HELOCs are less costly than a traditional mortgage loan, so they're ideal if you want to save money but still get home financing options at competitive rates. However, to make the most out of this program, you should understand its ins and outs before submitting your application paperwork.
This article will walk you through the basics of HELOC loans, including how they work, how to apply, eligibility requirements, paying back your loan, and the benefits. Read on to learn more.
The Basics of HELOC Loans
A home equity line of credit, popularly known as HELOC, is a revolving line of credit secured by your home's equity that lets you borrow up to a certain amount and repay the debt plus interest over time.
You can use the borrowed money as you wish, be it paying off existing debt, renovating your home, or for personal emergencies. A HELOC helps homeowners who may not be able to qualify for other loans because they're self-employed or lack sufficient personal assets.
The beauty of this type of loan is that the funds can be used at any time, there are no mandatory monthly payments, and the interest rate is usually much lower than other types of loans, such as mortgages and car loans.
However, what makes HELOCs different from other types of loans is that they use your home as collateral. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender has the right to take back property ownership.
The HELOC Interest Rates
HELOC interest rates can be fixed or variable, depending on the type of loan you apply for and your specific lender's policies. So it's essential to understand how each type works if you plan to use a HELOC loan soon.
Read on to learn about fixed and variable HELOC rates to determine which option best fits your situation.
Fixed Interest Rates
Unlike a variable interest rate, which can change every six months or annually, a fixed HELOC interest rate means you know precisely what your monthly payment will be for the life of your loan. Generally, it never changes during the duration of your loan term, whether the economy goes up or drastically drops.
When you enter into a fixed-rate mortgage, you agree to make level payments at a set interest rate for a predetermined amount of time. You might want to choose this type of option if you think interest rates will go up in the future and want to lock in your payment at the current low rates.
Variable Interest Rates
Variable-rate HELOCs are the most common type and are typically set to change at a specific interval, such as every six months or annually. A variable-rate HELOC will increase whenever your lender raises interest rates and decrease when rates fall - just like a standard adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).
The variable interest rate is based on the index and margin, which are changed periodically. The variable interest rate fluctuates with the index, which means that if the index rate goes up, so will your HELOC's interest rates (and vice versa).
This can be good because it means taking advantage of a low prime-rate period to get extra cash flow in a tight budgeting situation. Variable interest rates also have a margin consistently applied above the index. This margin never changes throughout the life of your HELOC loan.
The downside of a variable rate is that it can change unpredictably, with no warning to you or your lender. This option isn't available for all lenders and can come with hefty fees that could negate any benefit from locking in a fixed rate.
How to Apply for a HELOC Loan
If you have never applied for a HELOC, you might not know what to do or where to start with your application. Take a look at the following step-by-step guide on applying for a HELOC loan to understand what's involved in the application process to better prepare yourself.
Determine if you have sufficient home equity.
Shop around for the best HELOC lender once you determine how much you can borrow.
Understand the correct type of HELOC interest rate for your situation.
Prepare the necessary documentation for your application.
Choose the best HELOC lender and submit your application.
Get pre-approved for a HELOC loan.
Read through the contract carefully before signing on the dotted line.
- Sign all the essential paperwork to close on your loan.
How to Pay Back Your HELOC Loan
While the lender requires no specific payment schedule, it's essential to get your loan in good standing as soon as possible by arranging to start paying off the HELOC debt as quickly as possible—ideally within six months of obtaining the loan. This will help ensure you don't have to deal with late fees or interest rate increases.
Remember that the lender may foreclose on your house if you fail to repay the loan. Whenever you see a problem that may impact your payment schedule, take action as soon as possible. Talk to your lender and consider changing your payment terms if necessary.
You can pay off a HELOC loan early with careful planning and sound decisions without damaging your reputation or finances. HELOC loan repayments are generally divided into the draw period and the repayment period. Let's take a deeper look at these two phases.
During the HELOC draw period, you can draw funds from the credit line by a check, transfer, or credit card linked to your account.
Your minimum monthly payments will usually be interest-only payments during this span, but you can also make principal payments if you want. Draw periods for various lenders vary, but it's usually ten years.
Once you enter the HELOC repayment period, you can no longer use the credit line. You'll be required to pay off your loan monthly in installments, covering principal and interest. Your monthly payments may rise significantly with the monthly installment than during the HELOC draw period.
The repayment period for a HELOC loan is usually between 10 and 30 years, with the average being around 20 years. You can choose an extended or shorter repayment period when you take out your loan.
Eligibility Requirements of HELOC Loans
It can be tricky to figure out whether or not you're eligible for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) loan, especially if you're a first-time borrower.
Before you start applying, you should ensure you have the right qualifications and meet all the requirements set by your lender to get approved without hassle.
Read on to learn more about the eligibility requirements of a HELOC loan!
The debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is one of the most important requirements you will need to meet to qualify for a HELOC loan. A rule of thumb is that your monthly debt payments should not exceed 40% of your gross income (before taxes).
Your debt-to-income ratio is calculated by dividing the total amount of all monthly debts (including mortgage payments, car loans, credit cards, and student loans) by the gross monthly income.
To be eligible for a HELOC loan, your credit score is an essential factor that must be considered. Your credit score must be in the excellent range (620+) for the bank or lender to approve your HELOC application.
The closer your credit score is to this number, the higher your chances of being approved for the loan. Fortunately, you can quickly improve your credit score to meet the minimum requirement to increase your approval chances.
The home you're collateralizing for a HELOC loan needs to be owned and occupied by you.
If you're an owner-occupant, you must live in the subject home as your primary residence for at least six months and intend to remain there for at least one year after receiving the loan. A HELOC can't be obtained by renters or those who don't own their homes.
Equity in Your Home
Generally, your home must be the collateral to qualify for a Home Equity Line of Credit loan, and you must have enough equity in your home to obtain a HELOC loan.
This means that the value of your home is worth more than what you owe on your mortgage. If the value is less than what you owe, you might have trouble qualifying for a HELOC loan.
A Steady Income
You will also have to be able to show the bank that you can afford the monthly payments. The bank will require your income to be steady, sufficient to make the necessary payments, and have enough left over for other costs.
You'll be required to provide tax returns, pay stubs, employer contact information, and any other financial documentation required if you're self-employed.
Benefits of HELOC Loans
HELOC loans are an excellent option for homeowners who want to borrow money to remodel their homes, buy a car, use it in emergencies, or have other beneficial uses.
When used appropriately, HELOCs can provide flexibility and financial power that other loan options can't match.
Below are more benefits of using HELOC loans in Nassau County, Florida.
Lower Interest Rates
The interest rates on a home equity line of credit are typically lower than those on other types of debt. This is because your home serves as collateral, so you are less likely to default on a home equity line.
If you have good credit and have already paid off some of your mortgage balance, then it's possible that the interest rate could be even lower than your current mortgage.
Additionally, unlike other types of loans, there's no interest penalty associated with paying off your loan early.
The HELOC allows you to pay off your loan on a flexible schedule.
With a HELOC, you can pay interest-only payments (limited to other loans) and repay the principal when convenient for your situation.
In this way, you'll avoid paying higher monthly payments than necessary while maintaining a high level of liquidity.
You Can Borrow the Amount You Need
In contrast to a traditional home equity loan, you can borrow the amount you need for whatever purpose.
For example, a HELOC is a perfect choice if you have $20,000 in equity and only need $5,000 to cover your expenses. You can avoid paying extra interest and penalties by borrowing as little as you need.
No Restrictions on How You Utilize the Acquired Cash
The funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit are available for any purpose as long as you have not exceeded the credit limit.
This means there is no restriction on what you can use the money for, whether it be paying off debt, financing a new business venture, or investing in stocks and bonds.
This type of loan also leaves your other assets (like your home) untouched while giving you access to cash when you need it most.
Potential Tax Breaks
As long as you use the cash to improve your home, The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act still allows you to deduct interest paid on a home equity line of credit or loan. Your deduction is capped at a certain level based on your first and second mortgage interest combined.
Generally, when used to buy, build, or improve your home (as a taxpayer), home equity product payments will be deductible.
You Can Potentially Improve Your Credit Score
A key benefit to a Home Equity Line of Credit is that you can use the credit line to pay off other high-interest debt. This will help improve your credit score because it shows you can responsibly manage a revolving line of credit.
On the other hand, frequent payments on your HELOC loan can drastically reduce the interest on the debt and strengthen your credit payment history.
No Closing Costs
With a HELOC loan, you don't have to make any down payments or closing costs since your home acts as collateral.
This can be especially helpful if you have limited savings to cover the closing costs on traditional second mortgages but wish to obtain a loan to buy a new car, pay off some debt, or remodel your home.
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) loan in Nassau County, Florida, allows you to borrow money against the value of your home and enjoy the flexibility of using it.
HELOCs are incredibly useful when you need quick cash or want to make significant home improvements without dealing with the added expenses of taking out multiple loans from different lenders.
If you live in Nassau County, Florida, and are interested in taking advantage of a HELOC loan, make sure you understand your options and choose the ideal product for your specific situation.