Why Release Equity From Your Home? Can it Ease Financial Pressure?

Equity release is the process by which people who are over 55 years of age are able to unlock equity in their home, subject to meeting the lender’s criteria. This can be done either through a lifetime mortgage, where you receive a lump sum or a regular income while interest ‘rolls up’ or through a home reversion scheme, where a company buys all or part of your home and you receive the proceeds as a lump sum, regular income or a combination of both. Both schemes come with ‘no negative equity guarantees’ and the monies are repayable upon the death of the owner, or second owner if there are two.There are a huge variety of products available that are becoming more innovative and complex so it is vital that you use a suitably experienced independent financial advisor and solicitor to guide you through the process.Nowadays people heading toward retirement are finding out that they don’t have enough cash to live on or to live the kind of lifestyle they would like, even though they own their house outright. For an increasing number of them, equity release may have to be considered as an option to supplement their income or, given the current credit crunch, to consolidate debts – but it is important to note that it should only be used as a last resort, having looked at all the alternatives first.So what has changed about releasing equity from your home? Firstly, there has been a concerted attempt to clean up the industry through the instigation of a voluntary code of conduct policed by SHIP (Safe Home Income Plans). Secondly, there are many new products available today that were not previously. For example one UK law firm has launched a new service designed to assist older people through the equity release process by introducing the option of a home visit if the clients are unable to attend their offices. The firm has recognised the value in face to face meetings in an area where clients are potentially vulnerable and it marks a return to more traditional levels of service, having seen an era where residential property matters are frequently dealt with remotely by post and email.As well as offering the option of meeting in the comfort of their own home, the service also ensures that the home owner fully understands the legal process as well as the risks and implications of entering into the equity release. The lawyer will also ensure that the financial advisor has covered all of the key areas in their ‘suitability report’ which will help inspire confidence in the process.However, the real message is that anyone considering equity release should still think very carefully before making this decision; have you consulted with your children or beneficiaries of your estate? Do you know whether it will impact upon your tax position or welfare benefits? Are you aware of the consequences if you entered residential care? Have you been made aware that most of your equity could be eaten up which reduces flexibility in the future? Could you raise the funds through a grant, gift from a family member or could you afford an interest only mortgage? A good financial advisor will cover all of this and more, and by working alongside a solicitor with a proven track record in the equity release field you will be able to make an informed decision.Equity release has had some bad press in the past, and it is certainly not the answer for everyone but if you take your time to peruse a few of the very helpful information web sites and take advice from the right people you will know whether equity release is the solution for you.This article is free to republish provided the authors resource box below remains intact.