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Are you making the most of your property wealth?

PUBLISHED: 09:17 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:51 16 November 2018

Equity release could be an idea rather than downsizing for more mature homeowners Picture: Getty Images

Equity release could be an idea rather than downsizing for more mature homeowners Picture: Getty Images

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This week, financial columnist Peter Sharkey looks at how equity release could solve your downsizing dilemma.

Increasing house value is a potential - and beneficial - side effect of equity release, says Peter Sharkey Picture: Getty ImagesIncreasing house value is a potential - and beneficial - side effect of equity release, says Peter Sharkey Picture: Getty Images

Long-term neighbours, people with whom we’ve been friendly for years, threw a ‘topping out’ party recently after work on their new extension was completed.

Over the past couple of months, vans displaying the names of local bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, decorators and several other trades have become a constant daytime feature of our normally quiet little cul-de-sac.

Granted, I won’t miss the brickie who managed to wake everyone up most Saturdays, his early morning arrival accompanied by unnecessarily fierce blasts of Radio One, but otherwise, it’s been good to see a project employing local tradesmen, all of whom described themselves as ‘manic’ (aka extremely busy) whenever asked if, once they were finished, they could do some work for me.

The new extension looks fantastic as it’s been added to a previously underused dining room. The installation of bi-fold doors and wide windows on two other sides has made what is now a huge space look fantastically light.

During the course of the party, also deemed a ‘thank you to neighbours for putting up with two months of upheaval’ (it really wasn’t a problem: the guys doing the work were as good as gold), I asked Tony, the soon-to-be-retired man of the house, why, after so many years, had he and his wife decided upon an extension? Was he considering becoming an artist and taking advantage of the wonderful light that now streamed through his south-facing windows?

He smiled and shook his head. “No, nothing like that. We had all of this wealth wrapped up in our house and thought, ‘why not make use of some of it?’ After all, we can’t take it with us.”

The couple had mentioned this to a friend who briefly outlined the benefits of equity release.

“Following this, we made a few enquiries and were introduced to a really helpful chap who visited us to explain how it works,” said Tony. “The process was actually much simpler than I imagined it would be.

“Barbara [his wife] had wanted an extension for ages and as the kids have long flown the nest, we decided to take the plunge. The great thing is, the money we’ve released is tax-free and we don’t have to make any monthly repayments for the rest of our lives, so we have no concerns when I retire next year.”

In fact, the extension has probably added a large chunk of value to Tony and Barbara’s house, an unforeseen and hugely beneficial side effect of equity release.

Indeed, it’s little wonder that equity release schemes have become so popular among people aged 55 and over in recent years.

According to a survey conducted by The Right Equity Release, one of the UK’s leading companies in the equity release sector, freeing up tax-free funds in order to make home improvements consistently ranks as one of the two main reasons why people access the wealth built up in their homes. In part, says the company, this is because home improvements are essentially an investment, a fact with which long-standing homeowners are obviously familiar.

However, as my neighbour Tony pointed out, he and his wife didn’t build their new extension to add value to their home; that’s a happy consequence, not the principle reason. The couple have lived in their home for years; the prospect of downsizing or moving elsewhere never crossed their minds.

“This is where our children were born. Where our friends are. We didn’t want to walk away from that,” Barbara told me.

In addition to the deep-rooted emotions that tie us to our homes, however, it’s also fair to say that as the period we can expect to be officially ‘retired’ continues to lengthen, many people conclude that when seeking to improve their home and make it more comfortable, equity release schemes come into their own.

The survey conducted by The Right Equity Release revealed that, on average, grandparents spend nine hours a week looking after their grandchildren. Naturally enough, a burgeoning number of folks releasing equity from their homes do so to make it more accommodating and welcoming for their young relatives.

“The concept of releasing equity from your home to secure a better retirement can no longer be considered a niche solution, but a specialist retirement option,” according to The Right Equity Release, a conclusion with which Barbara, Tony and tens of thousands of others would no doubt agree.

You can read more about equity release on the Moneymapp.com website.

Alternatively, for further details and to receive a FREE guide to equity release, telephone 0800 612 6755 and quote reference LIFEM1.

THE WEEK IN NUMBERS

•38,912

According to the Equity Release Council (ERC), a total of 38,912 people released tax-free equity from their homes during the first half of 2018. The majority of these people used the funds to either helped loved ones or spent it on home improvements.

•£3.06 billion

Equity release lending broke the £3 billion barrier for the first time in 2017. As more people access wealth built up in their homes, the figure is expected to be significantly higher by the end of December 2018.

•316,000

Research by Property Reporter suggests that up to 316,000 UK parents will have a hand in their children’s first property purchase. Tax-free equity release is becoming one of the most popular solutions available to parents looking to give their offspring a leg-up onto the housing ladder.

•£270,000

Data supplied by upmarket estate agents Savills shows that people aged 55 and over have an estimated £2.8 trillion wrapped up in their properties. The average amount of wealth built up in each home equates to more than £270,000.

For more financial advice, take a look at Peter Sharkey’s weekly column, The Week In Numbers.

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