HELOC borrowers can speed up their approval process
It could take up to six weeks — and sometimes longer — to get a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Or it could take only two weeks. As the borrower, you have some control over how fast your HELOC closes.
So if you can’t wait a month or more to access your home equity, you’ll need to take action.
First, look for the fastest lenders. Then, be sure to do your part to keep the loan process on track.
What’s in this article?
HELOC: A fast way to access home equity
A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a great way to unlock the home equity you’ve already built up by making regular house payments over the years.
A HELOC works a lot like a credit card except with a much lower interest rate.
Like a credit card, once your HELOC is open, you can borrow money as you need it. Then you’ll make payments (and pay interest) only on the balance you’ve withdrawn — and not the entire credit line.
But unlike a credit card, you won’t start using your HELOC the same day you apply. You and your lender will have some behind-the-scenes work to do first.
How to get a HELOC approved faster
The time required to process a HELOC application varies a lot by lender and borrower.
To access your equity as quickly as possible, use these strategies:
1. Find a HELOC lender that doesn’t require an appraisal
Real estate appraisals matter. They set the value of your home, and the value of your home tells lenders how much equity you can borrow.
In places where homes have increased in value over the past couple years. an up-to-date appraisal could be a HELOC game changer.
But traditional appraisals take a week or two to complete and add to your HELOC closing costs. The lender will have to hire a certified real estate appraiser and make an appointment for the appraiser to visit your home. Then, the lender has to wait for the official appraisal report.
An automatic valuation model, or AVM, can deliver an appraised value within seconds instead of weeks. AVMs use algorithms to analyze the market and find home values. They’re not as reliable as human appraisers, but they’re a lot faster.
Unless your HELOC’s size pushes the limits of your home equity, an AVM should be accurate enough for most lenders. For example, if you have $150,000 in equity but want a HELOC of $50,000, it shouldn’t matter that your appraisal could be $10,000 higher or lower.
If you need to access HELOC funds quickly, ask your lender about an AVM before you apply.
2. Call around to ask for time estimates
Just like at the local DMV, HELOC lenders can have lines of people waiting for their services. If a lender has more loan applicants than its staff can handle, borrowers might have to wait their turn.
Because of these wait times, a HELOC application that takes six weeks to close may have been sitting idle for three weeks while the lender completed other borrowers’ files.
When you’re in a hurry to get your loan funded, be sure to ask the lender about its current wait times. If possible, find a lender that can start on your application this week.Connect with a fast HELOC lender here.
3. Try local credit unions
A lot of times, local credit unions can turn HELOCs around faster than national bank branches.
You’d need to join the credit union first — before applying for the HELOC. But membership is usually open to anyone in the credit union’s region or state.
Federal credit unions are owned by their members. They specialize in customer service and flexibility. Simply telling your loan officer you need the funds quickly might speed up the closing process.
Credit unions have a local focus, but many of these financial institutions now offer modern features like online application tracking.
Just like with a bank or online lender, be sure to ask your local credit union for its HELOC wait times, and try to get an AVM instead of a traditional appraisal.
4. Have all your documents ready
Having all your documents ready before you apply for your HELOC can help you avoid one of the most annoying kinds of lending delays: the self-imposed kind.
Compared to getting your primary mortgage, HELOC lenders won’t need as many documents. But they will need to confirm your income by checking your recent pay stubs. They may also need a copy of your driver’s license, or another state-issued ID, and your Social Security card.
If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to turn in the past two years’ income tax returns. Depending on how many IRS 1040 Schedules you filed, each annual tax return could be 15 or 20 pages. Scanning all these pages before applying for the HELOC will pay off.
Be sure you enter correct financial data, too. For example, if you’ll be connecting your HELOC to a savings or checking account, make sure you’re sending the correct account information to your lender.
5. Leave a spouse off the loan
When you have the income and credit history to get a HELOC by yourself, you can speed up approval by keeping the loan only in your name instead of co-borrowing with your spouse.
Adding your spouse to the loan will require more documents and more processing time. This creates more potential for delays.
Of course, if neither spouse has the credit score and income to get the loan, you may need both spouses on the loan, and that’s OK.
And even when you’re a lone applicant, the lender may need your spouse’s signature on a few closing documents if your spouse is on the deed or a co-borrower on the primary mortgage.
6. Call to follow up
Loan officers juggle a lot of details. They may forget to ask you for a missing document that’s holding up your file. They may go on vacation and forget to tell their coworkers to call you.
So be proactive. Call your loan officer to follow up, especially if it’s been a few days since you’ve heard from your lender and you’re not sure what’s holding up the approval.
Even when there’s a good reason for the delay, following up lets you know for sure and ensures your HELOC is still on target for the soonest-possible closing date.
7. Clean up your credit before applying
If you always make your bills on time — especially on personal loans, car loans, and credit cards — your credit should be in pretty good shape. That’s good. A clean and simple credit file will help your HELOC sail through the approval process.
If you’re not sure, getting your credit file ready for the scrutiny of mortgage underwriters will be well worth the time and effort.
Start by checking your FICO score and comparing it to your lender’s minimum requirements. Your bank, or one of your existing credit cards, may offer a free FICO check on its app or website.
If your score is lower than you expected, get your free credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. Look for credit reporting errors that could be pulling down your score. If you find errors, dispute them as soon as possible.
HELOC closing times FAQ
It could take two to six weeks. A lot depends on the lender and your situations. To speed up your approval, ask a lender if they can use an AVM, what their approval turn times are, and use all of our 7 recommendations.
Some lenders are very backed up with HELOC requests. Others, perhaps your local credit union, have capacity to take applications now. Find a lender that is not overloaded and can process your file quickly.
The top way to speed up your HELOC is to get an automated valuation model, or AVM, instead of a full appraisal. Ask the lender if they use an AVM in your case. An AVM can estimate your property value in seconds, instead of the one or two weeks it could take to complete an appraisal.
Start now to shorten the time it takes to get a HELOC
Compared to buying a new home or refinancing an entire mortgage, HELOCs can close quickly. But this doesn’t always mean they will close quickly.
To speed things along, do your part: Find a fast lender, bring a clean credit file, and get prepared to upload documents and provide information in advance.
When you do this, you can access your hard-earned equity within a couple weeks.