HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: The Differences

Written by Banks Editorial Team
4 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
4 min. read

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Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) are both worth considering if you want to tap into your home’s equity to get cash. While these loan products have many similarities, they aren’t quite the same. 

Keep reading to learn more about these loan products, their benefits and drawbacks, and how to select the option that’s best for you. 

What Is a Home Equity Loan?

Also referred to as a second mortgage, a home equity loan is a debt product that allows you to borrow against the equity in your home. Loan proceeds are dispersed in a lump sum, and you will make fixed monthly payments for a period of five to 30 years. 

You can determine how much equity you have by subtracting your outstanding mortgage balance from the current value of your home. 

To illustrate, if your original mortgage was $500,000, but you’ve paid down the balance by $125,000, you still owe $375,000. But if the home values in your area have skyrocketed due to market conditions and your home is now worth $545,000, you have $170,000 in equity. 

You generally won’t be able to borrow $170,000, though, as most lenders cap the loan amount at 75 to 80 percent of your total equity. In this case, your loan would be limited to $127,500 or $136,000. And if there are concerns about your ability to repay the loan, you could get approved for a lower amount. 

Home Renovation Loans

Learn how the RenoFi ReFi cash-out refinance home renovation loan allows you access up to 80% of your home’s projected value after renovation.

Home Equity Loans Pros

There are several key benefits of home equity loans: 

  • The interest rate is fixed. You won’t have to worry about fluctuating interest rates, and you can save a bundle on interest if you pay off the loan early. 
  • Monthly payments are predictable. You will know the monthly payment for your home equity loan before you sign the dotted line, making it easier to budget for them. 
  • You may qualify for an extended repayment period. Some lenders offer repayment terms of just five years, but others give you up to 30 years to repay the loan. 
  • The interest paid on home equity loans may be tax-deductible. Consequently, you could save money at tax time. 

Home Equity Loans Cons

As with any loan product, there are drawbacks to consider: 

  • You could lose your home if you fall on hard times. If you fall behind on your payments, the lender could foreclose on your home. 
  • If the market dips, you could be upside down in your loan. Consequently, it would be more challenging to sell your home without incurring a substantial financial loss. 
  • The monthly payments could be steep. Depending on your repayment term, the monthly payments on your home loan could stretch your budget too thin. 

What is a HELOC?

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is also based on the equity in your home. However, loan proceeds are not dispersed in a lump sum. Instead, you get access to a credit line (equal to your borrowing limit) to pull money from as needed. HELOCs are limited to 75 to 95 percent of your home’s equity, minus what you owe on your loan. 

Most HELOCs have a draw period of 10 years, followed by a repayment period of 20 years. You will make payments for a small portion of the outstanding principal balance and interest during the draw period. Once it ends, you will no longer have access to the funds. 

HELOCs Pros

Here are some benefits HELOCs offer: 

  • Only borrow what you need. You can draw as little or as much as you’d like. If you only take what you need, you can avoid overspending and save on interest when you repay the loan. 
  • It’s easier to manage monthly payments. The draw period usually lasts up to 10 years, so you can borrow at your own pace and possibly pay down or eliminate the entire loan balance before the repayment period ends. 
  • Interest may be tax-deductible. Check with your accountant to confirm. 

HELOCs Cons

You should also consider the potential drawbacks of HELOCs. 

  • Your property is at risk. Your home secures these loans, so missed payments could lead to the loss of your asset through foreclosure. 
  • Interest rates are variable. Consequently, monthly payments could fluctuate, depending on market conditions. 
  • The lender could close your line of credit. Like credit cards, HELOCs are revocable if the lender reviews your credit profile and finds that your financial situation is declining. Some lenders also lower credit lines of close HELOCs if the housing market declines and decreases your home’s value. 

Home Renovation Loans

Learn how the RenoFi ReFi cash-out refinance home renovation loan allows you access up to 80% of your home’s projected value after renovation.

Home Equity Loan vs. HELOC: Overview 

Home equity loans and HELOCs are viable ways to tap into your home’s equity to get the cash you need. Both use your home as collateral and have other similarities, but there are also differences to consider.

HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: Pros and Cons Compared

Both debt products allow you to use your home’s equity to fund renovation projects, pay off high-interest debt, take care of a major expense, and the list goes on. Lenders also offer relatively generous loan limits and competitive interest rates to homeowners with good or excellent credit scores.

However, there are major drawbacks to both. For starters, homeowners have to put their homes up for collateral, which could prove to be a risky move in the future if financial troubles arise or the market declines. Furthermore, loan payments could mean bad news for your finances if you borrow more than you can afford to repay. 

Home Equity Loan vs. HELOC: The Main Differences

Both home equity loans and HELOCs are considered second mortgages, but there are a few key differences. Home equity loans give you the loan proceeds all at once, and you repay what you borrow over a five to 30 year period. But HELOCs grant you a credit line that you can draw against for 10 years, followed by a 20 year repayment period.

Interest on home equity loans is fixed, and the payments remain over the life of the loan. However, HELOCs come with fluctuating interest rates, and the monthly payments aren’t predictable. 

However, the interest paid on home equity loans and HELOCs may be deductible on your federal income tax return. 

Choosing Between a Home Equity Loan vs. HELOC

It’s a matter of personal preference and depends on your individual needs. With a home equity loan, you get money upfront, a fixed interest rate, and a set monthly payment. But with a HELOC, you have the flexibility to borrow what you need over time. There’s no pressure to draw the moment the line is available, and you’ll only make payments when you tap into the funds. 

How to Get a HELOC or Home Equity Loan

If you want an easy way to fund your home renovations, check out what RenoFi has to offer. Their home equity loans and HELOCs are offered by credit unions in their network that pride themselves on offering flexible, low-rate loan solutions. Even better, you could increase your borrowing power significantly as these products allow you to borrow up to 90 percent of your home’s after-renovation value, unlike traditional HELOCs or home equity loans. 

FAQs About Home Equity Loans vs. HELOCs

Below, you will find frequently asked questions about home equity loans and HELOCs.

How can you use home equity?

You can use home equity to secure a home equity loan or HELOC. Most lenders do not provide restrictions on how the loan proceeds can be used. 

Can you have a HELOC and a home equity loan?

Some lenders offer HELOCs or home equity loans to those that already have these debt products, as long as they qualify.

Which is better, a HELOC or a home equity loan?

It depends on your financial situation and how you plan to use the loan proceeds.

How many times can you take equity out of your home?

There’s no limit to how many times you can take equity out of your home.

RenoFi

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All data provided by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, at cfpb.gov updated Dec, 19
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