Growing number of people with ultra-long mortgages due to last beyond State Pension age

An older man and woman sitting at a kitchen table looking at paperwork.
More than 5,600 people over 60 still have a mortgage to pay off. -Credit:Getty Images

A former pensions minister has warned young home buyers are being forced to gamble with their retirement prospects by taking on ultra-long mortgages. According to freedom of information (FOI) data obtained by Sir Steve Webb, a former Liberal Democrat pensions minister, who is now a partner at LCP (Lane Clark & Peacock), some 43 per cent of new mortgages in the fourth quarter of 2023 - or 91,394 - had terms going beyond the State Pension age.

The Bank of England figures also show that in the same period a year earlier, 38 per cent of new mortgages had a term ending beyond State Pension age and in the same period in 2021, 31 per cent of new mortgages went beyond State Pension age.

Sir Steve said that based on the figures obtained for the last three months of each year, this suggests that over the last three years over one million new mortgages have been issued with end dates beyond State pension age, which is currently 66 for both men and women.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, people aged 30 to 39 accounted for 30,943 new mortgages lasting beyond state pension age and people aged 40 to 40 accounted for 32,305.

Under-30s made up 3,676 of these mortgages, people aged 50 to 59 accounted for 18,854, 60 to 69-year-olds made up 4,955 and people aged 70-plus made up 661.

Sir Steve highlighted concerns that some people may not be able to afford to service a mortgage once they retire and will raid their pension savings to clear their mortgage, leaving them with less to live on in old age.

The data was based on mortgage figures supplied by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to the Bank of England.

Although a mortgage taken out in someone’s 30s, perhaps as a first-time buyer, is highly unlikely to be someone’s last mortgage, the risk to retirement depends on what happens over the course of their working life and whether or not they are able to shorten the term, Sir Steve said.

He said that, in the past, when people had mostly paid off their mortgage before pension age, they could spend their final years in work boosting their pension pot. Even if mortgages only run up to pension age, it deprives people of a period running up to retirement when they could be mortgage-free and boosting their pension, he said.

He also said some people will have dropped out of the labour market before reaching their pension age.

As well as making overpayments as and when this is possible to reduce the size of a mortgage, some people may decide to downsize to a smaller property, or turn to equity release to free up cash in their later years. There are considerations to weigh up with equity release, such as the money that will be left behind for an inheritance.

Some borrowers may be hoping to receive an inheritance themselves to help them eventually clear their mortgage.

Sir Steve said: “The huge number of mortgages which run past state pension age is shocking. The challenge of getting on the housing ladder is forcing large numbers of young home buyers to gamble with their retirement prospects by taking on ultra-long mortgages.

“We already know that millions of people are not saving enough for their retirement and if some of that limited retirement saving has to be used to clear a mortgage balance at retirement they will be at even greater risk of poverty in old age.

“Serious questions need to be asked of mortgage lenders as to whether this lending is really in the borrower’s best interests.”

In a speech to the Building Societies Association (BSA) last week, Emily Shepperd, FCA chief operating officer said: “Alongside longer terms we also see a greater proportion of mortgages projected to mature around state retirement age. The projected median age of a first-time buyer at maturity is now 65 years old, up from 56 in 2005.

“The proportion of mortgage customers over 67 is currently less than 2% of all loans. By 2040 this rises to 5%, and by 2050 it is almost 10%.

“Lending into retirement is moving from a niche to a norm.”

She said that building societies recognise the need to consider different income and expenditure sources and needs, different lifestyle risks, different capacity to weather financial shocks, adding: “With borrowers projected to hold debt for longer, now is the time to ask yourself about the products and services you will provide to those borrowers to meet their needs responsibly and help them meet their financial goals – what will you need to do to support this growing population of customers and deliver good outcomes?

“Getting this right will of course benefit those individual customers, enabling them to meet their housing needs in later life, and move if that is their aim.

“It may also support first-time buyers with an increase in the supply of homes.”