Property equity release to older home owners in UK up 17%

Retired home owners in the UK cashed in more than £750 million of property wealth in the first six months of the year as the equity release market continued to expand, an new analysis shows.

The average amount released nearly was almost £68,500, an increase of £3,500 on the same period last year, according to the half year equity release report from over 55s finance specialist Key Retirement.

The total released £753 million, an increase of 17%. The firm said that the increase highlights pensioners’ confidence in using property wealth for retirement planning.

A breakdown of the data shows there are, however, wide regional variances ranging from average releases in the North West of over £53,000 to over £142,000 in London.

Across the country eight out of 12 regions saw growth in the value of property wealth released with the North East recording a 50% rise, the South East 35% and London a 30% increase.

The value released dropped 13% in the North West. Eight out of 12 regions recorded rises in plan sales with three virtually unchanged. London saw a 28% rise and the North East a 31% increase

The money is being used to boost standards of living in retirement with 58% of customers using some or all of their cash to improve their home or garden while 28% have used their property wealth to pay for holidays.

Family and friends are also benefiting from retired homeowners’ property wealth with 25% of over 55s handing out cash to relatives, according to the report.

However mortgage debt, including interest only loans, is emerging as a major issue with 23% of customers paying off home loans with some or all of the money, compared to 20% for the same period of 2014. Around 29% also used the cash to pay off credit cards or loans.

The research also reveals that equity release customers are getting older. The average age rose to 71 in 2015, from 69 previously, but they are also wealthier thanks to house price rises with average property values rising 9% to £271,248 from £249,108.

‘Property wealth is making a massive contribution to retirement planning and the equity release market is growing rapidly in response with double digit growth. The average amounts released at £68,500 are more than 50% bigger than the average pension pot and are also tax-free highlighting the advantages of using property wealth in retirement,’ said Dean Mirfin, technical director at Key Retirement.

‘Cuts in pension allowances and contribution levels plus the review of pension tax treatment underlines that property investments are major assets which should be considered as part of anyone’s retirement planning,’ he added.