Watershed year for equity release in the UK home lending market

The membership of the Equity Release Council in the UK has increased annually by 23%, rising to 219 from 178 at the same time last year, boosted by new entrants to the market, the latest official figures show.

It is another sign of how equity release is growing in popularity and the council has also seen an increase in individual members, up 31% over the same period, rising from 511 in December 2016 to now stand at 671 individual members.

There has been a sustained period of growth in the equity release sector. Lending in the third quarter of 2017 surpassed £800 million for the first time in any single quarter, with the sector also on course to reach a record-breaking £3 billion in lending for the first time in a single year.

In a sign of its increasingly diverse membership, the Nationwide has become the first building society member since re-launching from Safe Home Income Plans (SHIP) in 2012, and Lighthouse Group the first of seven financial services network organisation members.

The growing appetite among firms in the equity release sector to join the Council is to be accompanied by strict consumer protection. This includes the no negative equity guarantee (NNEG), which guarantees the right to stay in your home for life or until you need to move into long term care, the right to port a loan to a suitable property and a requirement that any customer taking out an equity release product from a Council member must first receive independent legal advice, alongside regulated financial advice, ensuring a robust advice process.

David Burrowes, the new chairman of the Equity Release Council, said that 2017 has been a watershed year for the equity release sector. ‘The growth in numbers and diversity of the Council’s membership is testament to both the rigorous safeguards and product innovation within the market, that are increasingly helping to move housing wealth into the mainstream as a tool for financial planning in retirement,’ he pointed out.

‘Property is, for many people, their largest asset and has the potential to play an even greater role in the future of retirement funding. I am eager to build on this momentum and look forward to engaging with our growing membership to ensure the sector is able to realise its potential, while maintaining product safeguards that are fit for purpose,’ he explained.

‘Further collaboration with the broader late life industry is also vital to deliver the best customer outcomes. Using my experience gained in Parliament, I also look forward to strengthening the profile of equity release with a diverse range of political and regulatory stakeholders,’ he added.