Equity release products provide £988m of funding to over-55 homeowners in Q3, up by 8% from £911m in Q2, the latest figures from the Equity Release Council have shown.
This represents the best quarter of 2019 to date for the sector, both in terms of new plans agreed and total property wealth accessed by new and returning customers.
Overall there were more than 11,419 new customers that opted to release cash from their properties in Q3 2019 – a 6% increase on the previous quarter.
Reasons for using equity release included supplementing pension incomes, providing a ‘living inheritance’ to family, making home improvements or age-related adaptations, paying off existing mortgages or other debt and meeting other regular or one-off expenses.
David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “As a nation with an ageing population and a growing need to support longer lives, it is important not to overlook property wealth in modern retirement planning conversations.
“Today’s equity release market is offering new solutions to fund later life, by combining rigorous consumer protections with more product choices and flexibility to help people meet their financial needs and goals.
“The result of buying property and making mortgage payments during their working lives is that bricks and mortar become many people’s single biggest financial asset when they reach later life.
“Industry, regulators and government must continue to promote and encourage lifelong savings habits, while also recognising that retirement financial plans are best made by taking all assets into account.”
Official demographic projections show that the number of people aged 55+ will increase by nearly 5 million or 23% over the next 20 years to make up more than a third of the UK population.
Those aged 70 or above – 70 being the average age for taking out a drawdown lifetime mortgage, the most common product choice when unlocking property wealth – will increase from 9 million to 13m: a rise of 4 million or 44%.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, said choice and flexibility is set to underpin future business growth.
“Consumers are benefiting from the combination of more competition with more product features to allow good value, personalised plans.
“Like many providers, we have overhauled and improved our solutions recently with the launch of the Just for You product range to keep Just at the front of a fast-moving sector.
“A measure of the pace of innovation and the emergence of new customer segments is that equity release plans now have 10 times more product features than just five years ago, according to the ERC.
“Home ownership levels are at their highest in later life and the average home value of an equity release customer is significantly higher than the average UK house price.
“Property wealth is set to provide an important source of funds for an increasing number of homeowners from right across the wealth spectrum in the coming years.”
So far this year, over 33,000 new customers have chosen to access their property wealth via equity release.
This exceeds the total number of new plans agreed in any full year from 1991-2016.