Equity release is a big financial decision and usually a long term commitment, so asking the right questions and considering all your options is important. Your specialist equity release adviser is central to this, and should provide you not only with all the facts and information you need to make an informed decision but will also give you specific advice and recommendations based on your circumstances and needs.
To help you choose an adviser that is reputable, knowledgeable and trustworthy, here are ten questions you should ask before deciding to go ahead.
- Are you a member of the Equity Release Council?
Do check your adviser is a member of the Council as they provide a strict set of guidelines and safeguards that must be followed to protect the customer, along with strict entrance requirements that all advisers must comply with. All of Bower specialist advisers are members of the Council and hold the necessary qualifications needed to advise in equity release.
- Are you completely independent?
There are two types of advisors – tied and non-tied. Ideally you are looking to get your equity release advice from an independent, non-tied adviser. They can offer you products from any provider and can often access special deals and money saving offers from across the whole market. Tied advisors are limited to the products from either one or a smaller number of providers, limiting your choice.
- What qualifications do you have?
There are a number of qualifications relating to equity release, but if you want to be absolutely sure they’re suitably qualified then check if they’re registered with the Equity Release Council – they only accept fully qualified advisers, so you know they’ve been checked already. You can also check that the firm you are dealing with is registered by the FCA on their website www.fca.org.uk/register
- What feedback do you get from your customers?
There’s no better way of investigating the credibility of your adviser than by reading reviews from previous customers. As well as asking your adviser directly for examples of their feedback, you can check if your adviser is well rated on independent feedback websites such as Feefo.
- Do you offer all equity release products?
There are 2 main types of regulated equity release plans, each of which should be outlined to you during your initial consultation, including clear examples of how each of them works. The plans include: Lifetime Mortgages; and Home Reversion Plans. Product innovation is happening all the time and developments are leading to more choice which is another reason to ensure you choose an independent adviser.
- What experience do you/your company have?
You want an adviser with experience and a deep knowledge of the industry so they can fully explain everything to you and find the very best plan for your needs. They should clearly explain the advantages and disadvantages of an equity release plan, such as the possible impact on your entitlement to state benefits and how it will reduce the value of your estate. Other options such as downsizing and involving the family in this process are also important, using a specialist adviser ensures all the areas you need to consider are made clear.
- How do you choose the right plan for me?
Your adviser should spend time getting to know your individual circumstances and requirements before recommending a plan to you. Make sure you get plenty of information about the type of equity release plan recommended for you and why that particular one has been selected. The adviser should be able to show you the research and explain why they have recommended a certain lifetime mortgage or home reversion plan for your circumstances.
- What costs will I have to pay?
Your adviser should clearly explain any set-up costs, arrangement fees and legal fees for an equity release plan, as well as the workings of compound interest and early repayment charges – all in a jargon-free language that you understand. They should also tell you in advance the fee you will have to pay for the advice you receive from them, if you proceed with a plan. In some cases there may be offers that provide a free valuation or cashback but this is just one consideration when making your decision.
- What if equity release isn’t suitable for me?
Equity release adviser firms are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and such specialist firms should ensure advisers are trained to discuss all options with you so if they find that equity release isn’t suitable for you, your adviser will tell you. Before considering equity release your adviser will discuss all other possibilities with you first, ensuring every alternative has been explored, which may mean delaying equity release until a more suitable time.
- What service will I receive throughout this process?
Seeking the professional opinion of your adviser, as well as speaking with your own family about your plans, is always recommended before making a decision. Your initial conversation should leave you feeling under no pressure and is usually a free consultation. Your adviser should follow up your initial consultation with a thorough presentation of their findings and recommendations to you, and subsequently guide you and inform you throughout the whole process.
Bower are award-winning, independent equity release specialists. We have helped many people over the years, many of which have left reviews about our service on the independent review website, Feefo. Please take a moment to look at our customer feedback, and if you would like to know more, just call 0800 411 8668 to arrange a free initial consultation with no obligation to proceed, with one of our highly qualified expert advisers.
This is a lifetime mortgage or home reversion plan. To understand the features and risks, please ask for a personalised illustration.