Home equity is the part of your home that you’ve paid for—your ownership interest, as opposed to the lender’s. In practical terms, home equity is the appraised value of your home minus any outstanding balances on mortgages and loans.
In most cases, home equity builds up over time as you pay down mortgage balances or add value to your home. For many homeowners, home equity is their most valuable asset because it can be used for home equity loans or lines of credit.
how do i build home equity?
Because home equity is the difference between the current market value of your home and your mortgage balance, your home equity can increase in some circumstances:
- when you make mortgage payments. The easiest way to increase the equity in your home is to reduce the outstanding balance on your mortgage. Every month when you make your regular mortgage payment, you are paying off your mortgage balance and increasing the equity in your home. You can also make additional mortgage principal payments to build your equity even faster.
- when you make home improvements that increase the value of your property. Even if your mortgage principal balance remains the same, increasing the value of your home also increases your home equity. just keep in mind that some home renovations add more value than others, do your research before starting a renovation project if your goal is to increase home value.
- when the property value increases. Often (but not always), property values increase over time. This is called appreciation and can be another way to increase the home’s equity. Because the increase in value of your property depends on several factors, such as your location and the economy, there is no way of knowing how long you will have to stay in your home to expect a decent increase in value. however, looking at historical home price data in your area can give you an idea of whether home prices have been trending up or down.
- when you make a large down payment. Making a larger down payment can also increase the equity in your home. For example, if you put up 20 percent of your home instead of 10 percent, you would have more equity. doing so could also allow you to tap into your home equity faster because lenders typically require you to have 20 percent equity in your home.
How do I calculate home equity?
To calculate the equity in your home, follow these steps:
- Get your home’s estimated current market value. What you paid for your home a few years ago or even last year may not be its current value. You can use online home price estimation tools, but consider speaking with a local real estate agent to get a more accurate measure of your home’s market value. A lender may request a professional property appraisal to determine the market value of your home.
- Subtract your mortgage balance. Once you know the market value of your home, subtract the amount you still owe on your mortgage and any other debt secured by your home. the result is the equity in your home.
How do home equity loans work?
Whether you’re looking to free up cash for a home renovation or find ways to consolidate debt, borrowing against your home’s equity could be a good option. As you pay off your home, you build up equity that you can then use for home equity loans or home equity lines of credit (helocs).
Because you can use the equity for loans or leverage it when selling your home, it’s a great financial tool. The higher your down payment and the more you pay on your mortgage, the more likely you are to increase your total equity.
is it a good idea to use home equity?
Home equity loans can make sense for people who want to take advantage of low interest rates and long repayment terms. however, before you commit to using your home equity, consider both the benefits and the drawbacks.
benefits of using home equity
Home equity can be a useful tool when you need a large sum for home improvements, debt consolidation, or any other purpose. home equity loans and helocs have their benefits, such as:
- lower interest rates. your home is what makes your home equity loan or line of credit secure. These loans have lower interest rates than unsecured debt, such as credit cards or personal loans. this can help you save on interest payments and improve monthly cash flow if you need to reduce high-interest debt.
- tax benefits. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allows homeowners to deduct interest on home equity loans or lines of credit if the money is used for capital improvements, such as “buying, building, or substantially improving” the home that guarantees the loan.
- borrowing costs. Some lenders charge fees for home equity loans or helocs. As you shop for lenders, keep an eye out for the annual percentage rate (APR), which includes the interest rate plus other loan fees. If you include these fees in your loan, you will likely pay a higher interest rate.
- risk of losing your home. Home equity debt is secured by your home, so if you miss payments, your lender can foreclose on your home. If your home’s value goes down, you could also end up owing more than your home is worth. that can make it more difficult to sell your house if necessary.
- improper use of money. It’s best to use home equity to finance expenses that will pay you back, like renovating a home to increase its value, paying for college, starting a business, or consolidating high-interest debt. stick to needs versus wants; otherwise, you’re perpetuating a cycle of living beyond your means.
- a credit score of 620 or higher. a score of 700 or higher likely qualifies for the best rates.
- a maximum loan-to-value (ltv) ratio of 80 percent, or 20 percent of the equity in your home.
- a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 43 percent.
- a documented ability to repay your loan.
can a home equity loan be used for anything?
Is home equity an asset?
does a home equity loan require an appraisal?
how fast does a house add up?
How much equity can you borrow from your home?
drawbacks of using home equity
Using home equity doesn’t work for everyone in every situation. drawbacks include:
types of home equity loans
There are two types of home equity products, differing in how you receive the cash and how you pay the funds.
home equity loans
A home equity loan is a second mortgage, that is, a debt that is secured by your property. When you get a home equity loan, your lender will pay a single lump sum. Once you’ve received your loan, you’ll start paying it back immediately at a fixed interest rate. That means you’ll pay a fixed amount every month for the life of the loan, whether it’s five years or 15 years.
This option is ideal if you have a large immediate expense. it also comes with the stability of predictable monthly payments.
home equity lines of credit (helocs)
A home equity line of credit, or heloc, works like a credit card. You can withdraw as much as you like up to the credit limit over an initial withdrawal period that is typically up to 10 years. As you pay off the heloc principal, the credit rolls over and you can use it again. this gives you the flexibility to get money when you need it.
You can choose interest-only payments or a combination of interest and principal payments. the latter helps you pay off the loan more quickly.
Most helocs come with variable rates, which means your monthly payment can go up or down over the life of the loan. Some lenders offer fixed-rate helocs, but they tend to have higher initial interest rates and sometimes an additional fee.
After the withdrawal period, the remaining interest and principal balance must be paid. repayment periods tend to be 10 to 20 years. Interest on a heloc used for a substantial home improvement project may be tax deductible.
home equity loans vs helocs
For those 62 and older, a reverse mortgage offers another way to tap into home equity. By using a reverse mortgage, homeowners who own their home outright or have a substantial amount of equity can withdraw a portion of that equity.
And, unlike a heloc or home equity loan, money withdrawn through a reverse mortgage doesn’t have to be paid back in monthly installments. Instead, the lender pays the homeowner money each month, as long as the homeowner continues to live in the home. the loan is due when the borrower dies, permanently moves, or sells the home.
how to find the best home equity loan
Lenders have different lending standards and rates for home equity products, so you’ll want to shop around for the best deal. most lenders look for some basic minimum requirements:
Home equity is a great financial tool you can use to help pay for big expenses like home renovations, high-interest debt consolidation, or college expenses. If you need a large amount of cash, you may want to consider borrowing some of the equity in your home. But you should do it carefully and compare prices with several lenders before signing up.