My Perfect Mortgage
Home Equity Loans: A Guide to Using Your Home’s Value
5 minute read
April 10, 2024

Owning a home comes with many advantages, and building equity over time is a significant one. A home equity loan allows you to leverage this built-up equity and access funds for various purposes. However, understanding how it works and the requirements is crucial before applying.

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What is a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan is a type of loan secured by your home's equity. Equity represents the portion of your home you truly own, calculated by subtracting the outstanding mortgage balance from the current market value. This loan provides a lump sum payment based on the equity you've accumulated.

How Does it Work?

Home equity loans function by allowing you to borrow a fixed amount of money repaid over a predetermined term with a fixed interest rate.  Your home's value secures the loan, meaning if you fail to repay, the lender could foreclose on your property.

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Types of Home Equity Loans

There are two main types of home equity loans:

  • Traditional Home Equity Loan: This functions similarly to a standard loan, where you borrow a lump sum and repay it with interest over a set term.
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): A HELOC operates more like a credit card. You have a credit limit you can tap into as needed, repaying what you borrow plus interest. Each type has its own terms and conditions, so choose the one that best suits your needs.

Home Equity Loan Requirements

Qualifying for a home equity loan involves meeting specific criteria:

  • Minimum Credit Score: Lenders typically require a good credit score to assess your ability to repay the loan. Aim to improve your credit score before applying.
  • Amount of Equity: You'll need sufficient equity in your property. The specific amount varies by lender but typically depends on your home's value and remaining mortgage balance.
  • Documentation: When applying, be prepared to submit documents like proof of income, home appraisals, and details of existing debts.

Getting a Home Equity Loan

Several factors influence the interest rates you receive:

  • Credit Score: A good credit score generally qualifies you for a lower interest rate.
  • Loan Amount: The amount you borrow can impact the rate.
  • Market Rates: Prevailing market interest rates also play a role.

Many lenders offer convenient online applications, streamlining the process and providing quicker approval responses.

Comparing Rates is Key

Before finalizing a loan, compare rates from multiple lenders to ensure you get the best deal. Consider factors like fixed interest rates and repayment terms.

Using Home Equity Funds

Home equity loans offer a variety of uses:

  • Home Improvement Projects: This is a popular option, as the funds can be used to renovate and potentially increase your property value.
  • Debt Consolidation: You can consolidate high-interest debts like credit cards or personal loans into a single loan, simplifying payments and potentially lowering overall interest costs.

Benefits of Home Equity Loans

Compared to other loan options, home equity loans often have advantages:

  • Lower Interest Rates: They typically come with lower interest rates compared to personal loans or credit cards, making them a more cost-effective option for significant expenses.
  • More Cost-Effective than Refinancing: If you need access to cash quickly, a home equity loan can be more cost-effective than refinancing your mortgage.

Important Considerations Before Applying

  • Understanding Loan Terms: Carefully review the loan terms, including repayment terms, interest rates, and potential fees, before committing.
  • Risks of Using Your Home as Collateral: Remember, your home is used as collateral. Failing to repay could result in foreclosure. Assess your financial situation thoroughly before leveraging your home's equity.
  • Closing Costs: Factor in closing costs associated with the loan, including appraisals, application fees, and other charges.

Home Equity Loan FAQs

Q: What is a home equity loan and how does it work?

A: A home equity loan allows you to borrow with a home equity, which is the equity in your home, meaning the difference between what your home is worth and how much you owe on it. You can take out a home equity loan based on the equity you have built in your home.

Q: What are the requirements for obtaining a home equity loan?

A: To obtain a home equity loan, you typically need to have enough equity in your home, a good credit score, and a steady income. The lender may also consider other factors such as your existing mortgage, loan balance, and the current market value of your home.

Q: Can I get a home equity loan with bad credit?

A: While it may be challenging, some lenders offer home equity loans to individuals with bad credit. However, keep in mind that you may face higher interest rates compared to those with good credit.

Q: What are the benefits of a home equity loan?

A: A home equity loan typically comes with lower interest rates compared to other types of loans like a credit card. Additionally, the interest you pay on a home equity loan may be tax-deductible, making it a cost-effective borrowing option.

Q: What are the risks of a home equity loan?

A: One of the main risks of a home equity loan is that your home is used as collateral. If you fail to make payments, you could potentially foreclose on your home. Additionally, home equity loans come with higher interest rates than primary mortgages.

Q: How much home equity do I need to qualify for a home equity loan?

A: Lenders typically require you to have a certain amount of equity in your home before approving you for a home equity loan. The exact amount varies by lender, but generally, you need to have at least 15-20% equity in your home.

Q: What is the difference between a home equity loan and a HELOC?

A: A home equity loan is a one-time lump sum disbursement, while a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit similar to a credit card. With a HELOC, you can borrow against the equity in your home as needed, whereas with a home equity loan, you receive the funds upfront.

Are you ready for a home equity loan?

Home equity loans can be a valuable tool for homeowners needing access to funds. 

By understanding how they work, the requirements for qualification, and the potential risks and benefits involved, you can make an informed decision about whether a home equity loan is the right financial solution for you.

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.