Before making any decisions around equity release, it’s important to consider all possible alternatives for raising the extra cash you’d like. Even if there is no perfect alternative, you may be able to partially fund your plans through other means and reduce the amount of equity you need to release.
What are the alternatives to equity release?
There are at least ten alternatives to equity release that may offer you a better solution.
- Downsize your home
- Remortgage to release equity
- Take out a retirement interest only mortgage
- Rent out a room
- Borrow using credit cards or a personal loan
- Borrow money from family or friends
- Stick to a budget
- Use your savings and/or investments
- Apply for any grants or benefits you’re eligible for
- Get a job/ continue to work
Equity release alternatives in more detail
The following alternatives each have their own pros and cons. Whether they are viable will depend on your personal and financial situation. So to help you weigh up whether any of them could work for you, here’s more information on each, including how some compare with equity release.
1. Downsize your home
Downsizing your home could free up the money tied up in your existing property. As well as boosting your finances, a smaller property has the bonus of lower council tax, household and energy bills.
A smaller property that is easier to maintain can also help you plan for the future. For example, a property with fewer stairs may prove invaluable in later life when you are not quite as mobile as you used to be.
Downsize or equity release?
The benefit of downsizing is you get the money you need whilst retaining 100% ownership of your property value. However, downsizing can be expensive once you factor in moving costs, and could mean a change of location to find a cheaper property. If it makes sense to stay in your own home either from a financial or an emotional perspective, equity release may be more suitable.
It really depends on what downsizing means to you. Your quality of life is an important consideration. Moving to a smaller property, closer to family with lower running costs could be a wise decision, however moving to a different area away from friends and neighbours you have known for years could leave you feeling isolated.
2. Remortgage to release equity
If you have an existing mortgage, you could consider remortgaging with your existing lender or a new one. Remortgaging to a lower interest rate would give you cheaper monthly repayments whereas increasing your mortgage will free up some of the equity you have built up over the years.
Remortgaging will depend on your age, financial status and the size of the loan needed to the value of your property. It may mean higher monthly repayments or increasing the term of your mortgage, so it’s important to seek independent professional advice.
3. Take out a retirement interest only mortgage (RIO)
A retirement interest only mortgage is similar to a standard mortgage except, as the name suggests, you only make monthly repayments on the interest not the loan. The loan is usually only repaid once you have died or moved into care and the property is sold.
Also, unlike a standard mortgage, you only have to demonstrate you can repay the monthly interest repayments, so retirees generally find this type of mortgage easier to qualify for.
Remortgage or equity release?
The older you are, the harder it may be to remortgage to a standard mortgage. Not only due to your age (some lenders impose age limits), but also the length of the mortgage term and your income. You’ll need to demonstrate you have enough money each month from your earnings, pension or savings, to cover your mortgage repayments and other outgoings.
A retirement interest only mortgage overcomes any issues with the mortgage term and your age, however you’ll still need to prove you can afford to make the monthly interest payments.
With an equity release lifetime mortgage, affordability is less of an issue simply because there are no monthly repayments to make.
However, the amount needing to be repaid will be much higher than these other types of mortgage. This is because the interest on a lifetime mortgage is compounded either monthly or annually and only repaid when you die or go into long term care. So the size of the loan grows at a much faster rate.
And if you still have a mortgage on your home, the money you release must be used to pay it off first.
Ultimately, remortgaging means you will have more money to leave to family than you would equity release however you do need to be comfortable with the monthly repayments.
4. Rent out a room
If you have enough space and happy to share your property, you could consider renting out a room to raise cash. This could either be on a short-term basis, perhaps as a holiday let if you live in a tourist area, or on a longer term basis.
The Government’s rent-a-room scheme allows you to earn up to £7,500 a year tax free (or £3,750 if the income is shared with a partner) for the rental of furnished rooms.
5. Borrow using credit cards or a personal loan
Credit cards or personal loans could be an alternative to equity release, but it all depends on how much money you want to raise and how quickly.
A credit card with a low interest rate could be an option for smaller amounts or a loan for larger sums however you would need to be credit worthy and comfortable with the monthly repayments.
6. Borrow from family or friends
If you can borrow money from friends or family, it may be an easier and cheaper alternative to equity release. It would need to be something you are all happy with and to save future embarrassment and possible arguments, it’s wise to agree the terms and put repayment plans in place in advance.
7. Stick to a budget
Budgeting may seem like a strange alternative to equity release however you may be surprised at how much money you could save. Start by listing and comparing your outgoings against your income, then see where you can make cutbacks and savings.
8. Use your savings and/or investments
If you already have any savings or investments tucked away, it is worth considering whether drawing on these could be a better alternative to releasing the equity in your home. However before taking a step like this, it would be wise to seek professional financial advice first.
9. Apply for any grants or benefits you’re eligible for
When considering your options, you should check whether you are eligible for any government grants or means-tested benefits. This independent benefits calculator recommended by the UK Government, is a great place to start and will help you understand if you’re entitled to make a claim.
10. Get a job / Continue to work
If you are retired and in need of extra cash, then you may want to consider getting a job. For some, seeking full or part time work or continuing employment if you haven’t already retired could be a good alternative to releasing equity. For many though the thought of extending working life is just a step too far.
If you decide one of these alternatives to equity release will give you the extra cash you need, the value in your home will remain intact, ready for your family to inherit. However, if releasing equity is still the best option, you can be reassured that you have explored all your options before moving forward.