Older homeowners are drawing cash out of the value of their properties to pay down their debts, suggests new research.
The money is settling mortgages, loans and credit card debts, according to equity release firm Key.
The lender says one in three homeowners are settling credit cards and just over one in four (28%) are clearing mortgages with the money they raise.
And so far 11,190 new borrowers have withdrawn £840 million in the first quarter of this year.
The average pay-out was £75,032.
The average homeowner seeking equity release was aged 71 years old, although almost two out of three borrowers were couples (60%). Only 13% of single men took a loan, compared with double the number of single women (27%).
Why homeowners opt for equity release
Although many settle debts with the money they release from their homes, most spending goes on home or garden improvements (60%).
Other popular ways to spend are holidays (31%), cash gifts to family and friends (30%), while one in 10 use the extra cash to help with day-to-day bills.
Will Hale, chief executive at Key, said: “Typically the equity release market has a quieter start to the year but the latest Q1 results suggest that we should see continued growth in 2019.
“The current challenging economic environment has seen a move away from holidays and home improvements to people tackling pressing immediate issues such as to pay off debt.
“Nearing or entering retirement with an income that might be exceeded or matched by debt repayments can be hugely stressful and may mean people need to make fundamental changes to their plans such as working longer.
“However, this will not solve everyone’s issues and is not even viable for some so looking into downsizing, equity release or other later life lending options might be the right answer. Not only will making sensible choices around property mean that people are less stressed but it will help to set them up for a more comfortable retirement in the future.
“Good independent expert advice is key to ensuring that older homeowners receive the most benefit from their property wealth and use it in the most appropriate way for them and their families.”