Home Equity Loan vs Home Equity Line of Credit

Posted March 12th, 2018

Spring is a popular season for home improvement projects such has a new roof, replacement windows, and new siding. So what’s your best option for financing? You might consider a DECU Home Equity Loan, or a Home Equity Line of Credit.

What is a Home Equity Loan (HEL)?

A home equity loan is an Installment Loan that lets you borrow a fixed amount, secured by the equity in your home, and receive your money in one lump sum. The amount you can qualify for is based on your home’s Loan to Value ratio, payment term, verifiable income and credit history. Typically, home equity loans have a fixed interest rate, fixed term and fixed monthly payment.

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?
A home equity line of credit is a kind of revolving credit that allows you to borrow money as you need it with your home as collateral. Lenders approve applicants for a specific amount of credit based on taking a percentage of their home’s appraised value and subtracting the balance owed on the existing mortgage. They may also consider your income, other debts and credit history.

If you’re approved for a HELOC you can usually spend the funds however you want (up to the credit limit). However, some plans have restrictions or guidelines that require you to borrow a minimum amount each time, keep a minimum amount outstanding or withdraw an initial advance when the line of credit is established.

Most HELOC plans allow you to draw funds over a set amount of time known as the “draw period”. At the end of this period you may be able to renew the credit line and keep withdrawing money, but not all lenders allow renewals. Some lenders require borrowers to pay back the entire amount at the end of the draw period and others may allow you to make payments over another time period known as the “repayment period.”

“HELOC’s are great for home-improvement projects where you may not need all the funds upfront and plan taking several advances over an extended period of time,” says Joey Matthews, DECU Director of Mortgage Loans. “They are also wonderful to have for financial security; they provide a measure of safety in the case of financial hardship.”

How is a home equity loan different from a home equity line of credit?
The two major differences between a HEL and a HELOC are the interest rates and repayment policies.

A home equity loan typically has a fixed interest rate while a home equity line of credit typically has a variable rate. A fixed interest rate means the borrower can be sure the amount they pay on the loan will be the same each month. A variable interest rate means the amount of money you’re spending for the privilege of financing can go up or down. This variable is based on a publicly available index (like the prime rate or U.S. Treasury bill rate) and will fluctuate with this index. Lenders also usually add a “margin” of a few percentage points.

When looking into HELOCs it’s important to understand the following from the lender:

- Which index is used and what is the current variable?
- What amount of margin do you charge?
- What is the frequency rate of adjustment?
- What is the interest rate cap and floor?

The other significant difference is the method of repayment for the loan. Home equity loans are paid back with the same fixed amount monthly, made up of both principal and interest payments. Some loans allow borrowers to pay back larger sums if they choose (say if you receive a work bonus and want to put it toward the debt) but others charge a penalty for early payments. Typically at the end of the loan term the amount is paid in full.

“I would not recommend a variable rate option (such as a HELOC) over a Home Equity Fixed-Rate in the case where you know how much you will need upfront and don’t intend to take out later advances,” says Matthews. “Especially in a rising interest-rate environment.”

Questions? Talk to the DECU Mortgage Experts about your options. We’re here to answer questions, and help design solutions to fit your needs.