Retirement Matters

Homeowners approaching retirement face a number of challenges when considering their future and need to make their money work hard for them.


The Adam Smith Institute believes that Stamp Duty Land Tax should be scrapped. Amongst their reasons is the view that the prospect of paying stamp duty on a smaller home acts as a disincentive to older people wishing to downsize. For example, stamp duty adds another £2,500 to the cost of buying a retirement property priced at £250,000; that is in addition to solicitor’s fees, surveys, valuations and removal costs. (Figures differ under Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland and Land Transaction Tax in Wales.)


Those looking to raise cash to bolster retirement income are increasingly turning to equity release. It represents a way of accessing some of the value tied up in a property while avoiding the costs and upheaval of downsizing. Although there are set-up fees, most costs are delayed until you die or go into permanent residential care.

It’s important to remember that in most cases, equity release means that the loan you take out against the equity tied up in your property will increase over time as interest is rolled up. When you die, the property will be sold and the loan repaid. Although interest rates on equity release plans are higher than on a conventional mortgage, lower interest rates over the last few years have made equity release more attractive to many.

Remember to discuss equity release with your family as it will impact on the amount that they are likely to inherit.


Equity release is increasingly coming to the aid of those approaching retirement with an interest-only mortgage without the funds to pay back the capital on maturity and their retirement income insufficient to cover ongoing interest costs. Whilst they may not have paid off any capital, they may have built up equity, offering them a lifeline allowing them to stay in their home.

A mortgage is a loan secured against your home or property. Your home or property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage or any other debt secured on it.

Equity release may require a lifetime mortgage or home reversion plan. To understand the features and risks, ask for a personalised illustration.



Basic Sanity Checks

It’s long been said that people buy a home with their hearts rather than their heads. It’s not unusual for people to fall in love with a property when they’ve spent no more than 20 minutes looking round it.

However, it always pays to take a long cool look at a property and apply some basic sanity checks. Here are a few things you might want to think about, and some you may want to get a surveyor to check out, before you commit to buying it.


  • What’s the area like?

  • Can you walk to shops or do you need to drive?

  • What local transport links are there?

  • If you need to travel to work, a good service can make all the difference.

  • Is parking adequate, is the road likely to be very noisy at certain times of the day?

  • Which way does the property face? It can make the difference between having a home that’s light and bright, or one that in the winter can be frustratingly dark.

  • Are the rooms big enough? Developers can often put small furniture in show homes to make the rooms look bigger.

  • Think about storage space, and important things like the number and location of power sockets, are they sufficient for your needs?


A surveyor can report on important things that can be costly to put right, including structural problems, the state of the roof, signs of damp, condensation, and the quality of the window frames. You might also want to arrange to have the central heating system, pipework and radiators checked over, to ensure you don’t move in and find that you can’t heat the house and don’t have any hot water.



New evidence suggests that, in England and Wales, many more of us are putting down roots and choosing to stay in our current homes for longer.

It used to be that homeowners moved four times after their first purchase but now it is closer to two. Research1 carried out by Queen’s University Belfast points to a major cultural change, and highlights that at least a million fewer people moved between 2001 and 2011 compared with 1971 to 1981.


This trend is borne out by recent research from insurer Hiscox2. They have identified a five-fold increase in the number of homeowners who have chosen to renovate their existing home in the last five years. This choice is likely to be influenced by a range of factors such as the continued rise in house prices in some regions, predicted rises in interest rates, additional costs such as stamp duty, a lack of suitable property on the market, tighter mortgage lending criteria and economic uncertainty around Brexit. Additionally, in some parts of the country property prices have hardly moved, meaning that families are held back because they have made little or no profit on their existing home.

In 2013, the research2 showed that just 3% of homeowners chose to improve as an alternative to moving, but five years later, this figure has risen to 15%. Local council figures show that requests for planning permission have risen by 29% in the last ten years.


Increasingly homeowners are looking to adapt their property to meet their changing needs, with an extra bedroom high on the agenda of many families. Loft extensions head the list of alterations and digging out basements to create extra accommodation is becoming increasingly popular, especially in London.

1Queen’s University Belfast, Fewer people moved house in the ’00s than the ’70s, 2018
2Hiscox, Renovations and Extensions Report, 2018



Before you start house hunting in earnest, you need to decide what style of property will best suit your lifestyle. Do you opt for an older pre-loved home, or jump at the chance to be the first owner of a brand-new property?


One of the major appeals of an older property can be the space they offer growing families. Average room sizes have shrunk over the years, so too has the size of gardens. In contrast with new builds, older homes often have spacious rooms, front and back gardens, period features and thicker walls too. They can have the advantage of being part of a long-established community and be nearer to local amenities and schools.

The downsides can include higher maintenance costs and the need to update things like heating systems and improve insulation. Getting a survey done before you buy is important and will highlight any repairs that might be needed.


Many people enjoy the thought of being the first owners of a home. It presents them with a blank canvas that they can personalise to their own taste. New homes are designed to be energy-efficient and come with energy-saving features like double glazing. They offer modern bathrooms and kitchens that generally come complete with a range of built-in appliances. New-build properties normally benefit from a 10-year protection, under which buyers get a two-year builder warranty to cover eligible faults and a further eight-year insurance to cover certain major defects. The downsides for some can be that the properties may all look very similar and come with the same internal layout. New estates don’t always have easy access to local facilities.


Mortgage overpayments can help you pay off your mortgage sooner and can significantly reduce the amount of interest you pay over the course of your loan. The amount you overpay goes towards repaying the mortgage itself, not on any interest you owe.

Research from Santander1 shows that if a borrower took out a £200,000 mortgage over a 25-year term, they could save £1,146 in interest (based on current rates) by making a monthly £10 overpayment, and they’d become mortgage-free four months earlier.

Those who can afford to make a £100 overpayment each month on a £200,000 mortgage could save £9,948 in interest and reduce their mortgage term by three years in the process. Those with a £500,000 mortgage making the same £100 overpayment could save over £10,000 in interest and become mortgage-free one year and five months earlier. A combination of paying off capital and the consequent reduction in interest, result in the time saving.


Whilst paying less interest and being mortgage free earlier can be attractive, it’s important not to overlook the need to keep some emergency savings set aside for unexpected bills and expenses.

1Santander, 2018