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Equity release market shows signs of return to growth

Retired homeowners released more than £3.4bn of property wealth in 2019

The equity release market showed signs of a return to growth in the last three months of 2019, figures show.

Key’s Equity Release Market Monitor reveals £921m of property wealth was released in the fourth quarter of 2019, up from £887m the year before.

The number of plan sales also increased from 11,722 to 11,820.

Retired homeowners released more than £3.4bn of property wealth in 2019, although the total value released dropped by 4% from £3.6bn while the number of new plans taken out slipped by 3% from 47,081 to 45,598.

Homeowners released nearly £9.5m of property wealth a day in 2019 but the average amount released slipped from £76,473 to £75,631.

Sales of drawdown plans – which enable customers to manage their property wealth and leave cash to be taken later – accounted for 73% of the market last year compared with 64% in 2018.

There has been a rise in the number of products on the market, with lenders launching more products which offer drawdown as a feature.

Enhanced drawdown, which offers improved terms to customers with health or lifestyle issues, accounted for 20% of sales compared with 27% for lifetime mortgages in total (8% of which was enhanced).

Will Hale, chief executive at Key, said double digit growth did not continue in 2019 because consumers were unsettled by current economic and political events and therefore chose to defer decisions around how housing equity might help them in later life.

“Although we saw small year on year falls in the value and volume of equity release taken out, the last two quarters were more upbeat and we start the year with a positive headwind fuelling the belief that we will continue to see growth in the equity release market,” he added.