Why equity release interest rates are still competitive
Britain hasn’t faced the current level of economic turmoil since the worldwide financial crash in 2008. Even the global pandemic didn’t affect the cost of borrowing, nor the cost of living to the same extent.
In the three months to September, Britain’s economy shrank by 0.2% in what is expected to be the beginning of a prolonged recession.
Increases to the Bank of England’s base rate, GILT rates and high levels of inflation have all played their role in the rate rises we’ve seen across the equity release market of late. As they have, it must be said, across the mainstream mortgage market, too.
So, how do equity release rates compare to those mainstream mortgage rates, and what can historical rate data tell us about what to expect in the remainder of Q4 2022, 2023 and beyond?
Equity release rates remain competitive versus other forms of borrowing
Currently, the average standard five-year fixed mortgage rate is 6.07%.1 Meanwhile, lenders’ standard variable rates have risen to 6.49%1 and lifetime retirement interest-only mortgage rates are over 7%.2
Equity release rates, however, start at 6.15% and are fixed for the life of the plan – meaning, like a standard fixed-rate mortgage, your clients are insulated from any further market volatility.
As a result, equity release rates remain in tune with other more conventional forms of borrowing, and well below unsecured alternatives - with the average credit card interest rate reaching 22.2% in September this year.3
How current rates compare to the 2008 financial crash
Unlike many other financial markets, equity release remained well insulated from the fallout of the 2008 financial crash.
Between H1 2008 and H1 2009, the average equity release rate only rose by 0.3% - from 6.2% to 6.5%.
And although rates fluctuated ever so slightly in the years that followed, it wasn’t until H1 2016 that the average equity release rate dropped below 6%.
In fact, in the decade between H1 2006 and H1 2016, the average equity release rate sat around 6.4%.
Meanwhile, in the mainstream mortgage market, SVRs hit their peak in H1 2008 at 7.5% before stabilising between 4% and 5% in 2011, which lasted until the pandemic.
So, while both equity release rates and SVRs have risen recently, it’s more the case that they’ve returned to historic norms following a period of unnaturally low rates for the last few years.
And as markets adjust and stabilise once again, previous data suggests it’s unlikely we’ll see a return to those historic lows anytime soon.
What does this mean for your clients?
For many people, despite rises in interest rates, equity release could still be the right, and possibly only, option.
Those with an interest-only mortgage reaching maturity, a fixed-rate deal about to expire, or who are subject to a lender’s SVR could be facing unaffordable costs to service an existing mortgage.
Others may be struggling to repay unsecured debts as increases in the cost of living bite. And many will be facing both these financial challenges at the same time.
As a result, a large portion may feel as though they have no options, which is why it’s crucial these consumers are supported and made aware of the solutions available to them.
The flexibility of equity release
The features and benefits of a lifetime mortgage – the most common form of equity release – could give your clients greater control over their financial future than a standard residential mortgage.
Your client can choose whether to make monthly repayments or not. If they choose not to, they’ll likely have more disposable income available to meet more later life needs.
And unlike with a residential mortgage, if your client chooses against making monthly repayments, they’re still guaranteed to remain the owner of their home and can stay in it for however long they choose.
However, if your client is in a position to do so, they could make ad-hoc partial capital or regular interest repayments to help manage the size of the loan and reduce their total cost of borrowing.
John and Joyce are both 65 and wish to release £50,000 from their averagely-priced home of £296,000 to repay their existing mortgage.
Securing a fixed lifetime mortgage rate of 6.15%, after 15 years, with no monthly repayments, John and Joyce owe £122,397.
However, by repaying just £100 a month, after 15 years, the couple’s outstanding balance has reduced to £96,026 – a net saving of £8,371, when including the £18,000 they’ve already repaid.
But if John and Joyce were to repay £200 a month, they’d owe £66,569 – a net saving of £19,828. And if the pair were to service the interest in its entirety each month (£256), they’d enjoy a net saving of £26,317 – extra value which could be passed down to their loved ones as part of an inheritance.
While the UK economy has stabilised somewhat since the mini-budget, there’s still no guarantee mortgage rates will reduce as the UK heads for recession.
If rates increase further in 2023, which was the case during the fallout of the financial crash in 2008, those already struggling, or those who decided to wait it out in hope of a reduction in rate could find themselves in serious financial difficulty.
But with a lifetime mortgage, your client has options, as the lifetime mortgage your client chooses today doesn’t have to be their plan for life.
In as little as five years, they could have the option to remortgage to a plan which may better suit their future needs without any early repayment charge.
That could be to release further funds, include features which help address new priorities or secure a better interest rate.
And even if your client wishes to remortgage within their plan’s ERC period, most lifetime mortgages come with fixed, transparent ERCs, meaning they always know how much it’ll cost to repay their loan.
No negative equity guarantee
Each lifetime mortgage that meets Equity Release Council standards also comes with a no negative equity guarantee. So, no matter what, your client will never owe more than their home’s value, even if house prices fall.
That’s alongside the customer retaining full ownership of their home and having the right to remain in their property for as long as they choose – two more guarantees which are included in all plans that meet Equity Release Council standards.
In conclusion, a lifetime mortgage can help your clients meet their current needs now; whether that’s repaying an existing mortgage or debts, gifting to a loved one or adapting their property for later life, and still give them flexibility, freedom and security to manage or switch their plan in the future.
The importance of expert advice
In economic conditions such as these, where factors such as lack of financial resilience may be particularly prevalent, it’s crucial consumers receive specialist equity release advice in order to make an informed decision.
Given the pressure your clients may be feeling in the short term, it’s important for them to consider if they really need to access the whole release amount now, or if they’d be better off waiting to see if their circumstances improve.
Also, it’s paramount to explain the impact that making repayments have on reducing the amount owed should they be in a position to service the loan, either regularly or on an ad-hoc basis.
This will help ensure your client has a better understanding of how to reduce their total cost of borrowing and provide a more personalised customer outcome.