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How to pay for home improvements in later life

7 min read

Your home is a huge part of your life. You may have lived there for a long time and made many memories over the years.

It’s a space to keep you safe and meet your needs. But over time, those needs may have changed and there may be things you’d like to improve or adapt, especially if you’re retired or approaching retirement.

Moving to a new home might be an option but moving comes with a lot of fuss. You’ve got to leave your memories and pack up all your belongings – and there’s the expense of moving costs, legal fees and possibly stamp duty.

It makes sense that many people are choosing to stay put and make home improvements instead.

Ways you could fund home improvements

Everyone’s different, so the best way to fund your home improvements really does come down to your individual circumstances. Here are a few options to consider:

Savings

If you’re lucky enough to have cash saved up for a rainy day, you could think about putting it to good use to make your home work for you in retirement. You won’t have to worry about repaying the money, because it’s all yours.

Just remember to think about how much you can afford to spend, and how much you might need for the future.

Take out a loan

A loan could be an option, depending on what sort of home improvements you’re after. If you need a sizeable amount of cash to complete the work, a loan may not be the best option.

For smaller works, you may be able to find a suitable loan. If you’re looking to borrow between £7,500 and £25,000, rates can be competitive1.

Borrowing money may seem like a quick and easy solution, but it’s important to think about how long you’ll need to repay the loan. And make sure you’ll able to repay the money when due, or you’ll encounter extra costs.

For older borrowers, this could mean you’d be facing debt in retirement.

Try a loan calculator to see an estimate of how much a personal loan might cost.

Use your credit card

If you want to make smaller home improvements, it’s possible that you could use your credit card to fund them.

For minor changes, like a lick of paint, a credit card can be a good option. If you pay using a 0% interest deal credit card, you might be able to pay the money back before interest is charged.

You need to be aware of when the fixed interest period ends and repay the money before that. If you miss a payment the repayments could end up being higher than expected.

Most renovations will cost more than the funds available on a credit card.

Remortgage

Remortagaging is another option for funding home improvements. If you’re coming to the end of your existing mortgage and have equity in your property, you could remortgage to free up some cash.

You would switch to a larger mortgage and be borrowing money against your equity.

If you currently have a good deal on your mortgage, you may lose the rate if you remortgage so it may not make sense for you. Instead you might be able to get an additional advance from your lender.

Switching to a new provider might offer you better rates but be mindful of early repayment fees or other costs. It’s important to work out how much remortgaging will cost.

Remortgaging may not be the easiest process for older borrowers. As you near retirement, lenders will want to see that you will still have a stable income.

Consider also what your payments might be if interest rates rise.

Its always best to seek financial advice before you make any decision.

Borrow money from family

If this is an option, it could be a more reasonable way to fund home improvements.

Borrowing money from family is likely to be cheaper and you may be able to work out a more relaxed repayment schedule.

You would have to agree how much you'll borrow, and when you'll repay it and stick to it, otherwise it could cause disputes.

Equity release

Equity release is a way to fund home improvements. You take out a loan secured against the value of your property to free up some cash.

You don’t have to make repayments, though there are plans that offer this if you want to. The money will be repaid from the sale of your home when you die or go into permanent care.

You can release equity tied up in your property without having to sell your property or move. But it’s important to note that it will reduce the amount of inheritance you can leave and may affect any means tested benefits.

You can find more information on equity release and how it works in Simon Stanney's article, what is equity release?

Could equity release help pay for your home improvements?

Equity release allows you to access the cash tied up in your property. There are different types of equity release plan. You could access a lump sum, or withdraw your money bit by bit, when you need it (known as drawdown).

You’ll have to pay any remaining mortgage first, then the money is yours to spend however you like.

You could use it to refresh your home, or completely transform it.

Our equity release calculator can give you an idea of how much cash you could access and what it might cost.

Renovation ideas

What you’ll want to renovate will depend on what will best benefit you and your family.

Build an extension – or get that conservatory you’ve been eyeing up. You’ll be able to enjoy the space and natural light all year round.

Get your dream kitchen or bathroom – or just make a few updates. Updating your kitchen can add value to your home and give the whole house a new lease of life.

Landscape gardening – it’ll make you the envy of your neighbours and you might find yourself spending more and more time in the garden as you get older.

Solar panels – after you pay for the equipment and installation, solar panels may end up saving you money.

Better insulation - double glazing might be more something you want to consider, to help insulation. It could help save quite a bit over the years. Better heating may also be something you want to think about.

Getting your home ready for retirement

What you’ll want to renovate, adapt or improve will depend on what will best benefit you and your family.

There may be modifications that will suit you later in life and give you a better standard of living.

Here are some home improvements that might help get your home ready for retirement:

Moving about your home

Stairs may be something on your mind as you get older. A stair lift, or extra banister can make things much easier.

Another option could be a wheelchair lift, but that may depend on the size of your home.

Getting in and out of rooms can be trickier, especially if you use a wheelchair or walking aid so thinking about wider door frames or how the doors open could be a good first step.

A safer bathroom

There are a number of things you could consider to make your bathroom safer. A bath lift or swivel chair would support you getting in and out of the bath.

You could install rails and put down a non-slip mat for a smaller change. Or swapping your bath completely for a wet room walk in shower would mean not having to climb in or out of the bath at all.

You could get a safety plug that stops water filling over a certain level if you’re worried about water overflowing.

A commode might be an option if you only have one toilet and it’s located upstairs.

An improved kitchen

If your mobility is restricted, you may want to think about something like lowering your worktops.

Or if you’ve having trouble reaching up to cupboards you could consider a step stool. Another option is to get aids like window openers or pick up aids.

Better security

Feeling safe is important at any age, but as we get older we might feel more vulnerable. Think about a personal alarm in case of an accident.

Or, invest in an intercom system so you can see who’s there before you answer. A wireless doorbell with a video entry phone would allow you to see who’s there without having to move.

Consider a police-approved safe key, which is a secure box outside your front door that family or carers can access if they need to let themselves in.

General improvements

As you get older, things like old carpets or flooring can cause problems or even a trip hazard. Polished floors for example could be slippery.

Where to get help

SunLife equity release service can give you expert advice on equity release but you also need to seek independent financial advice.

If you’re thinking about alternative ways to finance home improvements, such as a loan, make sure you get free debt advice first.

Useful links

Money advice service

Debit advice locator

Debt quick assessment

Want to talk to somebody about Equity Release?

Call our UK helpline FREE on 0800 633 5566 or request a call back

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