My Perfect Mortgage
HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: Which Is Best for Investment in a Second Home?
6 minute read
May 3, 2024

Owning a second home can be a fantastic investment opportunity, but unlocking its full potential often requires strategic financing.  This is where leveraging the equity in your primary residence comes in.  However, navigating the world of home equity loans and HELOCs (Home Equity Line of Credit) can be tricky. 

This article dives into the key differences between these two financing options, helping you determine which best fuels your second-home investment goals.

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What is a HELOC and How Does it Work?

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a loan type that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home. Unlike a traditional mortgage or home equity loan, a HELOC has a draw period during which the homeowner can draw on the line of credit as needed.

The homeowner can choose to borrow a lump sum or use a line of credit like a credit card, making monthly payments based on the amount borrowed. HELOCs typically come with variable interest rates, meaning that the rates can rise and fall over the life of the loan.

How does a home equity loan differ from a HELOC?

A home equity loan is a type of loan that allows homeowners to borrow a fixed amount of money against the equity in their home. Unlike a HELOC, a home equity loan typically comes with a fixed interest rate and a fixed repayment period.

Homeowners receive the loan amount in a lump sum and make monthly payments until the loan is repaid. Home equity loans are often used for large expenses or debt consolidation and may be a better option for homeowners who prefer the stability of a fixed-rate loan.

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Comparing HELOC and Home Equity Loans for Investments

When financing an investment property or second residence, it can be tough to decide on which loan option to use to leverage your existing equity. Which one is the better fit when choosing between a HELOC vs. a home equity loan for your investment property?

Both types of loans allow you to tap into the equity in your home to fund your investment, but they have some key differences. 

Let's explore the key differences to help you pick the optimal fuel for your investment journey.

HELOC: Flexibility for the Unknown

  • Revolving credit line: Functions similarly to a credit card, allowing you to tap into funds as needed throughout a draw period (typically 10 years).
  • Variable interest rates: Payments can fluctuate based on market changes, potentially impacting your budget.

This option provides flexibility and is ideal if you're unsure of the exact upfront costs or plan to make ongoing improvements to your second home.

Home Equity Loan: Stability for Upfront Needs

  • Lump sum payment: Receive a fixed amount of cash upfront.
  • Fixed interest rate: Predictable monthly payments throughout the loan term, making budgeting easier.

A home equity loan offers stability and is better suited for those with a clear idea of the total financing required. The fixed-rate ensures consistent payments throughout the repayment period (usually 5-15 years).

The Final Decision: It's All About Your Goals

The best choice hinges on your investment strategy:

You may choose:

  • HELOC if you need flexibility and ongoing access to funds
  • Home equity loan if you prefer predictability and a set repayment plan

Additional factors to consider:

  • Loan amount: HELOCs are ideal for ongoing expenses, while home equity loans are better for substantial upfront costs.
  • Your risk tolerance: Are you comfortable with potentially fluctuating interest rates (HELOC) or do you prefer the stability of a fixed rate (home equity loan)?

Remember, consulting with a financial advisor can provide personalized insights to help you make an informed decision.

Pros and Cons of Using Equity to Fund Investment Property

The biggest pro of financing your investment property or second home with home equity is that your buying power depends on the amount of equity you’ve already built up in your primary residence.

The top con to remember when choosing your financing is that both types of loans use the value of your home as collateral. This means that if you default on your payments, your primary residence is at risk of foreclosure.

How to Use Home Equity to Fund an Investment Property

Here's a breakdown of the process for using home equity to fund the purchase of an investment property or second home:

1.  Determine Your Equity and Needs:

  • Home equity calculation: Subtract your current mortgage balance from your home's appraised value.
  • Financing amount: Decide how much equity you'll tap into for the down payment and any additional costs (closing fees, renovations).
  • Loan option selection: HELOC or home equity loan—consider your investment goals and risk tolerance.

2.  Shop Around for Lenders:

  • Compare rates and terms: Get quotes from multiple lenders to secure the most favorable offer. Research online lenders and local banks/credit unions.
  • Pre-qualification: This non-binding step gives you an estimated loan amount you may qualify for, streamlining the application process.
  • Get matched: Use to get matched with the right lender for you

3.  Application Process:

  • Gather documentation: Proof of income, tax returns, bank statements, and proof of homeownership will be required.
  • Creditworthiness assessment: Lenders will evaluate your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and overall financial health.
  • Appraisal and inspection: The lender may order an appraisal of your primary residence to determine its value and potentially an inspection of the second property.

4.  Loan Approval and Closing:

  • Loan approval: Once your application is reviewed, the lender will notify you of the decision. Negotiation of terms may occur at this stage.
  • Closing: This is where you finalize the loan paperwork, pay closing costs, and officially receive the funds (lump sum for a home equity loan or access to a credit line for HELOC).

Additional Considerations:

  • Down payment requirements: Even with home equity financing, lenders may still require a minimum down payment on the second property.
  • Tax implications: Consult a tax professional to understand potential tax benefits associated with using home equity for investment purposes.
  • Risk factors: Remember, you're using your home as collateral. Defaulting on the loan could lead to foreclosure on your primary residence.

By carefully planning and understanding the process, you can leverage your home equity to reach your investment goals and unlock the potential of your second home.  It's always wise to consult with a financial advisor to discuss your specific situation and ensure this financing strategy aligns with your overall financial plan.

Final Thoughts

Overall, when choosing between a HELOC and a home equity loan for your investment property, it's important to consider your financial goals and circumstances.

If you value flexibility and have a strong credit score, a HELOC may be a better option. On the other hand, if you prefer a fixed rate and predictable monthly payments, a home equity loan may be more suitable.

Ultimately, the decision between the two will depend on your individual needs and financial situation. Whichever option you choose, is here to match you with the perfect lender for your needs.

Our advise is based on experience in the mortgage industry and we are dedicated to helping you achieve your goal of owning a home. We may receive compensation from partner banks when you view mortgage rates listed on our website.