UK’s first equity release search engine launched
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The greatest shift of workers since Britain’s industrial revolution has resulted in a remarkable and prolonged transference of personnel from their workplaces and into the home. This unprecedented and largely voluntary movement is unlikely to be reversed anytime soon as working from home (WFH) has become the nation’s employment norm.
Padding around the home in t-shirt and shorts has presented millions of WFH workers with an opportunity to spend more time in their kitchens where they’ve been able to take advantage of an astonishing variety of items designed to make life easier – stuff we take for granted. Yet where would any of us be without an electric kettle, a fridge, cling film, a wine cooler or a toaster?
Nor is our appetite for convenience limited to the kitchen.
I am old enough to recall changing channels by hand on a black-and-white television set (not an arduous task as the nation boasted only two broadcasters, ITV and BBC). Nowadays, we have an array of remote controls for television and satellite channels, for the DVD player and a host of other devices: some you can even talk to.
As for computers and the internet: well, where do you begin? The world wide web continues to unveil a host of new ideas and practices immediately capable of superseding the established order. Fortunately, some older ideas have been adapted to fit into modern life.
Take online rail and plane timetables, for instance, once the well-guarded preserve of travel agents. Today, thanks to the easily accessible and astonishingly accurate departure and arrival times, millions of folks book their own train and plane journeys online.
The ease with which we can arrange journeys to anywhere on Earth, reserve a restaurant table, book a seat at the theatre or pay the electricity bill online simplifies our lives and, theoretically at least, makes us more efficient.
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Furthermore, we can be assured that the cost of our airline ticket or current electricity tariff represent good value because we can compare them with a range of different providers.
Mortgage and insurance quotes too invariably compare costs from across the market, allowing us to select the one most suited to our short- and longer-term requirements.
It’s strange, then, that one rapidly growing British industry, through which people already borrow an estimated £4 billion a year, has not provided comprehensive and detailed comparisons of products available to its prospective customers. That was until now.
Step forward Mark Gregory, chief executive of Equity Release Supermarket (ERS), the business he founded in 2008, which is today the UK’s largest independent equity release brokerage.
“For years, most of us have taken mortgage and insurance comparisons for granted,” asserts Mr Gregory. “They’ve allowed us to examine what products are available, their costs and compare a host of other information, which ultimately makes the selection process considerably easier.
“However, aside from a series of very similar – and in some instances very basic – calculators, the equity release industry has not, to date, followed suit and supplied customers with anywhere near the same level of detail,” he adds.
Recognising this industry-wide shortfall, Mr Gregory charged his website development team with the task of changing this. In addition to undertaking separate research, the team drew upon customers’ feedback, noting an oft-quoted sense of frustration that across the equity release industry, online searches failed to supply enough information to better understand the available options.
The resulting solution is impressive.
ERS is justifiably proud of the fact that it was the first brokerage to install equity release calculators onto its website and now boasts the industry’s broadest range of online calculators. Using in-house proprietary software, it continues to lead the field having recently created the UK’s first equity release search engine, the appropriately named ‘smartER’.
Where once a basic equity release calculator provided customers with an idea of the sum they could release from their property, they didn’t offer a view of available plans or their features.
By contrast, the smartER platform provides lender information as well as details regarding the specific sum, not an estimate, that could be released.
On top of this, the smartER platform shows every product’s interest rate and whether they’re fixed or flexible. Additional information, relating to downsizing and inheritance is also displayed, as are details of incentives, such as free valuations and the level of voluntary repayments that could be made on a lifetime mortgage.
There’s even a free telephone helpline for people to call and pose questions once their equity release comparison data is displayed on screen.
Mr Gregory calls smartER a “market disruptor” - it is undoubtedly a timely and much-needed addition to the UK’s equity release market.