownership percentages. 1

4 Is equity release the right choice for you? That depends entirely on entirely on your personal circumstances and what your plans are for your children. You should never just jump straight into any scheme which will affect your future financial stability or that of your children without first consulting a financial advisor. If you are considering equity release to either pay off debt or because you are currently struggling financially, you should first think about whether you might be able to make cuts in your household budget to get things back into the black. If you are seriously struggling with your household finances, you should consult a debt advice organisation before taking on any further credit commitments. If you do decide to speak with a financial advisor, any of them who recommends an equity release scheme must have a specialist qualification and must be able to recommend any product on the market which best suits your circumstances. When you are choosing a financial advisor, ensure that he or she is able to search the whole equity release market to find the right plan for you and your family, is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and is a member of the Equity Release Council which is the trade body with strict rules and conditions which are over and above the regulatory regime administered by the FCA. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates equity release schemes and has responsibility for the way that they are sold. All firms advertising these schemes must adhere to the FCA s guidelines on marketing, sales literature and advice. If you are mis-sold an equity release scheme, you may be eligible for compensation under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. 2

5 If it isn t right for you, what are the alternatives? Equity release is not going to be right for everyone and there are plenty of other ways of cutting back to release funds, making your savings work better or to release the value currently locked up in your home. These include: Protecting yourself Any financial arrangement which affects your home or your ability to live in it should be considered very carefully and, in many circumstances, discussed with members of your family be-fore you sign on the dotted line. Make sure you take both legal as well as financial advice over the implications of an equity release scheme and keep your family informed as this decision will affect them, too. If you do decide to go into either a lifetime mortgage or home reversion scheme, make sure that you shop around fully first. The rates on these schemes can vary considerably and the terms and conditions they include may also be very different. Check whether the plan you are considering will allow you to live in your own home for as long as you want no matter what happens to interest rates or the returns on investment. Steer clear of any scheme that does not guarantee this. When you are talking to your financial advisor, make sure that the plans he or she recommends guarantee that you: Won t have to worry about negative equity where you end up owing more than your home Downsizing. If you are rattling around in what was once the family home but the birds have since flown the nest, then you could downsize to a smaller home and so realise a considerable amount of value without a huge change in your quality of life. If you no longer need to live in a particular area for work, then moving to a less expensive area could also release a considerable amount of value. Sell up and rent. This may work if you have lived in your home for many years, have no mortgage and therefore are likely to be sitting on a large amount of equity. Renting will allow you to unlock that value while giving you enough capital to pay the rent for the rest of your life. If you are infirm, then renting in a sheltered housing scheme may make sense. Cash in some investments or savings. You may have enough in a savings account to pay for whatever you were planning to use the equity release for. At a time when interest rates are still at historic lows, it may make more sense to use savings rather than borrowing money. Use a lump sum from your pension. New rules mean that you can now draw down all or some of your pension as a lump sum. Be careful, though, because you may be taxed at a higher rate on the amount you draw down. is worth Are able to continue to live in your own home until you die or choose to move somewhere else Will not be penalised should you choose to move to another home. 3

6 Lifetime mortgages in more detail As we have already mentioned briefly, with a lifetime mortgage you take out a loan on your property and no interest is payable until after you die. Under this type of equity release scheme, compound interest on the loan amount continues to accrue until your death when the total capital amount and all interest is repaid upon the sale of the property. It s important to remember that interest will be charged every month from the day that you take out the loan until the day that the house is sold and that this will be charged on both the amount of the loan and the interest accrued in the previous month. That means that this kind of loan can see interest grow to very large amounts - particularly if the homeowner lives for a long time after taking out the loan. When the property is sold, the loan, interest and fees and charges will be payable. That may not be upon the homeowner and partner s death but may be when they decide to move into long-term care. There s no restriction on what you can use the cash lump sum generated from a lifetime mortgage for so this means that you could carry out home improvements to make your house easier to cope with as you get older, help your children or grandchildren raise a deposit on their own home or take the holiday of a lifetime that you have always dreamed of. If you are planning to leave a certain amount of money as an inheritance to your children or grandchildren and therefore need to know how much interest you will pay on equity release be-fore you sign on the dotted line, then a lifetime mortgage may be your best choice. If the lifetime mortgage guarantees your right to continue to live in the home as long as you need irrespective of how much interest builds up, you should still carefully consider just how much accumulated debt will accrue. At an interest rate of 6 percent and where no interest is due until the sale of the house, the size of the debt will double in a little over a decade. Your financial advisor should, therefore, help you select a plan which will secure the lowest interest rate. If you are planning on leaving a sizeable sum to your dependents, then consider your health be-cause the longer that you live once the plan is active, the lower the proportion of the property s value will be available to pass on. Some lifetime mortgages allow you to protect a proportion of the home s value against the total amount of interest that will accrue. Ensure that the financial advisor gives you the option of taking out one of these if inheritance is an important consideration. Advantages of lifetime mortgages 1. You are still the owner of your home until you die or move into long-term care. This means that if it continues to increase in value, either you or those who will inherit from you will still benefit from rises in the property market 2. With most of these plans, interest rates are fixed meaning that you will be protected should the bank rate rise in the future 3. Where the applicants are younger, there are more lifetime mortgages available than with home reversion schemes Disadvantages of lifetime mortgages 1. The amount that you are able to leave to your children or grandchildren will reduce the longer that you live 2. The amounts available with these mortgages are generally smaller than with home reversion schemes 3. If interest rates fall, then you and your offspring will not benefit 4. If you leave the scheme early, many providers will levy an early repayment penalty 4

7 Lifetime mortgage variations Drawdown A drawdown lifetime mortgage allows the homeowner to take money in instalments rather than as a single lump sum. The major benefit from this type of mortgage is that it limits the amount of interest by only levying it on the money you draw down at the time you receive it, thus significantly reducing the end cost. Because this type of scheme may last a long time, it s important that you have power of attorney in place before you take out this kind of scheme. Advantages of drawdown 1. The overall cost is lower than with a standard lifetime mortgage 2. The drawdown scheme is more flexible, allowing you to tailor the amount of money you use as your circumstances change 3. Your beneficiaries will probably receive a greater inheritance upon your death 4. You will be able to tailor the amount of money you hold on deposit and so ensure that you don t get excluded from means-tested benefits Disadvantages of drawdown 1. There may not be a guarantee on the size of the reserve facility the lender provides and, even Interest payment plans If you are still working, own a business or have a regular and reasonable pension income, an interest payment plan may make more sense. These types of scheme resemble interest-only mortgages in that you only pay interest each month on the amount that you have borrowed. The homeowner can select the size of the interest payments to be made each month and every time you make a repayment, you are reducing the amount that the loan company takes out of the value of the home when the plan comes to an end. You can usually convert an interest payment plan to one where the interest accrues later on. Advantages of interest payment plans 1. The total amount of value that will be lost from your home at the scheme s end will be reduced Disadvantages of interest payment plans 1. Should you decide to stop making payments and switch the scheme to a different type of mortgage, you will face charges and higher interest rates 2. If you decide to switch during the plan, the decision is irreversible and you cannot re-start interest payments where this exists, it may be withdrawn once your plan is underway 2. You may have a minimum amount imposed on the size of the lump sum you can initially draw down 3. Interest rates may be higher for withdrawals after the initial lump sum 5

8 Home reversion plans With a home reversion plan, you sell part or all of your home to the loan provider and, in return, get a lump sum which is tax-free. As with other plans, you will still be able to continue to live in your own home as long as you want to. You will not make any payments and so you will be able to carry on living as you choose. Upon the death of you and your partner or when you both decide to go into long-term care, the property will be sold and all of its value or part of it will go to the provider to pay back the loan. The exact amount will depend on the proportion of the house which was bought by the provider. It s worth remembering that the provider will never pay you a sum that reflects the property s full market value because it will be incurring a cost by allowing you to continue to live there rent-free for the rest of your life. The total amount that the provider will be willing to lend to you will depend on how old you are and the total value of the proportion of your house that you are giving up. Where you ve owned your own home for much of your life and have a large amount of value in it, a home reversion plan may be an unattractive option. But if you choose a scheme which guarantees the right to continue to live in the house rent-free, then you could still pass on a substantial amount to your beneficiaries. But if you do go for a reversion plan, then you should understand that neither you nor your beneficiaries will derive any benefit from future rises in the value of the part of the home that you have sold to the provider. You can mitigate some of this by taking out a partial reversion plan which gives you continued ownership of a proportion of your home and allows you to make definite inheritance plans. Home reversion plan advantages 1. You can guarantee a certain amount of inheritance to your beneficiaries by carefully choosing the proportion of your property ownership that you want to hold on to 2. No interest is accrued with one of these plans 3. The sum you receive from the provider is taxfree and there is not restriction on what you can use it for 4. There are no monthly repayments 5. If the value of the home goes up, you will benefit on the proportion of the property that you have retained Home reversion plan disadvantages 1. You won t be able to change your mind and switch to a different equity release scheme once the plan has started 2. Because you will live in the home rent-free, the amount that you can leave for your beneficiaries will be reduced 3. The provider will not pay you the full market value of the proportion of the house that you sell to it 6

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