How Exactly Does a Home Equity Loan Work?

A home equity loan is a loan that is secured by the equity of the borrower’s home. Because the borrower’s home is used as security, the lender will usually offer an interest rate that is lower than it would be for an unsecured loan. The most shared reasons for getting a home equity loan are paying for home improvements, paying off other debts that have a higher rate of interest, and paying for other expensive items such as a college education or medical bills.

A borrower should only seek a home equity loan if they are sure that they can repay it. If the borrower defaults then the lender could foreclose on the borrower’s home and sell it to retrieve their losses. A borrower must have equity in their home before applying. If the borrower’s home is worth less than the balance on their current mortgage(s) then there is no equity to borrow against.

There are two types of home equity loans – a closed end, and a line of credit. A closed end home equity loan is a lump sum that is repaid in monthly payments over five or ten years, and usually has a fixed interest rate. If the rate is fixed then it is easy to create a loan amortization schedule that shows the balance remaining on the loan after each payment. Variable rates are uncommon for this kind of loan because the payments are fixed, so a change in the interest rate might average that the payments are no longer enough to cover the interest expense. This would rule to a negative amortization, where the unpaid interest is additional to the balance.

A home equity line of credit works like a giant credit card, except that there are minimum withdrawal amounts in addition as fees for each withdrawal. The interest rate on this kind is usually variable. consequently, the monthly payment amount will change depending on the current interest rate and the current loan balance.

Currently, home equity loans are difficult to get unless the borrower has excellent credit and a lot of equity in their home. This is because the home equity loan will be in second position behind the first mortgage, which makes it difficult for a lender to retrieve any money if the borrower defaults. However, it is much easier to get if the borrower does not have a first mortgage because the equity loan would then be in first position. In that situation a borrower may find it easier to get than a traditional mortgage.

There is also a tax advantage to getting a home equity loan. The interest is usually tax deductible if the borrower’s dominant residence is the home offered as security. The borrower should check the tax code or ask a tax specialized for advice if they want to take advantage of this tax deduction.

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