Equity Release  

Number of equity release products hits 15-year high

Number of equity release products hits 15-year high

The number of equity release products available has hit a 15-year high, with 769 different plans currently on offer.

In just two years, products helping UK homeowners access the cash in their properties have more than doubled from 306 in 2019, according to data released by retirement specialist Key Group.

The equity release industry has been fighting a battle to better its reputation, which took a knock in the eighties and nineties amid a number of scandals leaving people with big amounts of debt.

But in recent years, a steady rise in demand for equity release options has fuelled a surge in products on the market.

Between 2013 and 2018, equity release sales nearly doubled. This then saw product options rise from 86 in January 2018 to 221 in January 2019, according to the industry’s trade body, the Equity Release Council.

Data around product options on the market was first electronically recorded in 2007, when there were just 38 available.

Now a group of firms - including the likes of Canada Life - are working with the ERC to revamp the sector’s image.

They are starting with a whitepaper, set to be released in the coming months, which is designed to dispel some of the common “misconceptions” around the offering and change perceptions of property wealth in later life.

“Equity release has long been a bit of a taboo topic in the UK,” Alice Watson, Canada Life’s equity release expert, told FTAdviser.

“It’s such a helpful product, but has a very bad reputation. The industry is trying to overcome this. We’re repositioning it as a retirement option, and taking the holistic approach.”

Watson added that if people start looking at their property like an asset, rather than bricks and mortar, equity release could end up being more tax efficient than a pension.

“There’s a bigger behavioural science around it too,” said Watson. “The product isn’t benefiting from word of mouth, which is slowing things down. So we also need to educate the advisers which have some of the misconceptions.”

Watson cited one of the big misconceptions, which is that people use equity release simply to "go on a cruise". “In actual fact," she said, "it’s a great gifting mechanism for helping children get on the property ladder".

Key Group’s data echoes the trend of other organisations’ research, though its final numbers could be somewhat inflated. 

Moneyfacts tracked a record high for equity release deals in April. Since then, the financial information firm counted 566 products on the market at the start of June.

Rachel Springall, a financial expert at Moneyfacts, told FTAdviser this was the most it had recorded since 2007. Today (June 21), it counts 483 deals.

“We may not have every niche intermediary deal if they have not been provided to us for comparison,” Springall explained. Though Moneyfacts’ data is what the Equity Release Council refers to.