According to a recent report the popularity of equity release schemes is on the up, and experts state that the quality and service in this area is also improving.
Equity release schemes have gained a bad reputation and have been at the centre of controversy, with one equity release provider recently being fined by the Financial Services Authority for giving inaccurate advice to consumers. However, despite its poor reputation equity release is becoming a hit with older homeowners.
According to Norwich Union these equity release schemes are particularly popular with homeowners that are close to retirement. In a survey of 1600 people between the ages of 50 and 56 one in ten stated that they would consider equity release programmes in the future. These schemes were not as popular with those that had already retired, with survey results showing that only one in twenty retired consumers would look at equity release.
One equity release worker stated that the information provided to consumers these days is far more detailed and comprehensive.
She said: ‘The market today is very different. The paperwork given to customers before they sign goes so much further. It really shows what they’re getting into.’
A Prudential equity release customer also said: ‘I was afraid of the financial bits, but my neighbour sat in on one of the meetings. It told me how much I could draw down and I’ve taken about a third of an agreed maximum.’
She added: ‘The compound interest rate is the nasty bit. The man from the Pru worked out that on average I’m likely to live another 27 years. He then told me how much I’d owe, based on the interest rate, if I borrowed varying amounts over various times.’
26th November 2007
A recent report has revealed that many consumers in the UK are being advised to lie about their earnings on mortgage applications forms in order to enable them to get a larger loan – one that many cannot realistically afford based on their actual earning as opposed to the inflated amount that they state they earn.
This advice is being given to those that self certify, which means that they state their own income and this is often not checked out or verified by the lender.
A number of industry professionals, such as brokers and advisers, have been found to have been advising consumers to put down that they earn far more than they actually do, and this means that they get a larger mortgage loan. However, it also means that the repayments are far higher, as the lender will have based affordability on the earnings reported on the application form.
One man told investigators that he had managed to get a mortgage for eight times his salary by stating that he earned £50,000 per year as advised to do so by his financial adviser – he was actually earning half of that amount. As a result, stated the consumers, he was left repaying a huge mortgage that takes up the vast majority of his income, and has even had to deal with the threat of repossession through difficulties with affordability.
Campaigners are now urging financial regulators to look into this practice and put a stop to it, as it could add to the problems that have spread from the sub-prime market in the United States, leaving many of those in the sub-prime sector unable to cope with their repayments. The practice came to light following an investigation conducted by the BBC.
24th October 2007
Rumours surrounding emergency loans allegedly taken out by Barclays Bank from the Bank of England have resulted in the bank’s shares taking a tumble. The UK banking giant recently saw its shares fall to their lowest level in two and a half years. In August rumours began when the bank is said to have taken two emergency overnight loans from the Bank of England. The bank has defended its actions, stating that the loans were due to technical difficulties, but with the crisis that hit Northern Rock still fresh in the minds of many it was inevitable that Barclay’s actions would eventually affect its share prices. Read more
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has stressed the importance of consumers being careful not to borrow money that they cannot afford, and lenders being more careful about who they lend money to.
Mr King stated that consumer debt levels in the UK could lead to a major debt crisis. And with another interest rate rise due in July – which will be the fifth interest rate rise since last August – many more people in the UK could find themselves struggling with unmanageable debt.
Speaking at the Mansion House Banquet in London, Mr King addressed families and individuals, stating: ‘be cautious about how much you borrow’.
He also addressed lenders stating: ‘be cautious about how much you lend’.
At last month’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting Mr King actually voted for a quarter percent rise in interest rates, but the majority vote was to keep interest rates stable in June. However, this month’s meeting is likely to see a different result, and a further quarter percent rise is widely predicted.
At the dinner – also attended by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown – Mr King stated: ‘Be cautious about how much you borrow is not a bad maxim for each and every one of us here tonight.’
He also addressed lenders, adding: ‘Excessive leverage is the common theme of many financial crises of the past. Are we really so much cleverer than the financiers of the past?’
One LibDem spokesman said: ‘A combination of an economic slowdown and higher interest rates could spell disaster for large numbers of heavily-indebted families. If interest rates rise further, many home owners will simply not be able to pay.’
And the Shadow Chancellor added: ‘Millions of people are struggling as the cost of living is rising faster than their incomes.’
9th July 2007
Home credit lenders have recently been targeted by the Competition Commission in the UK, and the industry has been told that it needs to make things easier for consumers in the UK when it comes to comparing deals and repayments on finance offered by home credit companies. The commission also added that the industry needed to ensure that consumers that repaid the loan earlier than arranged received some form of rebate. However, the commission has decided not to enforce a price cap, as officials state that this could hit some consumers hard.
Research showed that the average sum borrowed by UK consumers in the form of home credit was £300, with loans starting from around £100. The home credit industry has nearly two and a half million customers in the UK, and the majority of these borrow under five hundred pounds in the form of home credit. The Competition Commission, however, has decided not to place any price cap as more vulnerable consumers that may need more could otherwise find themselves in difficulties.
After it came to light that a small number of home credit companies were controlling the market when it came to this type of finance, the commission was said to be ‘opening the market’ when it came to home credit. The commission is in the stages of doing this, and has stated that lenders in this industry will need to publish their data on a website, so that consumers can then easily compare terms and costs in order to get the best deals.
With regards to its decision not to enforce price caps, the chairman of the commission said that he thought that capping might have “…reduced the availability of home credit to the most vulnerable customers, specifically those with no access to alternative sources of credit. We also felt that price caps could prove to be extremely difficult to apply and enforce in this industry.”
20 years after HSBC and Barclays introduced the concept of free banking to the UK, HSBC have announced that it is now time to pull the plug on this popular product and re-introduce a charge for using its banking services.
At present, HSBC has announced that it will limit charging the fee to its online banking arm, First Direct. Moreover, the fee charge of £10 per month will not be applied to all customers of First Direct. The “lucky” First Direct customers who will find themselves subject to the £10 monthly fee will be those who fail to make deposits of at least £1,500 per month or those who do not maintain an average balance of £1,500 on their current accounts.
While it is true to say that the UK has remained one of a very few select countries to maintain free current account banking for those bank customers who do not go overdrawn, over time this has probably been one of the most popular products that major UK banks have offered. Nevertheless, it seems, in this case, that the success of free current account banking in the UK has also been its eventual down-fall, with many leading UK banks having made grumbling noises over the past year or so that the because the UK has free current account banking, this no longer makes the banks competitive with their European and American competition, the majority of whom already charge for current account services.
To many of the 1.3 million customers of First Direct, however, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow. UK banks made record profits in 2005, so to now be told that the bank is no longer competitive with its overseas rivals merely because it has not been arbitrarily applying a monthly fee £10 on certain financially disadvantaged customers may just sound a little like sour grapes.
Thankfully, other leading UK banks, such as Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HBOS and Lloyds TSB, have decided not to follow the lead of HSBC at this time. However, with most UK bank’s looking to recoup the estimated £1 billion in lost revenue following the Office of Fair Trading’s forced cut to penalties applied on late credit card payments, it would need optimism of the highest order to believe they won’t follow suit soon, a view clearly echoed by a spokeswomen for Royal Bank of Scotland, owners of Nat West, who, when asked RBS’s stance on the issue, was quoted as saying that: “There are no current plans, but you can never completely rule options out in the long term”.
In the meantime, the estimated 200,000 customers of First Direct who are likely to be directly affected by this latest move now have until February 2007, when the new charges will come into effect, to either get their accounts in order so that they do not fall foul of the new charges or to look for alternative free banking arrangements.
Kindly, however, First Direct have given the 200,000 or so estimated customers it says will likely be effected by this move a ‘get out of jail’ free card: the bank will agree to waive the fee if the customer agrees to take out another First Direct product – such as a loan or insurance.