Over 60s sitting on £841 billion housing equity goldmine

Article date: 25 September 2007

With two thirds of homeowners over 60 getting by on under £10,000 a year, Norwich Union data reveals that they now have over £841 billion* or an average of £82,446 each, tied up in bricks and mortar. Yet only one-in-10 knows how much their home is worth and just 6% would consider selling their property to raise capital.

This surprising research** was compiled following face-to-face interviews with 1903 over 60s undertaken on behalf of one of the UK's leading providers of equity release in the UK. Older people in the South East have benefited most from England's buoyant house price increases and currently have £173 billion available to potentially improve their retirement financing. Over 60s in the North East had the smallest retirement goldmine with £30 billion available.

Despite the existence of this equity, the research revealed that most people in this age group were unaware of the real value of their homes with only 10% of respondents able to say that they knew precisely how much their house was worth. Those between 60-69 years old (13%) appeared to be more in touch with the value of their properties than older respondents (over 80 years old - 6%).

This low level of pricing knowledge is unsurprising as over half (54%) of over 60s admitted that they had never had their home valued and 30% said they last had it valued more than 10 years ago. With the value of homes in England rising an astonishing 213% since 1997***, the difference between the perceived and actual value is likely to be significant.  

Although selling a property to increase in-retirement income might seem to be the most logical option, over 60s appear to be very attached to their homes. Indeed, 68% would never consider selling their homes, although marginally more men (33%) than women (31%) expressed a willingness to move. 

Of the remaining respondents, 26% would only consider finding a new home if life-changing events such as a partner's death, decreased mobility or a move into long-term care occurred. However, as revealed above, a small number of over-60s (6%) did say they would consider selling their property to release money.

However, while this could potentially increase the amount of funds available, it is not without its costs - something that most respondents underestimated. The average cost of moving including expenses such as agency fees, stamp duty and solicitor fees is £9,500****. Only 20% of respondents would correctly budget this figure or more if they were to move. Of the remaining over-60s, 43% did realise how much it may cost to move and 37% underestimated the cost of moving.

The refusal to consider moving and the attachment that the majority of respondents felt for their homes is unsurprising as three in five (60%) respondents had been in the same home for over 20 years. Indeed, only 20% had been in their current homes for less than ten years. 

With 94% of over 60s unwilling to sell their homes to improve their retirement income, there is a potential solution to this crisis that does not involve consumers selling their entire property - equity release. To inform the public about this option, Norwich Union has launched an informative film (available in VHS or DVD format) about equity release. To request a copy people should call 0800 404 7137.

Dominic Fraser-Smith, group product manager at Norwich Union Post Retirement Products, commented: "It is upsetting to see that two thirds of over-60s are just getting by on £10,000 or less per year while sitting in what is potentially a retirement goldmine that could dramatically improve their quality of life. The value of the equity within the properties of this age group is a staggering £841 billion or an average of approximately £82,000 and people need to consider using their most valuable asset to improve their retirement.

"Equity release offers consumers the opportunity to access the financial value of their property without incurring moving costs or leaving the home they love, so it can be a handy solution to a difficult problem." 

An equity release policy will affect the amount of capital planholders are able to leave to their dependents and could affect any state benefits they receive. There are costs involved when taking out an equity release plan.


* Data derived from analysis of information from Datamonitor and Office of National Statistics.
** Face-to-face interviews between 28 August 2007 and 11 September 2007 with 1903 consumers of which 1903 owned their own properties
*** Data derived from analysis of Halifax House Price Index.
**** propertyfinder.com - average cost of moving - £9,486 - March 2007

Press office contacts:                     

Norwich Union
Sarah Horner 01904 452828 Out of hours 07800 691569
Louise Soulsby 01904 452617 Out of hours 07800 699526

The Wriglesworth Consultancy
Laura O'Connell / Lee Blackwell / Suman Katyal
Telephone: 0207 845 7900
E-mail: s.katyal@wriglesworth.com

Notes to editors:

About Norwich Union
Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer. It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers.  FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

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