Home equity loans are just like a traditional conforming fixed-rate mortgage. They require a set monthly payments for a fixed period of time where a borrower is lent a set amount of money upfront and then pays back a specific amount each month for the remainder of the loan. Equity loans typically charge a slightly higher initial rate than HELOC do, but they are fixed loans rather than adjustable loans. If you are replacing your roof and fixing your plumbing and know exactly what they will cost upfront, then a home equity loan is likely a good fit.

HELOC offer greater flexibility, like the ability to pay interest-only for a period of time, and then switch to a regular amortizing or balloon payment. When you have a HELOC you may be charged a small nominal annual fee – say $50 to $100 – to keep the line open, but you do not accrue interest until you draw on the line. HELOC loans are better for people who are paying their child’s college expenses each year and other types of staggered periodic expenses. Be aware HELOC rates are variable and change as the Federal Reserve adjusts the Fed Funds rate, so monthly costs may jump significantly if you shift from interest-only to amortizing payments around the same time the Federal Reserve does a significant rate hike.

Which option should I choose? HELOCs are better for people who need to borrow various amounts of money periodically, whereas home equity loans are better for people who intend to borrow one known sum of money once for a known fixed amount of time.

Some banks offer hybrid products where borrowers do not owe until they draw on the line, but then structure the loan to be fully amortizing. When borrowing large sums of money many borrowers choose cash out refi rather than a home equity loan. The following interactive table highlights local refinance rate offers from banks and credit unions in your region.

Home Equity Lines Of Credit And Traditional Second Mortgages

The fixed amount of money repayable by a second mortgage is done over a fixed period of time. In many cases, the payment schedule calls for payments of equal amounts to be paid throughout the entire loan period. One may decided to take a second mortgage rather than a home equity line if, for example, the set amount is needed for a certain purpose such as building an addition onto the home.

However, deciding which type of loan suits the need of the customer involves considering the costs that come along with two alternatives. It is important to look at both the APR and all other charges. The APRs on the two different types of loans are figured in different ways:

  • The interest rate charged plus other financial charges for a traditional second mortgage is taken into consideration by the APR
  • The APR is based on just the periodic interest rate. It does not include other charges or points.

Repaying Your Home Equity Line Of Credit

Some plans have minimum payments that cover a certain portion of the principal, the total amount borrowed, plus any accrued interest. Unlike the usual installment loan, the amount that goes toward the principal may not be sufficient enough to repay the principal amount by the end of the term. Other plans may allow payments to be made on the interest a loan during the life of the loan, which is referred to as interest-only loans. This means that the borrower pays nothing toward the principal. If the borrower borrows $10,000, that means they will owe that amount when the plan comes to an end.

The borrower may choose to pay an amount higher than the minimum payment, so many lenders may offer a choice of payment options. Many consumers choose to make payments on the principal on a regular basis just as they do with loans. For example, if the consumer uses their line of credit to buy a boat, they may want to pay it off just as they would a typical boat loan, which saves more money in the long run.

Whether the payment arrangements during the life of the loan is to pay a little or pay none toward the principal amount of the loan, when the plan comes to an end the consumer may be required to pay the entire balance all at once. The consumer must be prepared for this “balloon payment” by refinancing that amount with the lender, by obtaining a loan from a new lender, or by other means. If the consumer is unable to make the balloon payment, then they risk losing their home. The consumer must consider how the balloon payment is going to be made prior to entering the loan agreement.

How Much Can You Borrow?

Depending on the creditworthiness of the borrower and the amount of outstanding debt, the home equity lender may let the borrower borrow up to 85% of the appraised value of the home minus any amounts still owed on the first mortgage. The lender should be asked about the length of the home equity loan and if there is a minimum withdrawal requirement, as well as if there is a minimum amount or maximum amount to withdraw after the account is opened. The borrower must know in what methods the credit line can be accessed such as credit cards, checks, or both.

Refinancing As Another Option

HELOC typically charge a higher rate of interest than traditional fixed-rate mortgages. If you intend to borrow a significant amount of equity for an extended period of time, it may be more cost effective to refinance your mortgage. This is especially true if your original mortgage was obtained when rates were well above their current historically low levels.