The Pros and Cons of Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans can be tricky. On one hand, they can help you get the cash you need. On the other, you're using up the equity you've built up in our home. There are many reasons to get a home equity loan, but before you commit, you'll want to know the benefits and disadvantages so you can choose whether it's the best path for you and the equity you've built.

Do You Have Equity?

The down payment you placed on your home when you bought it, no matter if it was 3.5 percent with an FHA loan or 20 percent with a conventional loan, was your first step in building up your equity.

The percentage of your equity is based on two aspects:

  • Loan-to-value ratio: The amount you currently owe compared to the current market value of your home.
  • Current market value: If the current market value of your home is more than what you owe on your mortgage, you have a positive equity balance that you can borrow from. If, however, you owe more on your mortgage then it's current market value, your equity percentage is non-existent, and qualifying for an equity loan is not an option.

Use our home equity calculator to find out how much equity you have in your home.

Pros and Cons

Let's take a look at some pros and cons of taking out a home equity loan.

Pro: Money for the things you need

There are lots of ways to use your home equity loan. From starting a business to smart investments to paying for your wedding, once your equity loan is approved, you'll receive a lump sum to use however you want.

Pro and Con: Pay less interest

The interest on your home equity loan will be lower than getting a personal loan or borrowing a cash advance from one of your credit cards because the loan is secured in the eyes of the bank. In other words, your home is collateral.

However, keep in mind that this is also a disadvantage. While using your home for collateral lowers your interest, if you default on your loan, the bank may foreclose on you and take your house. Understand the risks before you make a decision.

Pro: Predictable payments

Because your interest rate will be fixed, creating a budget is easy and predictable. You won't have to worry about your payment increasing due to changing interest rates.

Con: Costs and fees

Home equity loans almost always have closing costs and other fees. So although you'll be saving on interest, the initial cost to take out the loan may be higher than a line of credit.

Pro: Tax deductible

Interest you pay on the first $100,000 borrowed through a home equity loan is tax deductible.

Con: Cycle of debt

The major disadvantage many people don't consider is that home equity loans feed the cycle of debt. Think about it. You spent all this time paying off your debt to build some equity in your home, only to take that money out and borrow against it again. At the end of the day, you're not really ahead. You borrow so you can spend and the habit of spending sends you deeper into debt. If you're going to do this, it better be for an important reason.

Is a Home Equity Loan the Best Choice for You?

Knowing if a home equity loan will best serve you will depend on your reasons for wanting one.

If you are a homeowner who sees an equity loan as a way to pay for holiday gifts, romantic getaways, or family vacations, you may want to think twice.

However, if you are a homeowner who can use the predictability of a home equity loan to budget wisely for a much needed expense, a home equity may be just what you need.

Still undecided? Compare a home equity loan to a line of credit to help you decide.

More Information

Here's more info on getting a home equity loan:

Start Accessing Your Home Equity

How Does a Home Equity Loan Work? An Expert Tells All

Home Equity Calculator

Get Home Equity Loan offers customized for you today.