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What Exactly is a Home Equity Loan or a Home Equity Line of Credit?

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Understanding the Key Differences

For homeowners looking to leverage the equity they’ve built up in their homes, exploring financing options like home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) can be a smart move. These financial products provide a means to access funds for various purposes, from renovating a kitchen to consolidating debts. 

By grasping the unique features, advantages, and considerations associated with each, homeowners can navigate their options confidently and select the financing solution that aligns best with their individual needs and goals.

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What is a home equity loan?

OK, let’s start by talking about a home equity loan. A home equity loan, also known as a second mortgage, is a lump-sum loan that uses your home as collateral. It allows you to borrow a specific amount of money, which is determined based on the difference between the current market value of your home and the outstanding balance on your mortgage. 

A home equity loan is typically repaid in fixed monthly installments over a predetermined period, often with a fixed interest rate. Home equity loans are commonly used for large expenses such as home renovations, debt consolidation, or major purchases.

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Advantages of a home equity loan

A home equity loan offers several advantages that make it an attractive financing option for homeowners. Here are some of them:

Lump-sum disbursement:  With a home equity loan, you receive a one-time, lump-sum disbursement of the loan amount. This can be helpful when you have a specific expense or project in mind that requires a large, upfront payment. The lump-sum nature of the loan allows for better budgeting and planning.

Fixed interest rate and payments: Home equity loans often come with fixed interest rates, meaning the rate remains constant throughout the loan term. This provides stability and predictability in your monthly payments, making it easier to budget for the loan repayment. Fixed-rate loans are particularly beneficial if you prefer consistent payments and want to avoid potential interest rate fluctuations.

Potentially lower interest rates: Home equity loans typically offer lower interest rates compared to other types of loans, such as personal loans or credit cards. This is because the loan is secured by your home, reducing the lender’s risk. The lower interest rate can result in significant savings over the life of the loan, especially for large loan amounts or long repayment terms.

Tax deductibility: In certain situations and depending on local tax laws, the interest paid on a home equity loan may be tax-deductible. This can provide additional financial benefits and potentially reduce your overall tax liability. However, it’s important to consult with a tax advisor to understand the specific tax implications and eligibility criteria.

Flexibility in use: Home equity loans provide flexibility in how you use the funds. Whether you’re planning a home renovation, financing education expenses, consolidating high-interest debts, or covering unexpected medical bills, the loan proceeds can be utilized for a wide range of purposes. This versatility allows homeowners to address various financial needs effectively.

Build equity: While it may seem counterintuitive, a home equity loan can actually help you build equity in your home over time. By using the loan to invest in home improvements or other value-enhancing projects, you can increase the market value of your property. This can be beneficial if you plan to sell your home in the future, as it may result in a higher resale value.

Each person’s financial situation is unique, and the advantages of a home equity loan may vary based on personal circumstances. Before taking out a home equity loan, it’s advisable to carefully evaluate your needs, compare loan terms and rates from different lenders, and consider consulting with a financial advisor to ensure it aligns with your specific goals and objectives.

What is a home equity line of credit (HELOC)?

A home equity line of credit or HELOC is a revolving line of credit that also uses your home as collateral. It provides you with access to a predetermined credit limit, which you can borrow from as needed. 

A HELOC works more like a credit card in that you can borrow and repay repeatedly within the draw period, which usually lasts around 5-10 years. During the draw period, you pay interest on the amount borrowed. After the draw period ends, you may enter the repayment period, during which you can no longer borrow and must repay both principal and interest. The interest rates on a HELOC may be variable, meaning they can fluctuate over time.

Advantages of home equity line of credits

HELOCs offer several advantages that make them a flexible and convenient financing option for homeowners. Here are some key advantages:

Flexibility in borrowing: Unlike a home equity loan, which provides a lump sum, a HELOC offers a revolving line of credit. This means you can borrow from the credit line as needed, up to the predetermined limit, during the draw period, which typically lasts around 5-10 years. This flexibility allows you to access funds as required, rather than borrowing a fixed amount all at once.

Pay interest on what you borrow: With a HELOC, you only pay interest on the amount you borrow during the draw period, not on the entire credit limit. This can be advantageous if you have varying borrowing needs or if you prefer to have a safety net of available funds without accruing interest until you actually use the money. This feature can potentially save you money compared to a home equity loan where interest is charged on the entire loan amount from the start.

Variable interest rates: HELOCs often come with variable interest rates, which means the interest rate can fluctuate over time based on changes in the market. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it can also work to your advantage. If interest rates decrease, you may benefit from lower borrowing costs. However, it’s important to consider potential rate increases and how they might impact your repayment ability.

Flexible repayment options: During the draw period, which is typically followed by a repayment period, you have flexibility in repaying the borrowed amount. Depending on the terms of the HELOC, you may have the option to make interest-only payments or choose to pay both principal and interest. This flexibility can be helpful for managing cash flow and aligning your repayment strategy with your financial situation.

Access to funds over time: With a HELOC, you can access funds as needed over an extended period, allowing for ongoing borrowing and repayment cycles. This can be beneficial if you have long-term projects, multiple expenses, or irregular income streams. You can tap into your credit line whenever necessary, without having to reapply for a loan each time.

Potential tax deductibility: Similar to a home equity loan, the interest paid on a HELOC may be tax-deductible in certain situations and subject to local tax laws. This can provide additional financial benefits, particularly for those who qualify for the deduction. However, consulting with a tax advisor is essential to understand the specific tax implications based on your circumstances.

While a HELOC offers flexibility, it also requires responsible financial management. Carefully consider your borrowing needs, repayment capabilities, and the potential risks associated with variable interest rates. Consult with a financial advisor or lender to assess whether a HELOC aligns with your goals and financial situation.

Putting it all together

With the right knowledge and guidance, homeowners can responsibly leverage the equity they’ve built in their homes to achieve their financial objectives, whether it be funding a dream project or navigating unexpected expenses. 

Norway Savings Bank Home Equity Loans & Lines of Credit

At Norway Savings Bank, we want to simplify the borrowing process. Our local lending experts meet you where you are, take time to understand your needs and when we’ve found the right option, make the application process fast and easy. Whether you want to add another bathroom, pay for a child’s education or fix a roof, we are here to help. Ready to get started? Check out our Home Equity page, or contact a lender.