The optimum word in “home equity loan” is equity. Start with the fair market value of a home, subtract the mortgages (first and second) and any liens against the property, and what you have left is the equity. This equity can be used as collateral to secure cash in the form of a loan or mortgage.
The amount borrowed is based on a percentage of the appraised value of the home. The percentage rate can vary from 75% to 125%. The length of the financing will also vary. The two main types of home equity loans are fixed rate loans and adjustable rate loans.
Fixed rate loan – provides a fixed amount of money at a fixed rate of interest, repayable in equal payments over the life of the loan. Fixed rate financing costs more in set-up fees and comes at higher interest than adjustable rate loans. But if homeowners stay put and interest rates go up, they will save money over a comparable adjustable rate loan.
Adjustable rate loan – the interest rate goes up or down according to the index upon which it is based. Adjustable rate loans will have a cap on how high the interest rate can go. Usually called ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages), this type of loan has lower up-front costs and starts at a lower interest rate than fixed rate financing. This means lower initial monthly payments.
Putting home equity to good use
According to the Consumer Banker Association, the top ten reasons for getting a home equity loan are:
9. Medical expenses
8. Business expenses
7. Household expenditures
5. Major purchase
4. Education expenses
3. Automobile purchase
2. Home improvement
1. Debt consolidation
Debt consolidation, the most popular reason people cash out their home equity, is a smart form of financing because of the money it can save. For example, say you owe $15,000 on a credit card that charges 17% interest. If you get a debt consolidation loan at 9% interest and pay it off in five years, you’ll save you over $30,000!
If you’re paying more than 15% interest on anything, you should seriously consider a debt consolidation loan. The right terms could drop your monthly payments by 35% – 50%, depending on interest rates, origination costs and tax consequences.