There has been a 5.6% year-on-year rise in the number of equity release plans to 22,126 while total value released increased by 3% to £1.682 billion, according to Key’s H1 2019 Market Monitor.
The independent equity release advisory firm says this suggests that while older homeowners released nearly in £9.3 million in property wealth a day in the first six months of the year, the sector is reacting to current economic conditions seen across the property market and growth has slowed.
Average loans taken by customers fell in value by nearly £2,000 to £76,064 compared with the same period a year ago as the market stabilised in the face of continued political and economic uncertainty.
Once potential further advances of £706 million on drawdown are taken into account, it suggests that H1 recorded total borrowing of £2.38 billion – driven by new funders entering the market and historically low interest rates.
These rates – which start from 3.21% – are also encouraging more customers to remortgage their plans to save money or release additional funds – around 5% customers changed plans in the first half of 2019 compared with 1% in 2018.
Up to half of all customers used equity release to repay debt – either in the form of mortgages (20%) or unsecured debt (30%) as people increasingly looked to housing equity to shore up their finances.
The biggest single use of property wealth remains home or garden improvements (64%) as older borrowers look to age proof their homes in order to remain in them longer while 28% made gifts to family typically to help with house purchases or weddings.
Will Hale, CEO at Key, said: “Against the backdrop of economic uncertainty, the equity release market has seen a subdued first half with slower growth than in recent years. While the key market drivers of low pension saving and substantial property wealth remain, the over-55s are taking a cautious approach to accessing the value tied up in bricks and mortar at the moment but as confidence returns we do expect the market to pick up.
“That said, the market is benefiting from the arrival of new sources of funding which is helping to keep rates at historic lows and to drive the launch of various new products. Consequently, we have seen an increase in the number of customers remortgaging to benefit from lower rates or the opportunity to release additional equity due to house price rises or the higher LTVs that are now available.
“The myriad of different reasons that customers use equity release for highlights how vital specialist independent expert advice is to ensure that older homeowners are helped to make the right choices for their individual circumstances.”