Andrea Rozario: Let’s get serious on equity release in 2018

Looking ahead to 2018, Andrea Rozario believes the equity release market will continue its current growth spurt and deliver positive, innovative results for homeowners

This year is quickly coming to a close and the equity release industry can look back on 2017 with a slight smile. We’re not grinning ear-to-ear just yet, but the last 12 months have been solid.

However, regardless of the fact that we are closing in on yet another annual lending record, the industry as a whole is still quite some way from breaking into the levels that I, and many other industry commentators, believe it can reach in the coming years.

I think, therefore, that 2017 should mark the end of us dilly-dallying and give us the springboard to kick on into next year. With this in mind, what can we come to expect from 2018?

Resolutions

To start on a positive note, I am certain that 12 months from now we will be hailing another record-breaking year. The recent pattern of setting, breaking, and then setting new annual lending records will continue. With our population greying as it is, and the vast majority of society not saving enough for life after work, a retirement funding solution is desperately needed.

The use of housing wealth to help fund post-work life will, therefore, continue to grow, because not only will there simply be more retired people, but many of these retirees will come to see their property as their only financial lifeline.

The over 65s still control the largest share of housing wealth in society, and this will not be changing anytime soon. Little is being done to give the much-needed leg up most of the young need to get onto the housing ladder, and house prices, despite a recent wobble, will likely continue their surge upwards. Elderly homeowners, therefore, will continue to see their home as their strongest, safest asset that could come to their rescue in retirement.

All of the above creates an environment where equity release and accessing housing wealth in retirement are bound to set new records – but is this really the point? Breaking into the billions a few years back was a nice story, but it is more symbolic than anything truly concrete and simply scratching the surface. These records mean nothing to the potential of a much larger equity release renaissance.

Delivering the best advice and products possible along with continuing innovation should be the focus of the industry, and I hope that we can tempt a few more lenders to get involved next year.

Impressive

Legal & General have been one recent newcomer who have really committed to the market.

From a standing start to market-leaders in a couple of years is mightily impressive, but we need more like them. I don’t need my crystal ball to tell you that with more providers comes more choice, more variety, more competition and a better deal and service for our clients.

Moreover, new and talented advisers will also begin to see equity release and later life lending as a serious option and a market that they could possibly specialise in. Ultimately, as the market continues to grow we will need more specialist advisers and I predict we will see them soon realise the potential in equity release, but we need more committed lenders to make this a reality!

Next year we need to really expand our reach as a market and not only attract more customers, but also new lenders and advisers. The development of new, flexible products has been a great success over the years, but we need to accelerate.

You only need to look at how drawdown lifetime mortgages have become the dominant product, rising from a niche option not so long ago, to realise that equity release is ripe for rapid change.

In 2018 we need to focus this change on taking the lifetime mortgage, and retirement lending as a whole for that matter, firmly into the mainstream. Once we have done that, we can look back on this decade with a proper grin.

Andrea Rozario is chief corporate officer at Bower Retirement