Equity release lending falls 61% to £722m

25th May 2023

Equity release lending plummeted by 61% to £722 million in the first three months of the year compared to 12 months ago, following turmoil in the mortgage market after the mini-Budget according to research by equity release specialist, Key.  

The data showed that plan sales dropped from 12,551 to 6,975 while the value of new equity released fell from £1.399bn to £569.9 million, compared with the same period last year. Once borrowing by existing customers is included, total lending in the first three months of 2022 was £722 million.

While Key’s detailed analysis shows that demand remains high, the mini budget has impacted rates, product availability and loan-to-values which has seen fewer people access their equity in what has traditionally been the strongest quarter for the equity release market. A cautious approach from customers supported by specialist advice has also damped volumes and put to rest any fears that equity release is being used as a short-term solution for the cost-of-living crisis. Customers on average still released £81,703 which was down on the £111,511 released on average at the start of last year.

Repaying mortgages accounted for a third (34%) of the total value of equity released ages in the three months and 15% went on remortgaging existing plans. The number of customers using some of the equity released to pay off unsecured debt dropped from 29% last year to 20% in the first three months of 2023 which may be explained by people focusing on more immediate needs such as repaying mortgages – especially as those coming off fixed rates deals may be facing a significant hike in monthly payments.

Interestingly, while almost half (45%) of customers used some of the proceeds of equity release to pay for home and garden improvements, it accounted for only 11% of the amount released and spending focused on essential maintenance such as central heating, windows and doors as well as rewiring rather than aspirational additions. The proportion of customers using housing equity to support family and friends remained steady at 19% year-on-year but the proportion of equity used fell from 15% (Q1 2022) to 13% (Q1 2023).

Who are the customers The average age of customers increased by a year to 71 partly reflecting the more cautious approach taken by customers as younger applicants were more likely to wait until LTVs are more appealing. Just 27% of customers during the three months were under 65.

There was a 5% increase in the number of single women – which includes divorced or widowed customers – to 31% of the customer base. More than half (54%) of customers were couples and 15% men. 

Will Hale, CEO at Key, said “There is no denying that the first quarter of 2023 was a tough one for the equity release industry. However, as rates start to fall, confidence returns and the product flexibilities are increasingly appreciated, green shoots are returning to the market with April and May seeing more positive volumes.”

“Speaking to customers, we know that there is pent up demand as people look to boost retirement income, tackle rising costs and support their families. However, with the support of their adviser, they are being cautious around when to borrow, how much to borrow and considering if there are other options which better support their needs – both in the long and short term.”

“Advice is highly personalised, and we do anticipate that customers will return to the market determined to make more use of the flexibilities such as the ability to service interest or make ad hoc penalty-free repayments. The recognition of the value that these features provide is vital and I would be entirely unsurprised if we saw innovation accelerate in this market, as we seek to bridge the gap in the later life lending market for those customers whose needs are not currently being met due to the LTV constraints with traditional lifetime mortgages, and affordability barriers with Retirement Interest Only Mortgages”

“This – to my mind – is what will help to ensure that the remaining quarters of 2023 are more akin to those seen in previous years and we are able to help those customers who may need a later life lending option but have a more diverse set of requirements than we can currently cater for.”