16 April 2021 by Melanie Carroll

A more modern Equity Release Market

The Equity Release Council (ERC) has launched a member endorsement mark as part of a brand refresh to reflect a more modern equity release market.

The ERC (formerly Safe Home Income Plans) was established 30 years ago, bringing voluntary regulation to the equity release market and providing a greater focus on consumers.

The new endorsement mark provides a ‘badge of trust’ for both potential and existing consumers, reflecting the security which the ERC’s standards provide.  It will also act as a recognisable statement of quality, providing both confidence and reassurance, and demonstrating the members’ commitment to professionalism.

The ERC have also appointed a “Risk, Policy and Compliance” team to drive forwards the consumer centric evolution – there’s also a new competency framework for advisors to support good practice, with one to follow for lawyers in the future.

We’ve been a member of the ERC for a number of years, which demonstrates that we take our responsibilities and obligations seriously and want to provide the highest standards and service levels to clients.  Whilst the equity release market has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, the commitment to quality has remained at its core.  Throughout the global pandemic, the ERC has reacted to the changing times with great agility and flexibility, with a revolutionary ‘stay at home’ process for lawyers to adhere to when advising clients.

The ERC has long insisted that legal advice be provided ‘face to face’ and, whilst this may still be necessary in certain cases, in others the rules have been relaxed to enable meetings to take place by Facetime, Zoom or Skype.   The sector has been nimble and innovative to ensure the equity release market continues to thrive during the most challenging of years.

Equity release has become more mainstream, not only providing a solution to current financial issues, but as part of wider tax and later life planning, such as:

  • Paying off existing mortgages or other borrowing
  • Helping family members buy property – ‘bank of mum and dad’
  • Making alterations to ‘future proof’ the home
  • Once in a lifetime holidays or other ‘big ticket’ items
  • Ensuring an income for those ‘asset rich’ but ‘cash poor’
  • Inheritance tax planning

It’s important to bear in mind that there may be other alternatives to equity release such as:

  • Renting a room in your home
  • Selling off part of your property – for example, garden land
  • Downsizing
  • Raising finance from friends or family

If you decide to proceed with an equity release mortgage, then you’ll need expert legal advice to discuss the above and we can help with this.  As members of the ERC, we can provide this advice to you either ‘face to face’ or using the ‘stay at home’ process. For further information on equity release, please contact Melanie Carroll.

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