Confidence up but better accessibility needed for Equity Release Advice

The number of UK adults who would consider equity release as part of their retirement planning has risen to 77% over the past year, research from the Equity Release Solicitors' Alliance (ERSA) reveals. The findings reveal a marked improvement in consumer opinion of equity release with positive sentiment  up by 23% from last year's figure (54%), while negative perceptions fell from 42% to just 23% in the same period.

Consumers were also asked which measures would increase their confidence in the sector and further enhance the reputation of equity release. A recognisable mark of excellence among equity release professionals was the most popular measure with the backing of 42% of consumers, something that is already available through membership of trade organisations such as ERSA and the Equity Release Council. Specialist advice was another popular way to boost consumer confidence. Over a quarter of consumers (26%) stated specialist legal and financial advice would help to improve their perceptions of the industry.

The results of the survey really emphasised the importance of trade organisations, grouping specialists under a banner that makes the quality and expertise they offer easily recognisable and visible to consumers. Worryingly 30% of people admitted they wouldn't know how to judge if someone was a specialist equity release adviser or lawyer. An additional 40% thought specialist advice would be more expensive than non-specialist advice. In reality specialists are often cheaper as their expertise means they're faster at completing cases. ERSA members only tend to take two to three weeks (post-offer) to complete an equity release case.

To dispel some of the continuing misconceptions surrounding the industry, it's vital we make equity release information readily accessible to the general public. Equity release is a complex process and a significant venture for any customer. Specialist advisers and experts are in the best position to ensure the public have a clear understanding of their options. Industry organisations have a crucial part to play in this endeavour: collectively promoting the industry and seeking to recruit new members. With quality standards already in place, they have a firm foundation to build on. 

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