As you make payments against your mortgage, you build equity in your home. This equity can be used to secure future loans, making it easier to refinance your home or cover certain other expenses. Depending on your needs, you might consider taking out a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). The question is, which one is the better option for your current situation?
This is actually kind of a tricky question. Let’s look at what the differences are between these two ways of using equity and the situations that each is best for. That should give you a good idea of exactly how well each option fits your needs so you can choose the home equity solution that’s best for you.
What Is a Home Equity Loan?
As the name implies, a home equity loan is a loan that uses the equity you’ve built in your home as collateral. As with other standard loans, when you’re approved for the loan you receive the entire amount of the loan as a lump sum payment. Typically, the amount of a home equity loan is capped by the amount of equity you have in your home, with the new loan serving as a lien against the home. Home equity loans typically feature fixed interest rates and fixed repayment terms, with the most common terms being 10 or 15 years. As with other loans, you’re required to make monthly payments against the home equity loan until it is repaid in full.
What Is a HELOC?
A home equity line of credit is similar to a home equity loan in some ways, with the biggest similarity being that they are both borrowed against the equity in your home. Unlike a home equity loan, however, a HELOC does not give you a lump sum of money once the loan is approved. Instead, you receive a debit card or checkbook that you can use to access the line of credit. You’re only charged interest on the amount you’ve borrowed against the HELOC, and feature fluctuating interest rates and balloon payments after a certain period of time. There is also an advance period on the loan which is the time period in which you can access money from the line of credit; after this period ends, you can no longer borrow against it.
When to Get a Home Equity Loan
Home equity loans are great if you have a single expense or purchase to make and will need all of the money around the same time. Because they feature fixed interest rates, you know how much your monthly payment will be for the entire life of the loan. When you take out a home equity loan you get your money, pay for your purchase or other expense and then start repaying what you’ve borrowed. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
When to Get a HELOC
A home equity line of credit is a better option if you have multiple purchases or expenses that you have to pay out over a period of time. Many feature low introductory interest rates, allowing you to save money during the first several months because you’re being charged less on the initial purchases you have to make. Some homeowners also take out HELOC loans if they don’t have specific needs but want to have a safety net to cover possible purchases or emergencies; since they’re only charged interest on the amount that they actually borrow against the loan, that safety net can wait for the entire advance period without raising interest charges if the funds aren’t actually needed.