Equity Release  

ERC membership surpasses 300 firms

ERC membership surpasses 300 firms

Membership of the Equity Release Council has surpassed 300 firms, as the trade body predicted property wealth would continue to feature heavily in later life planning.

The number of member firms has grown by 46 per cent since the end of 2017 and the council has seen a 38 per cent increase in registered individuals in the same period, rising from 673 to more than 900.

A council spokesperson said the membership milestone reflected the prominent role of equity release in the retirement planning landscape, with more than 78,000 new and existing customers of its members using their housing wealth for that purpose in the 12 months to Q3 2018.  

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In October, the Equity Release Council reported lending had surpassed £1bn for the first time in a single quarter, as the number of products on offer trebled over the past two years.

David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said he believes more people than ever now considered property wealth alongside other assets when making financial plans for later life.

He said: "The continuing growth of our membership means consumers can benefit from best practice in the advice and products available from a market buoyed by competition, choice and consumer confidence.

"Increased product flexibilities are giving older homeowners a wider range of options to suit varied circumstances, while staying true to the principle of consumer protection that has underpinned the market for nearly 30 years."

In data published by the Financial Conduct Authority in October, the equity release market was found to have attracted the fewest number of complaints among home finance products.

Mr Burrowes added: "As demand continues to grow, it is paramount that we maintain this consumer focus while improving understanding of modern equity release.  

"Members are also committed to exploring new avenues and innovations to help people safely access their property wealth in retirement to meet fundamental social needs."

The council maintains customers of its member firms receive three levels of safeguards in the market, striving to provide a "structured" financial advice process, independent face-to-face legal advice and "clear product safeguards".