Published On: Wed, Oct 11th, 2017
Money | By nnw

What you need to know about home equity loans

EmbedShare A USA TODAY motion graphic explaining the many acronyms that a home-buyer may encounter during the home buying and shopping process. Ramon Padilla, Frank Pompa, Berna Elibuyuk, Charisse Jones, Michael Struening and Philana PattersonIf you’re considering taking out a home equity loan, here are 13 things you need to know first.(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)A home equity loan is a method for borrowing money for big-ticket items, and understanding the facts about these tricky loans is crucial to helping you make the right decision for your finances.If you’re considering taking out a home equity loan, here are 13 things you need to know first.A home equity loan — or HEL — is a loan in which a borrower uses the equity of their house as collateral. These loans allow you to borrow a large lump sum amount based on the value of your home, which is determined by an appraiser, and your current equity.Equity loans are available as either fixed- or adjustable-rate loans and come with a set amount of time to repay the debt, typically between 5 and 30 years. You’ll pay closing costs, but it’ll be much less than what you pay on a typical full mortgage. Fixed- rate HELs also offer the predictability of a regular interest rate from the start, which some borrowers prefer.A home equity loan is generally best for people who need cash to pay for a single major expense, like a specific home renovation project. Home equity loans are not particularly useful for borrowing small amounts of money.Lenders typically don’t want to be bothered with making small loans — $10,000 is about the smallest you can get. Bank of America, for example, has a minimum home equity loan amount of $25,000, while Discover offers home equity loans in the range of $35,000 to $150,000.A home equity line of credit — or HELOC — is a lender-set revolving credit line based on the equity of your home. Once the limit is set, you can draw on your line of credit at any time during the life of the loan by writing a check against it. A HELOC is similar to a credit card: you do not need to borrow the full amount of the loan, and the available credit is replenished as you pay it back. In fact, you could pay back the loan in full during the draw period, re-borrow the total amount, and pay it back again.The draw period typically lasts about 10 years and the repayment period typically lasts between 10 and 20 years. You pay interest only on what you actually borrow from the available loan, and you usually don’t have to begin repaying the loan until after the draw period closes.HELOC loans also sometimes come with annual fees. Interest rates on HELOCs are adjustable, and they are generally tied to the prime rate, although they can often be converted to a fixed rate after a certain period of time. You are also often required to pay closing costs on the loan.EmbedShare Americans die with an average debt of $62,000. Here are some ways to manage that debt before it's too late. USA TODAYHome equity lines of credit are best for people who expect to need varying amounts of cash over time — for example, to start a business. If you don’t need to borrow as much as HELs require, you can opt for a HELOC and borrow only what you need instead.Beyond the access to large sums of money, another advantage of home equity loans and home equity lines of credit is that the interest you pay is usually tax-deductible for those who itemize deductions, the same as regular mortgage interest. Federal tax law allows you to deduct mortgage interest on up to $100,000 in home equity debt ($50,000 apiece for married persons filing separately). There are certain limitations, though, so check with a tax adviser to determine your own eligibility.Because HELs and HELOCs are secured by your home, the rates also tend to be lower than you’d pay on credit cards or other unsecured loans.The debt you take on from a HEL or HELOC is secured by your home, meaning your property could be at risk if you fail to make the payments on your loans. You can be foreclosed on and lose your home if you’re delinquent on a home equity loan, the same as on your primary mortgage. In the case of a foreclosure, the primary mortgage lender is paid off first, and then the home equity lender is paid off out of whatever is left.If your home’s value declines, you may go underwater and owe more than the house is worth. The rates for HELs and HELOCs also tend to be somewhat higher than what you’d currently pay for a full mortgage, and closing costs and other fees can add up.If you’re interested in learning how to qualify for a home equity loan, first you need to determine how much equity you have.Equity is the share of your home that you actually own, versus that which you still owe to the bank. If your home is valued at $250,000 and you still owe $200,000 on your mortgage, you have $50,000 in equity, or 20%.The same information is more commonly described in terms of a loan-to-value ratio — that is, the remaining balance on your loan compared to the value of the property — which in this case would be 80% ($200,000 being 80% of $250,000).Real Estate is constantly rising a safe investment. If you’re considering taking out a home equity loan, here are 13 things you need to know first. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)Generally speaking, lenders will require you to have at least an 80% loan-to-value ratio remaining after the home equity loan in order to be approved. That means you’ll need to own more than 20% of your home before you can even qualify for a home equity loan.If you have a $250,000 home, you’d need at least 30% equity — a mortgage loan balance of no more than $175,000 — in order to qualify for a $25,000 home equity loan or line of credit.Many lenders require good to excellent credit ratings to qualify for home equity loans. A score of 620 or higher is recommended for a home equity loan, and you may need an even higher score to qualify for a home equity line of credit. There are, however, certain situations where home equity loans may still be available to those with poor credit if they have considerable equity in their home and a low debt-to-income ratio.If you think you’ll be in the market for a home equity loan or line of credit in the near future, consider taking steps to improve your credit score first.Technically, you can get a home equity loan as soon as you purchase a home. However, home equity builds slowly, which means it can take a while before you have enough equity to qualify for a loan. In fact, it can take five to seven years to begin paying down the principal on your mortgage and start building equity.The normal processing time for a home equity loan can be anywhere from two to four weeks.Although it is possible to have multiple home equity lines of credit, it is rare and few lenders will offer them. You would need substantial equity and excellent credit to qualify for multiple loans or lines of credit.Applying for two HELOCs at the same time but from different lenders without disclosing them is considered mortgage fraud.EmbedShare Despite low mortgage rates, an improving labor market and elevated stock prices, consumers are still a bit cautious when it comes to buying a home. NewslookBanks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, and brokers all offer home equity loan products. A little research and some shopping around will help you determine which banks offer the best home equity products and interest rates for your situation.Start with the banks where you already have a working relationship, but also ask around for referrals from friends and family who have recently gotten loans, and be sure to ask about any fees. Experienced real estate agents can also provide some insight into this process.If you’re unsure of where to start, here are a few options to review:There are certain home equity loan requirements you must meet before you can apply for a loan. For better chances of being approved for a loan, follow these five steps:If you need a loan to help cover upcoming expenses, make sure you’re prepared. Check out our Loan Learning Center for more resources on the different types of loans available.More: Follow USA TODAY Money and Tech on FacebookNote: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.More from Credit.comUnderstanding Home Equity Lines of CreditThe Credit Approval Process & What to ExpectThis article originally appeared on Credit.com.Kirk Haverkamp is chief staff writer and editor for MortgageLoan.com. He covers the mortgage and personal finance industry from both a consumer and industry perspective, and provides guidance for consumers on how to approach the sometimes intimidating process of obtaining the right mortgage and personal finance products for their needs.