Nearly half (45%) of homeowners under the age of 40 got onto the property ladder later than they expected, compared with 29% of over-40s, according to research by the Equity Release Council (ERC).

The study also found that 43% of mortgaged homeowners under the age of 40 relied on financial help from family or friends to buy their first home.

In comparison, just 23% of those aged 40 and over relied on similar support to get onto the property ladder.

Nearly one in three (32%) homeowners with a mortgage were unsure if they will become mortgage free before they retire, or have already ruled it out, and 20% felt the idea of retiring without a mortgage was unrealistic.

However, 24% said they would not mind if they were still paying off their loan in later life, and 47% said their generation’s attitude to debt in later life is more accepting than their parents’, with those aged 25 to 34 most likely to feel this way (52%).

The findings showed that the majority (70%) of mortgaged homeowners felt comfortable with their current level of mortgage debt, rising to 75% of those aged 50 and over.

One in three mortgaged homeowners (33%) felt financial services providers were getting better at offering mortgages to people in retirement.

However, 36% said they are confused about what mortgages are available to people in later life.

The council’s research suggested confusion was highest among the under-40s (42%).

Jim Boyd, chief executive of the ERC, said: “The realities of delayed homeownership are prompting people to reassess their attitudes to secured debt in later life.

“There are clear signs that paying a mortgage in retirement is no longer a taboo: for many people it can make the difference between financial hardship and enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle while also supporting family members.

“The ability to use property wealth to improve your retirement experience is a choice many homeowners have earned through years of paying a mortgage and building an asset.

“Lifetime and retirement mortgages allow people to make the most of property as a source of wealth as well as a home.

“Our findings suggest later life lending products are likely to be even more important for future generations of retired homeowners than they are today

“It’s vital we continue to break down the remaining misconceptions about people’s choices in retirement and improve awareness of the options available.

“The consumer protections involved when exploring equity release are designed so people can make educated and informed decisions, which means considering all potential alternatives and often leads to a different course of action entirely.”