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- Home Equity
- Home equity is the difference between the market value of a home and any outstanding mortgage balance(s). A homeowner with a $200,000 property and a... <a href='/glossary/what-is-home-equity' title='See the full definition of Home Equity'>read more</a>
- Home Equity Line of Credit
- A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a type of secondary financing that consists of a revolving line of credit secured by a lien junior to a... <a href='/glossary/what-is-home-equity-line-of-credit' title='See the full definition of Home Equity Line of Credit'>read more</a>
Whether you need funds for a wedding, college tuition, home renovations, a vacation, or a second home, LendingTree's network of lenders can help you secure a home equity line of credit (HELOC) with the most flexibility and the lowest rate and fees. Want to learn more about HELOCs? Let's get started.
What Is a Home Equity Line of Credit?
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a type of secondary financing that consists of a revolving line of credit secured by a lien junior to a mortgage. HELOCs are similar to credit cards because they are revolving lines of credit. If you get a HELOC you will most likely have a variable interest rate and a credit limit set by the lender.
The market value of your home, minus the amount you owe, is the equity you have in your home. With a home equity line of credit, lenders will loan you a certain amount of money, usually between 80-90 percent of your home equity value. This money may be borrowed during what's called a draw period. During this time, you may borrow all or some of the money, and you only pay interest on the actual amount you borrow.
After the draw period, you will enter the repayment period. During this time, you are no longer able to draw on your line of credit and you must begin making payments against the balance of the loan.
The requirements for getting a loan vary from lender to lender. Here are a few things you'll need in order to qualify for a HELOC.
- LTV - You'll need a loan-to-value ratio (LTV) of around 80 percent. Not sure? Use our calculator.
- Income - You'll need to show you have sufficient income to cover your mortgage payment and the new loan payment.
- Strong Credit - Lenders want to know you have a history of paying your debts. Don't know your score? Find out with LendingTree's free credit score.
- DTI - Lenders also like to see a low ratio between your overall debts and your income. This is call debt-to-income ratio (DTI). If you're not sure how, we can help you calculate your DTI.
- Other Assets - Having additional assets, like a boat, car, rental property, or other investments, will help lenders feel more secure about lending money to you.
How Much Equity Do You Need?
Let's take a look at how to determine how much equity you need to get a line of credit and how much you can borrow. Let's assume your home is worth $250,000 and you have $150,000 left to pay on your mortgage. If the lender's loan-to-value ratio is 80 percent, the maximum home equity loan you could qualify for is $50,000. Here's how that figure is determined:
- Appraised value of home = $250,000
- Multiplied by LTV of 80 percent ($250,000 x 0.8) = $200,000
- Minus existing mortgage (200,000 – $150,000) = $50,000
Try those calculations for yourself by simply substituting your home value and amount owed.
Reasons to Use Home Equity
People use HELOCs for a variety of reasons. Some of these include paying for:
- Home improvement projects
- Debt consolidation
- College tuition
- A second home
If you choose to use your home equity for one of these reasons, be certain it's a good one. Using the equity in your home is not something that should be taken lightly, and you'll end up paying interest and fees to do it.
HELOCs vs. Home Equity Loans
A home equity line of credit and a home equity loan are two types of second mortgages that allow you to access the money you've accumulated as equity in your home. Determining which one is right for you is no simple task. In general, it makes sense to get a home equity loan if you need a lump sum of money with a fixed interest rate, whereas, a HELOC is great for getting money in small amounts over time, but comes at the price of an adjustable interest rate.
HELOC and Home Equity Loan Comparison
Home Equity Loan
Fixed Interest Rate
Adjustable Interest Rate
Lump Sum Payment
Borrow as You Need It
Interest Only Payment Option
Interest is Tax Deductible
Depending on your situation, there may be advantages to getting a home equity line of credit. Advantages include:
- Lower Costs - HELOCs usually have lower upfront costs compared to home equity loans.
- Lower Interest Rate - HELOCs allow you to borrow money at a lower interest rate than most credit cards.
- Low Closing Costs - HELOCS usually have low or no closing costs.
- Tax Deductible - Interest paid on your HELOC may be tax deductible. Check with your accountant to be sure.
- Money When You Need It - A line of credit allows you to access money when you need it. It's like having a credit card, but it's tied to the equity in your home.
- Interest-only Payment Option - Some lenders offer the flexibility of making interest-only payments during the draw period.
- Pay Interest on What You Use - You'll only pay interest on the money you draw, not the line of credit extended to you.
The terms and conditions of your home equity line of credit will vary from lender to lender. Make sure to ask a lot of questions and make sure you understand the terms of your loan before you sign. Shopping around is always something we encourage. Here are some potential disadvantages of a HELOC:
- Variable Interest Rate - HELOCs are an adjustable-rate mortgage. This means that your interest rate can go up or down. When it does, your payment will do the same. Some lenders offer interest rate caps, so you have a little more security knowing your rate can't exceed a certain amount.
- Fees - Some banks charge fees if you don't use your line of credit, close your line of credit early, or pay off your loan early.
- Minimums - Some lenders require that you borrow a minimum amount. Since you don't want to pay interest on money you don't really need, this can be a real drawback. Additionally, lenders may require you to withdrawal a minimum amount any time you make a draw. The same principle applies here. If you only need $500, but have to draw $1000, you're paying more interest than needed.
- Debt - Just like credit cards, using a home equity line of credit can put you in debt, and it will eat up the equity in your home. So make sure you spend wisely.
Here's a few checklists to help you prepare for the application process, as well as some questions you should be asking as you go through the process of getting a HELOC.
Before You Apply
Before you apply for your loan, make sure you've gathered the following information:
- Original purchase price of your home
- Up-to-date loan amount
- Estimated current market value of your home
- Amount you wish to borrow
- Proof of employment
- Income and expense information
- Personal information, such as your name, address, and phone number, along with your social security number, and date of birth.
You may need to be ready to have access to information on any other debts you have, like your student loan, car loan, or credit cards.
Once you've prepared by gathering the information above, you're ready to apply. Here's a breakdown of the steps you need to apply for a home equity line of credit.
- Contact Lenders - Because the rates and fees for your HELOC will vary, you'll want to contact a few lenders to compare loans and make sure you're getting the best deal.
- Compare Offers - Once you have offers from three or more lenders, sit down with the offers and look them over. It's rarely an apples-to-apples comparison, so use one of our loan comparison tools to help.
- Apply Online - Once you've made a decision, fill out the application. Most banks today will allow you to apply for your loan online. This makes filling in your information a breeze, and if you happened to miss gathering a document, you'll have time to get it.
- Property Evaluation - Most lenders may require a property appraisal and inspection prior to approving your loan. This will be an out-of-pocket expense.
- Approval - Once you're approved, your lender will ask for additional information to move the process along.
Questions to Ask Your Lender
Here are eight questions to ask your lender before you commit to a home equity line of credit.
- Intro Rate - Is there an introductory rate and how long does it last?
- Interest Rate - What is the interest rate I'll be paying?
- Maximum Interest Rate Cap - Is there cap on how high my interest rate can go and what is it?
- Draw Period - How long does the draw period last?
- Borrowed Balance - Is there an overall minimum amount I have to borrow?
- Minimum Withdrawal - Is there a minimum amount of money I have to draw each time I want to access my line of credit?
- Inactivity Fees - Are there inactivity fees I'll have to pay if I don't make a draw?
- Prepayment Penalties - Are there penalties for paying off the loan early?
- Balloon Payment - Is there a large, one-time payment at the end of the loan term?
Want to learn more about a home equity line of credit? Check out our guide.
Frequently Asked Questions›
- Should I close my line of credit once I am done with it?
Some lenders charge an annual fee to keep your line of credit open. Depending on how much this costs, it may be well worth the price. Keeping your line of credit open gives you access to your equity in case of an emergency. If you close it, you'll have to jump through all the hoops again to get it back.
- How do I compare home equity loans and lines of credit?
Comparison loan shopping is never an apples-to-apples comparison. LendingTree has a variety of tools to help you make the comparison. Essentially, you'll want to take a close look at the rates and fees you'll be paying. However, you may also want to consider other terms, like prepayment penalties, balloon payments, inactivity fees, and minimum withdrawal amounts.
- Can I consolidate my debt with a HELOC?
Yes. Many people use home equity as a way to consolidate debt, especially debt with high interest. Another option for consolidating debt is to use a personal loan.
- Do I need a home equity loan or home equity line of credit?
This is a common question people have. If you want a lump sum payment of cash with a fixed interest rate, a home equity loan is the way to go. If you need to borrow money over an extended period, similar to needing to make charges to a credit card, then a line of credit may be the way to go. Just know that the line of credit comes with an adjustable interest rate, so your payments can go up or down as interest rates fluctuate.
- How do I find my home's value?
You may find your home's value using this tool. Once you apply for a line of credit, you'll need to get an formal appraisal.
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