What is the catch with Equity Release?

"What is the catch with equity release?" is one of the many questions potential applicants ask.

Equity release has increasingly become a popular financial solution for homeowners over the age of 55, who wish to access the equity tied up in their homes without the need to sell the property.

This financial arrangement allows individuals to either borrow against the value of their home (Lifetime Mortgage) or sell part of it (Home Reversion Plan), providing a lump sum or regular income while still being able to live in their home. As attractive as it sounds, especially for supplementing retirement income, many people approach equity release with caution. Common concerns often arise.

In this article, we’re looking to explore and address “what is the catch with equity release?” which is one that many potential applicants ask, ensuring that you’re well-informed about the implications of deciding to release equity from your home. We’ll look into potential pitfalls of equity release and help to clarify whether it’s the right financial move for you.

As a significant financial decision, it’s crucial to understand the details and consider both the benefits and the drawbacks. By the end of this discussion, you should have a clear understanding of the complexities involved in equity release and be better equipped to decide if it aligns with your financial goals.

The points we’ll touch on in this article will be:

  1. Compound Interest on Lifetime mortgages
  2. Implications of Age
  3. “Setup & forget”
  4. Early repayment charges
  5. The Pitfalls of Equity Release
  6. Alternatives to Equity Release


Request our Equity Release brochure

Request our Equity Release brochure

How much equity could I access?

How much equity could I access?


Catch: Lifetime Mortgages: Compound Interest

One of the most significant “catches” in equity release is the effect of compound interest on lifetime mortgages. Lifetime mortgages are a popular type of equity release scheme where you take out a loan secured against your home while retaining ownership. The key factor to understand here is how compound interest accumulates over the duration of the loan.

Understanding Compound Interest

Compound interest means that interest is charged not only on the initial amount borrowed but also on the accumulated interest from previous periods. This can significantly increase the amount you owe over the years.

Unlike a standard mortgage, where monthly payments reduce the debt, the interest on a lifetime mortgage typically rolls up, with the interest compounding over time. This means no monthly repayments are necessary, but the debt can grow quickly.

Example of Compound Interest in a Lifetime Mortgage

Let’s consider an example to illustrate how compound interest works in the context of a lifetime mortgage.

Assume now that you are 60 years old and decide to release £25,000 from your home at an interest rate of 5% compounded annually. You choose not to make any interest repayments, allowing the interest to accumulate.

Here’s how the debt can grow over 10, 15, and 20 years:

Year Balance at the Start of the Year (£) Interest for the Year (£) Total Debt by End of Year (£)
0 25,000 25,000
1 25,000 1,250 26,250
5 31,907 1,595 33,502
10 40,723 2,036 42,759
15 52,231 2,612 54,843
20 66,993 3,350 70,343

This table shows that even with a lower initial amount, the effect of compound interest remains significant: the debt nearly triples after 20 years. This emphasises the importance of understanding how compound interest can escalate the total debt over the lifespan of the loan.

It also highlights the potential financial implications for the equity left in your home and what will eventually pass on to your heirs.

Request Our Equity Release Brochure

Request Our Equity Release Brochure

How much equity could I access?

How much equity could I access?

Overall, our experience with Premier Equity Release has been first class, and we can confidently recommend them to anyone needing sound unbiased advice on Equity Release lending.

Mr & Mrs Baxter, Northamptonshire

Catch: Implications of Age on Borrowing

Age is a crucial factor in determining both the borrowing capacity and the interest rates in equity release plans. As you consider entering into an equity release agreement, it’s important to understand how your age at the onset of the agreement influences the terms and conditions of your plan.

Age and Borrowing Capacity

When it comes to equity release, the older you are at the time of application, the more you are typically able to borrow.

This is primarily because lenders calculate the loan amount based on the estimated duration the loan will be outstanding. Older applicants are perceived as having a shorter loan period due to life expectancy, which decreases the potential duration of compound interest accumulation. This allows lenders to offer a larger initial sum.

For example:
A homeowner who is 65 years old may be able to release up to 25% of their property’s value, whereas an 80-year-old could potentially release up to 40% or more. This scaling up with age reflects the reduced risk to the lender in terms of the loan’s longevity.

How does Age affect Interest Rates?

The interest rate offered on an equity release plan can also vary with the age of the applicant.

Typically, younger applicants might face higher interest rates compared to older applicants. The rationale behind this is similar to borrowing capacity: the longer the expected term of the loan, the more risk the lender faces in terms of future house price fluctuations and longer periods of interest accumulation.

By charging higher interest rates, lenders mitigate the risk of longer loan durations associated with younger borrowers.


Consider two friends. One is 65 years old and decides to take an equity release plan; with an offered interest rate of 6%. In contrast, friend two, who is 75, opts for a similar plan but is offered an interest rate of 5.5%. Although the difference might seem small, compounded over many years (as displayed in the table above), this can significantly affect the total amount that will be owed by each, and the equity left in their homes.

This is considered a “catch” of equity release as noted above there are implications of compounding interest to understand. Therefore, those who are taking out equity release who are below 60 are more likely to be at the risk of compounding interest.

See here for more information on equity release interest rates.

Catch: ‘Set Up and Forget’: Why Regular Reviews are Crucial.

One common mistake with lifetime mortgages is adopting a ‘set up and forget’ approach, which can lead to overpaying thousands of pounds due to neglecting regular plan reviews.

Regularly reviewing your lifetime mortgage is vital for several reasons:

Monitoring Interest Rates

Although you usually agree to a set interest rate for the whole term of the lifetime mortgage interest rates can fluctuate, impacting the cost of your loan. Regular reviews can help you identify opportunities to switch to more favourable rates, potentially saving significant amounts over time.

Adjusting to Changes

Lifetime mortgages often offer flexible features, such as the ability to make voluntary repayments. Regular assessments allow you to adjust your plan based on your current financial situation and take advantage of features that reduce interest buildup.

Assessing Property Value Changes

The value of your home may change, affecting your equity. If your home’s value increases, you might be able to renegotiate your lifetime mortgage terms or explore other financial options that better suit your updated equity status.

Here’s an example:

Imagine Helen and Robert, who took out a lifetime mortgage ten years ago for £50,000 with an interest of 5%. During these 10 years they have decided not to pay back any interest therefore over 10 years they will have accumulated £31,444.73 of compounding interest. However, had they reviewed after two years and switched to a lower rate of 4% on £55,125 (loan + two years compounded interest at 5%) given market changes, they could have reduced their debt accumulation to £20,317.37, Saving over £10,000 and preserving more capital to pass to their heirs.


Request Our Equity Release Brochure

Request Our Equity Release Brochure

How much equity could I access?

How much equity could I access?


Whatever your plans and ambitions, we can help.

If you have ideas about how you could put the equity tied up in your home to good use, give us a call today and speak to a helpful, professional adviser.

Catch: Early Repayment Charges (ERCs)

Early Repayment Charges (ERCs) are a critical aspect of equity release plans, particularly lifetime mortgages, that borrowers must consider before deciding to repay their loan early. These charges can significantly influence the cost-effectiveness of repaying a loan ahead of schedule.

What are ERCs?

ERC stands for Early Repayment Charges, which are fees lenders may impose if you decide to repay your equity release plan earlier than agreed. These charges are designed to compensate the lender for the loss of expected interest over the loan term.

Structure of ERCs

The structure of ERCs typically depends on the remaining term of the mortgage and the interest rate environment. Some common structures include:

  • Fixed Percentage: A set percentage of the loan amount is charged if the loan is repaid within a certain period.
  • Variable Rate: ERCs that decrease over time, often structured in tiers. For example, the charge might be higher if you repay in the first five years than in the next five.
  • Exception Clauses: Some plans include clauses that allow for penalty-free repayments under certain conditions, such as the death of a spouse or moving into long-term care.

Potential Costs and Considerations

The costs associated with early repayment can be substantial, sometimes amounting to several percent(%) of the total loan amount. For example, repaying a £100,000 loan could incur charges ranging from £5,000 to £25,000 depending on the terms.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand the specific ERC terms when you first agree to a lifetime mortgage.

Before deciding to repay early, consider:

  • Financial Impact: Assess whether the cost of ERCs outweighs the benefits of clearing the debt early.
  • Changes in Circumstances: Consider how changes in your circumstances or interest rates might affect the decision to repay early.

Pitfalls of Equity Release

One significant risk in equity release is borrowing more money than you need. This practice can lead to unnecessarily high-interest costs and reduced home equity, impacting your financial health and estate planning.

Increased Costs

Borrowing more than required results in larger debt accumulations due to compound interest. Over time, even a small additional amount can grow into a significant liability, increasing the total cost of the loan disproportionately.

Impact on Equity

Over-borrowing can erode the equity in your home faster than anticipated, potentially leaving less for inheritance or future needs, such as long-term care. It’s crucial to calculate how much money you truly need before deciding on the amount to release.

For more information, please see our full article on the pitfalls of equity release.

Alternatives to Equity Release: Exploring Other Financial Options

For those considering equity release, it’s important to be aware of other financial options that might suit your needs without tapping into the equity of your home. Here are a few alternatives:


Selling your current home and moving to a smaller, less expensive property can free up cash and reduce living expenses without accruing debt.

Personal Loans or Credit Lines

For smaller sums, personal loans or credit lines may offer shorter-term financing solutions with potentially lower overall costs compared to equity release.

Pension Drawdown

If you have a pension fund, drawing down from it could provide a stream of income, although this would reduce your pension pot and future income.

For more information, please see our full article on the alternatives to equity release.


Equity release is safe and perfectly suitable as long as you understand the nuances of equity release schemes as highlighted above, such as the accumulation of compound interest, the implications of early repayment charges, and the potential risks of over-borrowing.

Being aware of these aspects helps in making informed decisions that align with your long-term financial and lifestyle goals. for further information about Equity Release see our helpful Equity Release FAQs.

If you’re considering equity release or simply want more information about your options, we encourage you to reach out to our trusted advisors. We’ve helped many people with equity release schemes across East Anglia. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing clear, unbiased advice to help you make the best decisions about your financial future.

Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you in navigating equity release and explore solutions that work best for you. Don’t hesitate—take the first step towards securing your financial independence in retirement. Request our brochure or call us now to start your consultation.

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How much equity could I access?


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Who do we work with?

There are a few key providers in the Equity Release market that also work within the Equity Release Council’s guidelines. As trusted providers, we’re happy to work with all of them: