The equity release market has started to feel the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, as the latest research from Moneyfacts.co.uk reveals that the cost of lifetime mortgages is on the rise and the number of deals has fallen, with some lenders moving to consolidate their options.
In April, over two-thirds of lifetime mortgage lenders increased rates on selected deals, showing clear signs that the market is moving away from the rate cut competition seen just a few months before – which had resulted in the average rate falling to a record low.
Indeed, the average equity release rate for fixed and variable deals stands at 4.34%, up from 4.23% a month ago and 4.20% in March, which was the lowest recorded rate seen on Moneyfacts electronic records that date back to 2007.
The choice of deals on the market has fallen to 357 this month, largely fuelled by Pure Retirement condensing its range of options by 60. The overall month-on-month fall of 66 options may be the start of things to come, however, there is still an abundance of deals compared to a year ago, when there were 198 options and the average rate stood at 5.00%.
Rachel Springall, Finance Expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: “Borrowers may well turn to an equity release deal if they feel equity rich but cash poor, are looking to reduce their inheritance tax bill, or to fund the cost of care if they have little to no disposable income or savings. Consumers need to decide whether a lifetime mortgage is the right choice for them and, despite over two-thirds of lenders in the market increasing rates, it is vital that borrowers do not rush into a decision and ensure they get the right advice first.
“At first glance, a drop in the number of equity release deals month-on-month may seem concerning, but it is worth pointing out that most lenders in the lifetime mortgage market are still offering an abundance of choice. If more lenders consolidate their range though, then this could be more of a sign of restructuring their options to a target market. One area for consumers and advisers to monitor is the maximum loan-to-value bands, as these could tighten, however month-on-month there has thankfully been little change.
“The equity release market has had a buoyant start to the year. Indeed, according to the Equity Release Council, during the first quarter of 2020 the number of new plans taken out hit 11,079, the most seen in any Q1 period. In fact, £1.06bn of property wealth was accessed via equity release products, up by 14% from £936m a year earlier. As the year progresses, it will be interesting to see how this activity may adapt to the ongoing influences of the Coronavirus pandemic.”