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CML: Homeowners baulk at releasing housing wealth – survey

by: Heather Greig-Smith
  • 02/02/2017
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CML: Homeowners baulk at releasing housing wealth – survey
Few homeowners intend to release housing wealth at retirement, according to research from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

The CML said research conducted for it by YouGov last year showed only 4% of all homeowners had definite plans to use some housing wealth to supplement pension income or to finance large expenditures at or near retirement.

The figure was only a few percentage points higher among retirement age respondents – 5% for 65-74 year olds and 7% for those aged 75 and over.

20170202-news-views-chart-2-likelihood-of-releasing-housing-equity-near-retirement-by-age

Nearly 2,000 respondents were asked whether it makes sense for homeowners to release some of the value of their property to provide additional income or cover living costs in their later years.

Views on this were split almost equally, with more than a quarter of respondents undecided.

Those who are not homeowners were generally more positive about the idea of unlocking housing equity in this way than homeowners – those who may find themselves in a position actually to be able to do so.

There were age differences – with younger homeowners more sanguine about releasing equity later in life. However, among 65-74 year olds, those who already had mortgages were much more disposed to using housing wealth than outright owners, who make up the lion’s share of this age bracket.

This reticence changes in the 75 and older bracket, where respondents were more positive about releasing housing wealth.

20170202-news-views-chart-1-those-believing-it-sensible-to-release-housing-equity-net-percentage-balance-by-age

“With so much being written about inter-generational inequalities of income and wealth, it is easy to imagine that masses of older households are feathering their retirement years by unlocking housing wealth to supplement their already generous pension entitlements,” said CML chief economist Bob Pannell.

“The truth, as is often the case, is rather less colourful.”

Take-up of lifetime mortgages has increased considerably over the past few years, but from a low starting point.

The CML said initial figures show 24,000 borrowers taking out £1.5bn in the twelve months to September, which represents just 0.8% of the total value of residential mortgage lending.

“While it is true that more firms have begun to offer lifetime mortgages and other equity release products, many of the high street and other mainstream lenders are interested but wary of the reputational risks associated with lending to older households,” said Pannell.

People show considerable uncertainty about their likely future behaviour, and especially when this is several decades into the future. Even among the retirement age cohorts, a quarter of respondents are unsure of their plans.

However, the CML said this current snapshot suggests that a confidence about unlocking housing equity progressively gives way to a growing resolve not to do so.

“But, with the exception of the oldest age cohort, these views are not set in stone,” said Pannell.

“As pension arrangements become progressively less generous or complete for those approaching retirement in the future, we are likely to see both growing demand for unlocking housing wealth and opportunities for mortgage lenders and other providers to develop products that address the financial needs of older households.”

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