In a variation on the theme of home
equity release, UK insurer Norwich Union (NU) has launched a
service that assists homeowners to realise a portion of the value
of their homes by downsizing to a smaller property. The service is
available to people over 55 years old and is the subject of a
six-month pilot programme in the West Midlands region.

The rationale for the service is to provide an alternative to
equity release products that permit people to borrow against the
value of their home without having to move. However, NU’s head of
post-retirement marketing, Anthony Rafferty, explained that while
many people enjoy the comfort that comes with staying in their own
home, NU’s research has shown that many other retirees would like
to move to a home of lesser value, but are put off by the hassle
that moving has traditionally entailed.

The aim of this pilot is to make the sales process as stress-free
as possible, offering a quick, straightforward way of freeing up
cash and helping people to move to the type of home they now want,”
said Rafferty.

The service is offered in two packages, Assisted Move and Optional
Fund, and in both offerings NU will manage all aspects of a house
sale and provide bespoke financial advice to assist customers to
optimise their released funds. NU estimates that customers would be
able to receive their funds in as little as 12 weeks through the
Assisted Move option, or around four weeks via the Optional Fund
Release route.

In both instances, this is considerably faster than selling a
property on the open market. According to residential property
advisers TheAdvisory, it takes four to eight months for people to
sell their house. In addition, one in three sales fail, leaving
about 900,000 homeowners unable to sell their properties each

For its house sale service, NU has partnered with residential
property service provider movewithus, which is responsible for
property valuations, estate agency functions and the financing of
house purchases.