Equity release referral service, Key, has found that the number of equity release products has grown by 206% in the last two years - prompting calls for customers to receive specialist advice.

The analysis shows that the number of products available has trebled in the past two years to 144 from just 47 in October 2016 with more product features than ever before.

Currently, 81% of all plans (117 products) allow ad hoc penalty free repayments and 15% explicitly allow interest to be paid. This is a significant increase in the last two years when you consider that in 2016, just 7% (3 products) allowed people to make interest repayments.

Other major product innovations include the increasing inclusion of downsizing protection with 73 plans – more than half the market – offering the feature. More than half (55%) of products have fixed early repayment charges compared with nearly a fifth (19%) in 2016.

Jason Ruse, Head of Key Partnerships said: “Equity release lenders have embraced innovation and have expanded the options available to customers in response to growing demand. Unlike some other markets, the growth in product options has been driven by existing lenders looking to meet evolving customer needs rather than new providers entering the market.

While the transformation in choices available is very welcome, it highlights the need for independent experts able to advise on the whole market and to find the solutions that suit clients’ particular needs.

Advisers who do not regularly provide support for clients looking to make the most of their property wealth could through no fault of their own find their advice is not up to date as innovation is constantly increasing and expanding the options available.”