How to Use Home Equity to Finance Life Events

If you’ve been paying your mortgage for a while, you’ve probably built up some equity in your home. Maybe you’ve heard of home loans or home equity lines of credit but aren’t sure when to use them or why they might be an option for you. Centreville Bank can help you understand home equity and how you can use it to finance your life events.

What is Equity in a House?

Home equity is the difference between how much your home is currently worth (or its market value) and how much you still owe on your mortgage. Here’s a quick example to help you figure out how much equity you have:

  • Your Current Home Value: $200,000
  • Your Current Mortgage Balance: $150,000
  • Your Home Equity: $50,000

How You Can Use Home Equity

Mortgage lenders like Centerville Bank allow you to borrow against your home’s equity, using your home as collateral, which is why they are sometimes referred to as second mortgages. The general guideline is that you can borrow up to about 85% of your home’s value, minus what you still owe on your house. The equity that you’ve built up in your home can be leveraged for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Home improvements
  • Debt consolidation
  • Weddings
  • Education and College
  • Vacations
  • Major life events

What are the benefits of using your home equity to finance these types of projects? Home equity loans usually have a lower interest rate and can be easier to qualify for if you have bad credit. They can also give you access to a large sum of money, and the interest costs may be tax-deductible. There are two different ways you can access your home’s equity: through a home equity line of credit or a home equity loan.

How Does a Home Equity Line of Credit Work?

With a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, you can take out money as you need it during the draw period, which is determined by the lender. This is similar to a credit card in that once you pay off what you’ve borrowed, you can borrow more. For example, if you take out a $6,000 home equity line of credit and pay $3,500 toward the principal, you’ll have $2,500 in available credit. With HELOCs, the interest rates are variable and your payments are based on how much credit you’ve used, as well as the current interest rate.

What is a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan allows you to take out a lump sum of money, similar to a personal loan. Like a home equity line of credit, your home equity loan will be determined based on the value of your home and your mortgage balance. With a home equity loan, your interest rate is typically fixed and your repayment amount is the same each month. In contrast to a HELOC, you can’t keep taking out money once you’ve paid back the principal.

How to Get a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit

To qualify for a home equity loan, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, to figure out how much of your income is already promised to other lenders. This factor helps lenders determine if you’re a good fit for this type of loan. Typically, the lower your DTI, the greater chance you have to qualify for a home equity loan or line of credit. Lenders look for your DTI to be under 36%; however, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac typically allow up to 45% DTI. If you aren’t there yet, try to pay down your debt or reduce your other monthly expenses. A home loan officer at Centreville Bank can answer questions and help you find the best option for you.

Mortgage lenders will also consider your loan-to-value ratio, or LTV. This is the amount you still owe on your mortgage divided by your home’s current market value. To make sure your home’s value is accurate, you’ll need an appraisal. Typically, the lower the ratio, the better your chances of qualifying. LTV ratios often need to be 80% or lower in order to qualify for a home equity line of credit. Lenders need to keep a cushion of about 20% equity in the home in case payments aren’t made and they need to foreclose and sell the home.

Building up equity in your home is like keeping money in the bank for a rainy day. If you need extra money to pay for your children’s education, make home improvements or pay unforeseen expenses, tapping into your home equity could be a good option.

To see how much you may qualify for, use our home equity calculator, or check out our home equity loans and HELOC rates. Contact Centreville Bank to explore our options for homeowners in Connecticut or Rhode Island and find out if a home equity loan or HELOC is right for you.