There are times when people need access to cash in a hurry. For example, emergencies happen, or you want to buy something expensive. One way of accessing the money you have tied up in equity in your home is by tapping into home equity, also known as “taking out a second mortgage.”
There are several ways to tap into your home’s equity to get a specific amount of cash. But tapping into your home equity also comes with significant risk. Because you are selling a portion of your home, it’s best not to take out any second mortgage that you can’t afford or that will put your family in financial straits.
If you decide to cash in on your home equity, you might want to refinance the whole amount of equity and use it for something else. That is called cash-out refinancing. For example, let’s say your home is worth $175,000, and the total loan on the house is $125,000. If you owe $100,000 and you refinance with a new loan for $145,000 ($115,000 borrowed), then you have just cashed out $25,000 ($145k – $100k), or 25% (100/175), of your equity.
If that sounds like an easy way to some money – and we do mean easy – watch out. Before you go through with a cash-out refinancing deal, there are several things to consider, including the interest rate and monthly payments.
In general, it’s best not to borrow against your home unless you indeed need the money. On the other hand, some people would rather have a second mortgage or cash-out refinance because they can get a lower interest rate than an unsecured loan. If going this route makes sense for you, talk to your lender about getting a new loan and making your new monthly payment manageable.
Refinancing from Another Lender
In this case, you borrow money from another lender to pay off your present loan or to get a larger loan that will cover the cash-out refinance. With a refinancing loan, you take out a new loan for one amount and use it to pay off another existing debt. By doing this, you have just used the value of your home as security for the new debt. Before applying for any refinancing loan, make sure that you can afford the monthly payments on both loans after they are consolidated into one payment.
With either second mortgages or cash-out refinancing deals, lenders offer what is called a home equity line of credit secured by your home’s equity. If you don’t need the money for a while, you can keep the credit line open and available for future use. But be careful not to spend too much of the limit, or it could affect your ability to come up with the monthly payment on loans or credit lines that make use of this equity line.
Home Equity Loans
A home equity loan is an amount borrowed against your home’s equity in one lump sum. You borrow money from a bank or other lending institution and pay interest on the total amount until it is paid off. Unlike a second mortgage, where you get all of this money at once, most lenders give you just part of what you need right away and then continue to supply you with periodic loan disbursements until they provide you with everything that was approved.
You’ll usually have a fixed amount of time to pay off the loan. However, interest rates on home equity loans are typically adjustable, meaning they can change from one period to another. That is an essential consideration because it could affect your monthly payment and total interest paid over the life of the loan.
In most cases, lenders require homeowners to have no other mortgages on their homes when they apply for a home equity line of credit or home equity loan. However, some lenders may allow homeowners with existing mortgages to consolidate them into their new debt, but this will vary according to their discretion.
That means that you should be debt-free before you begin applying for these kinds of loans, although some lenders may allow you to have a second mortgage and still get a home equity loan.
Caveats About Home Equity Loans
Homeowners should not borrow against their homes just because the interest rate on a home equity loan is lower than other types of lenders, especially if they are in danger of not paying it back. The lower interest rate can be deceiving because, after all, you are putting your home up for collateral when you obtain this type of loan.
If you cannot afford the monthly payment or do not want to risk losing your house, don’t take out a home equity loan or line of credit, no matter how low the interest rate might seem.
Is Home Equity Loan the Best Solution For You?
If you think a home equity loan is the best solution for your situation, continue to investigate all of your choices and find out what types of rates and terms are available before you apply. Talk to several lenders to see what they have to offer. When shopping around, ask about fees as well as interest rates. Make sure that you:
- Fully understand the fee structure
- Know how much it will cost if you miss payments or default on the loan
- Know how those costs increase over time.
Also, check into whether your property taxes will be included in any refinancing agreement and find out what happens if they go up during the loan term. If possible, make sure that there will be no penalty if you pay your property taxes out-of-pocket.
Understanding Home Equity Loans
Since interest rates on home equity loans typically rise and fall with the prime rate, it’s not a good idea to take one of these loans unless you have no other options. However, even though some pitfalls could pose problems – such as accrued penalties for paying off early or refinancing without penalty – sometimes a home equity loan or line of credit is the only way to go.
For example, suppose you need money for necessary repairs that will not be covered by insurance or disaster relief money. In that case, this may be your only option short of cashing in all your investments and retirement accounts.
Finally, don’t assume that you won’t obtain a home equity loan or line of credit because real estate values are down. While lenders may be reluctant to issue new loans, they might still be willing to work with you if you already own your home and can provide proof of income.