Equity release growth halted in 2019

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The equity release market’s rapid growth came to a halt in 2019, with the total staying flat compared to 2018.

There was £3.92bn of housing equity withdrawn, down slightly from £3.94bn in 2018, figures from trade body the Equity Release Council show.

However, the market has still grown four-fold in the last decade, with the amount withdrawn rising from £945.97m in 2009.

David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “After a period of steady growth, the market has reached a point of consolidation in 2019 with lending volumes in line with 2018.

“The sector enters 2020 in a strong position with updated standards and a greater number of diverse members signed up than ever before.”

Despite the slowdown the final quarter of 2019 was one of the busiest quarters on record, with more than £1bn released.

Alice Watson, head of marketing, insurance, Canada Life, expects the equity release market to continue growing.

She said: “2019 was a difficult year for most parts of the UK economy and that’s reflected in today’s ERC stats.

“But the start of a new decade could herald further expansion for the equity release market, if it builds on the successful foundations of the previous decade: strong customer safeguards, adviser support and a relentless focus on giving customers the flexibility and certainty they want.

“There is still much work to be done – customer misconceptions and negative perceptions of equity release continue to hold back the industry. The industry must work together to overcome these obstacles to growth.

“The strong finish to 2019 is a positive sign for the industry and coincided with a time when wider economic trends indicated a more positive picture for the UK economy. Should these trends persist, and the industry continue to offer innovative products, the market is all but certain to return to expansion in 2020 and beyond.”

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