Why we’re proud of the equity release sector
2 June 2020
A once-in-a-lifetime challenge
No-one had planned for a pandemic of the proportions of the coronavirus – and none of us had solutions for almost total lockdown. It’s posed intense challenges for keyworkers in the front line, vulnerable people who haven’t been able to go outside for weeks, parents juggling home schooling with working from home… no-one has been immune from the ramifications of social distancing and the need to curb the spread of Covid-19.
It has also impacted on businesses of all shapes and sizes and in all sectors – some, such as the hospitality sector, decisively; others, such as those who work in the digital world, less dramatically.
The equity release sector faced particular challenges – and we’re proud of how every element has risen to these to find new, innovative ways of working so we can carry on helping people aged 55 and over, especially in these financially challenging times.
How the equity release sector has adapted to the coronavirus challenge
We have always offered our equity release advice face to face – we think it’s important that you feel completely comfortable, so we’ve always visited our clients in their own homes, if that’s what they want. As an important financial commitment, the Equity Release Council (ERC) has always insisted that clients have at least one face-to-face meeting with a solicitor to provide them with expert legal advice and to check their identity in person. On their side, lenders have always required property inspections by qualified surveyors to safeguard their investment.
Of course, when the social distancing rules were introduced, none of this was possible anymore. But our industry responded quickly to find new ways of working to protect our clients and our professionals:
- Lenders: Most lenders now accept desk-top valuations, carried out by the same professional surveyors, but using information about properties available online. To protect themselves, the lenders have imposed some restrictions on the size of the loan you can take out in relation to the value of your property (loan-to-value ratio) and some other general restrictions.
- Legal advice: The ERC has relaxed the rule that solicitors must meet clients in person; meetings can now take place over the telephone and via video calls.
- Our expert equity release advice: At 55Plus Equity Release we quickly introduced remote client meetings, offering our advice over the telephone and video calls. We also are happy to advise how to set up platforms such as WhatsApp, Facetime and Zoom to clients who are not familiar with them.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that throws up challenges in the way that the coronavirus lockdown has. However, the swift response of our industry means we are able to help people aged 55 and over who want to consider accessing their property wealth as part of their financial solution – and we’re proud of the ingenuity and flexibility that has made this possible.