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7 min read May 21, 2023

Home Equity Line of Credit: Pros, Cons, and Key Considerations

When it comes to financing large expenses or making home improvements, homeowners often turn to a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).

This flexible borrowing option allows you to tap into the equity built up in your home.

Here’s an in-depth look at HELOCs, from how they work to their benefits.

ūüöÄ Key Takeaways

  • HELOCs, or home equity lines of credit, surged 40% in the second quarter, the largest amount in almost three years.
  • As per Bankrate.com, the average HELOC rate is 7.7%, compared to the average 19.04% APR on a credit card and 10.64% on a personal loan.
  • HELOCs are commonly used to fund home improvement projects, which can increase the value of your house.

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit?

A HELOC is a type of loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity they have in their property. Unlike a traditional mortgage, a HELOC provides a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card.

To understand HELOC better you need to know the following terms:

  • Collateral and Lien Position: It uses your home as collateral, allowing the lender to seize it if you default. Lien position determines creditor payment order in foreclosure.
  • Draw and Repayment Period: HELOCs have two phases: a draw period (5-10 years) for accessing funds and making interest-only payments, followed by a repayment period for repaying principal and interest.
  • Variable Interest Rates: It has variable interest rates tied to benchmarks like the prime rate, which can vary and impact your monthly payments.

How to Qualify for a Home Equity Line of Credit?

Here are some common factors you need to consider when applying for a HELOC:

1. Stable Income

Lenders review your work history and income stability to ensure steady payment ability.

Typically, they prefer borrowers who have been employed for at least two years or have a stable income source.

2. Equity in your Home

The primary requirement for a HELOC is having equity in your home. Equity is the difference between the current market value of your home and the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

Lenders typically require a minimum equity threshold, such as 20% or more, although this can vary.

3. Credit Score

Credit score determines eligibility and interest rate for a HELOC loan.

Borrowers with a credit score of at least 620 or above will likely get approved for the loan. The higher your credit score, the more favorable your loan terms are likely to be.

¬Ľ¬†How to Buy a House With Bad Credit:¬†Understand the terms, conditions, and minimum credit score requirements

4. Income and Debt-to-Income Ratio

Lenders evaluate your debt-to-income ratio, which compares your monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income.

A lower DTI ratio, generally below 43%, is preferred by lenders as it indicates a lower risk of default.

5. Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio

The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is the difference between the HELOC balance and your home’s appraised worth. Most lenders will cap the LTV ratio at 80%, meaning you can borrow up to 80% of your home’s value.

For instance, if your home is valued at $200,000 with a $120,000 mortgage balance, the maximum HELOC amount would be $40,000 (80% of home value minus mortgage balance).

6. Property Type and Location

Lenders also consider the type of property you’re borrowing against and its location. Mortgage lenders don’t approve HELOCs for some properties like investment properties or manufactured homes. HELOC availability and terms may also differ as per state and local market conditions.

If you meet the eligibility criteria and provide all the necessary documents, the chances of you qualifying for HELOC increase.

What Documents are Needed for HELOC

The documentation needed for a HELOC may vary depending on the lender. But typically it includes the following:

  • Proof of Income
  • Credit Score
  • Value of the Property
  • Tax Returns
  • Bank Statements
  • Proof of Insurance

Pros and Cons of HELOC

A HELOC can be a useful financial tool, but it’s important to consider the pros and cons before deciding to pursue one.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of HELOC loans:

Advantages of HELOC

  • Lower Interest Rates: Compared to other credit forms, HELOCs typically have lower interest rates. This will help you to save money on interest charges over time.
  • Flexibility: HELOC offers flexible borrowing within a credit limit and repayment options, including interest-only or principal and interest payments.
  • Large Borrowing Capacity: It allows borrowers to access a large amount of money, up to a certain percentage of their home’s equity. This can be useful for large expenses, such as home renovations or medical bills.
  • Tax Benefits: In some cases, the interest paid on a HELOC may be tax-deductible. However, this depends on the borrower’s tax situation, so it’s important to consult with a tax professional.

Disadvantages of HELOC

  • Variable Interest Rates: Unlike a fixed-rate loan, HELOCs typically have a variable interest rate that can change over time. This means that the borrower’s monthly payments may fluctuate, making budgeting and planning more difficult.
  • Risk of Foreclosure: Since the borrower’s home secures a HELOC, failure to make payments could result in foreclosure. This risk is higher if you borrow more than you can afford or if there is a drop in home values.
  • Fees: HELOCs often come with fees, including application fees, appraisal fees, and annual fees. These fees can add up and increase the overall cost of borrowing.
  • Requires Home Equity: HELOCs are only available to homeowners who have equity in their homes. If a borrower has little or no equity, they may not be able to qualify for a HELOC.

Alternative To a HELOC

If a Home Equity Line of Credit isn’t the right fit for your financial needs, here are a few alternatives to a HELOC:

  • Credit Cards: For smaller expenses or short-term funding, credit cards are an option, but their higher interest rates require careful spending and repayment management to avoid excessive charges.
  • Cash-Out Refinance: Cash-out refinance allows you to replace your existing mortgage with a new one. The new loan will be for a higher amount, allowing you to receive the difference in cash.
  • Home Equity Loan: It allows you to borrow a lump sum of money against your home equity. It provides a fixed interest rate and term, with regular monthly payments.
  • Personal Loan: It is an unsecured loan that you can obtain from a bank, credit union, or online lender. It doesn’t require collateral, but it’s based on your creditworthiness and income.

Difference Between HELOC and Home Equity Loan

HELOC and Home Equity Loan are both forms of borrowing against the equity in your home, but they differ in several key aspects:

ParametersHome Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)Home Equity Loan
BorrowingAllows you to borrow funds as needed, up to a predetermined limit.Provides a lump sum upfront, which you repay over time.
RepaymentMinimum monthly payments based on the outstanding balance.Fixed monthly payments over a specified term.
InterestVariable interest rate, typically tied to a benchmark such as the prime rate.Fixed interest rate throughout the loan term.
FlexibilityYou can borrow, repay, and borrow again within the draw period.Once you receive the loan, you cannot borrow more.
RiskInterest rates can fluctuate, potentially affecting monthly payments.Interest rates are fixed, providing stable repayment amounts.
Closing CostsTypically, lower closing costs, if any, compared to home equity loans.This may involve higher closing costs, such as appraisal and origination fees.

Final Word

HELOC might be a good option for you if you need a large sum of money on a revolving basis. It offers flexibility and potentially lower interest rates for homeowners.

However, careful consideration of the risks, such as variable rates and the possibility of home loss, is crucial. Comparing offers and consulting with a financial advisor can help make an informed decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does a HELOC work?

HELOC allows homeowners to borrow against their home equity. After approval, a credit limit is determined. During the draw period, funds can be withdrawn as needed. Repayment follows during a fixed period with interest and principal payments.

2. How to get a HELOC?

To get a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), contact a lender or a bank offering HELOCs. Prepare necessary documents like income verification, credit history, and property appraisal. Submit an application, undergo underwriting, and upon approval, you can access funds up to a predetermined limit using checks or a credit card tied to the HELOC.

3. How long does it take to get a HELOC?

The time to get a HELOC can range from a few weeks to a couple of months. It depends on factors like documentation preparation, lender's processing time, and property appraisal requirements.

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