In a November, 2007 report, the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP) stated that in the previous 12 months, 17% of mortgage holders took out home equity loans or increased their mortgage. The average equity loan was $ 35,400.
What are people doing with all this money? Paying down debts, sending the kids to school, investing in their homes – there are many possible answers to that question. If you’ve ever considered tapping into your home’s equity, the following FAQs can help you decide whether home equity loans are the right strategy for you.
What Are Home Equity Loans?
Home equity is the difference between the market value of your home and what you still owe on the mortgage. So if your house is valued at $ 300,000 and you still have $ 260,000 outstanding on your mortgage, your equity would be $ 40,000.
Home equity loans enable you to borrow against that equity. These loans are also known as second mortgages because they are a second loan (the primary mortgage being the first) that uses your house as collateral.
How Much Can You Borrow?
With most home equity loans you can borrow anywhere up to 85% of the amount of your home equity. For the case above, with $ 40,000 in equity, the homeowner could borrow $ 34,000.
Some lenders have more generous options, even offering to lend 100% of the amount of equity in your home.
How is a Home Equity Line of Credit Different?
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is much the same as a standard line of credit, but it uses your home’s equity for security. With a HELOC you can typically borrow up to 90% of your home’s equity. With $ 40,000 in equity, you could obtain a HELOC for $ 36,000.
With a HELOC, you do not necessarily have to use all of the credit at once. You can use it as needed and pay back what you borrow, just like a standard line of credit.
On the other hand, home equity loans are one-time, lump sum loan. If you need more money, you’ll need another loan.
The general guideline is that a HELOC is best for those who need access to varying amounts of money for ongoing expenses, whereas a home equity loan is better suited to those needing a specific amount for one large expense, like a home renovation.
What About Interest Rates?
Home equity loans typically have fixed interest rates, while HELOC rates are variable. The interest rates for both are typically pegged to an institution’s prime rate, and are often significantly lower than those charged for vehicle loans, credit cards and personal loans.
What is Mortgage Refinancing?
With refinancing, you pay off your existing mortgage and obtain a second mortgage for a lower interest rate. With a “cash-out” mortgage or refinance you can borrow more than what you owe on your mortgage. You can then take the extra money and use it for expenses like tuition, home improvements and so on. Refinancing may include costs for mortgage fees and prepayment penalties.
What are the Pros and Cons?
On the plus side, home equity loans provide low-cost credit for important expenses. In extreme cases, the risks are that the home market slows and you end up owing more than the value of your home, or that you overspend and default, which means the loss of your home.
For many people the pros outweigh the cons. To be sure if a HELOC or loan is right for you, it is best to consult with a mortgage professional.