A home equity line of credit (HELOC) can be a great lending option for homeowners who have built up a significant amount of home equity. As you pay down your mortgage loan, you are reducing the principal balance of what you owe. Over time, your property may also appreciate in value. It is likely worth more now than when you bought it. This leaves you with home equity—the difference between the current market value of your home and how much you still owe on your mortgage loan.

Having home equity can give you a lot of leverage as a homeowner. You can even utilize your home equity to cash-out or borrow money that can be used for other expenses. A HELOC is one solution that enables you to take out some of your equity in the form of cash or credit.

what is a HELOC loan
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What is a HELOC?

A HELOC, which stands for home equity line of credit, is a line of credit that uses your home equity as collateral. You are able to borrow and withdraw funds as you need them, up to a set credit limit.

You can use your HELOC money to invest back into your property with improvements, upgrades and renovations — which in turn may increase its value (and your potential home equity) even more over time. Or, you can use the funds to pay off other high-interest debts like credit cards, student loans or car loans. It can be used for anything you want. Other common examples are college expenses for your children or unexpected family medical bills.

Why apply for a HELOC?

There are several reasons why someone might apply for a HELOC:

Home Renovations: Many homeowners use HELOCs to fund home improvement projects or renovations. Since home equity is used as collateral, HELOCs often come with lower interest rates compared to other forms of unsecured loans or credit.

Debt Consolidation: People with high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, may use a HELOC to consolidate their debts. By doing this, they can potentially reduce their overall interest expenses.

Education Expenses: HELOCs can be used to pay for educational expenses, including tuition, books, and other education-related costs. The interest rates on HELOCs are usually more favorable than those on private student loans.

Emergency Funds: Some homeowners establish a HELOC as a financial safety net for unexpected expenses or emergencies, such as medical bills or home repairs. They can draw on the line of credit when needed.

Real Estate Investments: Real estate investors may use a HELOC to fund the purchase of additional investment properties. This can be a way to leverage the equity in their primary residence to generate rental income or capital appreciation.

Small Business Financing: Entrepreneurs and small business owners might use a HELOC to finance their business needs, such as working capital, expansion, or equipment purchases.

Major Purchases: A HELOC can be used to make significant purchases, like a new car or boat, especially if the interest rates are more favorable than traditional auto or personal loans.

Retirement Planning: Some individuals use a HELOC as a part of their retirement strategy. They may choose to establish a HELOC as a financial cushion to supplement retirement income.

How does a HELOC work?

Your home equity line of credit limit will be based on your available home equity and your current mortgage balance. Mortgage lenders will typically allow you to borrow up to 85% of your home’s value minus your outstanding mortgage principal balance.

Let’s say your home appraises for $500,000 and you currently owe $300,000 on your mortgage loan. The difference between these two amounts is your home equity, which is $200,000.

If you are approved for a HELOC up to 85% of the home’s value (85% of $500,000 = $425,000) minus what you owe ($300,000), then your HELOC limit will be $125,000.

How do you qualify for a HELOC?

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a type of revolving credit that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their homes. Qualification for a HELOC typically depends on several factors, including:

Sufficient Equity: You need to have a significant amount of equity in your home often at least 20% or more.. Equity is the difference between the current market value of your home and the balance of your mortgage. 

Good Credit Score: A strong credit history and a good credit score are important.. A higher credit score 680 or more can help you qualify for a HELOC with better terms and lower interest rates.

Stable Income: A stable source of income to make the payments on the HELOC is required. Verification of income is through pay stubs, tax returns, or other financial documents.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): Your debt-to-income ratio, which is the percentage of your income that goes toward debt payments will be verified. A DTI of 43% or lower is more favorable when applying for a HELOC.

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV): The LTV ratio is the amount you want to borrow compared to the appraised value of your home. For example, if your home is appraised at $300,000 and you want to borrow $60,000, your LTV ratio would be 20%. 80% LTV or lower is ideal although in some cases you can qualify with less

Adequate Documentation: You will need to provide documentation to prove your identity, income, and property ownership. This may include tax returns, bank statements, property appraisals, and more.

Ability to Repay: Your ability to repay the HELOC will be verified. This involves looking at your financial history and determining whether you have the means to make the required payments.

It’s important to note that HELOCs are secured loans, meaning your home serves as collateral. Therefore, it’s essential to carefully consider your financial situation and whether you can afford a HELOC before applying. Additionally, the terms and conditions of HELOCs can vary significantly, so it’s important to review and understand the specific terms of the loan before proceeding.

Consulting with one of our mortgage advisors will  help you make an informed decision if a HELOC is right for you.

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