CML unveils equity release research

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has released research examining the slowed growth of the equity release market in the UK.

The report, Please release me! A review of the equity release market in the UK, its potential and consumer expectations, considers the current state and future direction of the equity release market in the UK.

While fundamentals such as growth in housing wealth, an aging population and potential pension shortfalls mean there is huge potential for the UK equity release market, the sector has so far seen only steady growth.

Markets in Australia, New Zealand and the USA have the same underlying fundamentals and have developed more strongly than the UK.

The report reviews research in Australia that shows changing consumer attitudes to equity release; with younger households more comfortable drawing on their housing assets and less worried about inheritance.

In the US, the government has played a key role in developing the market by guaranteeing lenders against any loss through some equity release products.

The research explores the issues that may have restrained the UK market including: the government view that equity release has limited relevance as it cannot help the poorest; the negative press coverage on past difficulties in the market; and the view that equity release carries a reputational risk which deters some larger lenders from the market.

The report suggests that a more positive stance from government and the involvement of some larger lenders could transform the market in the UK.

Peter Williams, an independent consultant, says: “Looking at the wider context it is clear that equity release will continue to grow. The reality, however, is that it will grow much bigger and faster if the industry moves forward in more creative ways.

“Part of the task is making it clear this option is both available and attractive with known limited downsides. Demand for equity release products could be speeded up and extended if government played a more creative and active role around the issue of helping homeowners access the value of their homes. “

Williams says the government should recognise that, given its concern to build a society in which ownership of assets is a priority, it should help create and sustain ways in which people can exploit their property assets.