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HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan

HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan

What’s The Difference Between HELOCS And Home Equity Loans?

A HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) and a home equity loan both allow you to borrow against your home’s equity, but they work differently. A home equity loan gives you a lump sum of money at once with a fixed interest rate, meaning you’ll have consistent monthly payments until the loan is paid off. On the other hand, a HELOC works like a credit card, giving you a credit line to draw from as needed, with variable interest rates. This means your payments can change based on how much you borrow and the current rates. So, the main difference lies in how you receive the funds and how the interest is handled.

What is a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan, often considered a “second mortgage,” lets homeowners borrow money by leveraging the equity in their homes. In simple terms, it’s based on the difference between the current market value of your home and the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

When approved, you receive a lump sum that is repaid over a set term, much like your primary mortgage. These loans typically come with a fixed interest rate, which makes your payments consistent and easier to budget for.

Key Takeaways

  1. Determine Your Need: Evaluate whether you need a lump sum for a large expense (Home Equity Loan) or ongoing access to funds (HELOC). Your reason for borrowing will guide your choice.
  2. Assess Your Financial Comfort: Review your financial health, cost tolerance and capacity for repayment. Fixed interest rates from home equity loans give you stable payments, whereas variable rates attached to HELOCs may create fluctuations.
  3. Seek Guidance: Don’t hesitate to seek financial advice to make the most informed decision. A financial advisor can help you understand which option suits your financial situation and borrowing needs.

Home equity loans are ideal for large, one-time expenses like a major home renovation, a big-ticket purchase, or debt consolidation. They can provide larger amounts of money due to using your home as collateral. Yet, this also comes with the risk that failure to make repayments can ultimately lead to foreclosure.

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) also allows homeowners to borrow against their home equity. However, unlike a home equity loan that provides a lump sum, a HELOC offers a credit limit from which you can borrow as needed, similar to a credit card.

You can draw from your HELOC during what’s known as the “draw period,” typically 5 to 10 years. During this time, many lenders allow borrowers to pay interest only on the borrowed amount. Once the draw period ends, you’ll need to start making principal and interest payments.

A HELOC usually has a variable interest rate. This means your payments could change based on interest rate fluctuations. HELOCs are a flexible borrowing option, often used for ongoing expenses or as a safety net for unexpected costs.

Without a doubt, HELOCs provide flexibility, but the changing interest rates and the temptation to overspend can be potential drawbacks.

How to Calculate Your Home Equity

Home equity is the portion of your property that you actually own outright. It’s calculated by subtracting any outstanding mortgage balances from your property’s current market value.

Here’s a simple formula to understand better:

Home Equity = Current Market Value – Outstanding Loan Balance.

For example:

  • If your home’s current market value is $350,000
  • And you have an outstanding mortgage of $200,000
  • Your home equity would be $150,000

It’s important to remember that home equity isn’t a fixed amount. It can increase as you pay down your mortgage and if the property value rises.

Understanding Home Equity Loans

A Home Equity Loan lets homeowners tap into their home’s equity. It’s often referred to as a ‘second mortgage’ because it works quite like your initial mortgage.

Here’s what you need to know about home equity loans:

  • Borrowing Amount: Homeowners can typically borrow up to 85% of their home’s value, subtracting existing mortgages.
  • Uses: The fund from a home equity loan can be used for any purpose, but common uses include home improvements or debt consolidation.
  • Interest Rates: They often come with lower interest rates compared to other personal loans because your home serves as collateral.
  • Financial Responsibility: Taking out a home equity loan is a serious financial decision. It’s essential to ensure you can meet the repayment terms before signing on.

Pros and Cons of Home Equity Loans

Home Equity Loans carry both benefits and potential disadvantages. Let’s break down the major ones:


  • Fixed interest rates: Unlike some loans, home equity loans offer fixed interest rates, which brings consistency and predictability to your repayments.
  • Large loan amounts: With home equity loans, you can borrow a substantial amount of money, making them ideal for significant expenses.
  • Potential tax benefits: The interest paid on home equity loans can sometimes be tax-deductible if the borrowed money is to add value to the home.


  • Risk to your home: Because your home serves as collateral for the loan, you run the risk of foreclosure if you cannot make your loan payments.
  • Fees and closing costs: Home equity loans come with closing costs and fees, which can add to the total cost of the loan.
  • Possible impact on credit: Like any loan, if you fail to make payments on a home equity loan, it can negatively impact your credit score.

Understanding Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs)

A Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC, operates differently from a home equity loan. Instead of providing a lump sum, a HELOC gives you access to a line of credit that you can draw from as needed during the ‘draw period,’ which usually lasts 5 to 10 years.

With HELOCs, the available credit is based on the equity in your home.

Unlike home equity loans, HELOCs typically have variable interest rates. This means that even while your credit line remains open, your minimum monthly payments might change based on fluctuations in the interest rate.

HELOCs can be an excellent tool for ongoing expenses or as a ‘just in case fund,’ but it requires disciplined spending due to its credit card-like nature.

Pros and Cons of HELOCs

Like any loan product, HELOCs come with their own set of advantages and drawbacks. Here’s what you can expect:


  • Flexibility: A HELOC gives you the ability to borrow only the amounts you need, rather than taking a lump sum all at once. This way, interest only applies to what you’ve borrowed.
  • Possible low-interest rates: If the markets are in your favor, the variable interest rates can sometimes be lower than fixed interest rates.
  • Reuse and repay: During the draw period, you can refill the credit as you repay, giving you a consistent line of credit.


  • Variable interest rates: The interest rates on HELOCs are generally adjustable, which means they can go up or down.
  • Risk of overspending: As it acts as a credit card, there’s an added risk that you may borrow more than you need.
  • Potential fees: Some HELOCs may have an annual fee or may charge you a penalty if you close the line of credit within a certain timeframe.

Keep these pros and cons in mind while considering a HELOC.

Pros and Cons of HELOCs vs. Home Equity Loans At A Glance

Whether a home equity loan or a HELOC is a better choice depends on your individual needs, the amount of money you need, the interest rates on offer, and how disciplined you are with repayment.

When choosing the one that suits you best, consider these distinguishing factors from the pros and cons we’ve discussed:


  • Better for ongoing or unexpected expenses.
  • Flexible access to funds.
  • Variable interest rates can be an advantage or a disadvantage.

Home Equity Loans

  • Ideal for large, one-time expenses.
  • Fixed interest rates provide consistent monthly payments.
  • The larger sum might mean more interest paid over time.

Home Equity Loans and HELOCs: The Similarities

While Home Equity Loans and HELOCs are two different financial products, they do share a few key characteristics:

  • Secured loans: Both Home Equity Loans and HELOCS are secured using your home as collateral, meaning if you default on payments, you may risk foreclosure.
  • Based on equity: The amount that you can borrow, in both cases, is largely based on the equity you have in your home.
  • Closing Costs: Similar to your primary mortgage, both Home Equity Loan and HELOC come with closing costs that you’ll need to consider.

HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: Understanding the Differences

Although they may appear similar at first glance, Home Equity Loans and HELOCs have a few crucial differences:

  • Fixed vs. Variable Interest Rates: Home Equity Loans usually come with fixed interest rates, providing stability and predictability for your budget. On the other hand, HELOCs commonly provide variable interest rates which can change over time.
  • Lump Sum vs. Revolving Credit: With a Home Equity Loan, you will receive a lump sum that you repay in monthly installments. A HELOC, however, grants you a line of credit that you can access as needed during the draw period.

How to Obtain a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit

Getting either a Home Equity Loan or a HELOC involves a few key steps:

1. Application Process

The process typically begins with an application in which you’ll need to provide critical information about your financial situation. This can include your income, employment, and personal identification.

2. Credit Requirements

Your credit scoreWhat is plays a crucial role in your eligibility, as it gives the lender an insight into your reliability as a borrower. A higher credit score often gives you access to better rates and larger loan amounts.

3. Closing Costs

Like a first mortgage, closing costs apply to home equity loans and HELOCs. These costs can include origination fees, appraisal fees, and title search fees. These can be significant, so make sure you factor them into your total loan costs.

4. Appraisal Requirements

To determine the precise value of your home and how much you can borrow, lenders will often require an appraisal. An appraiser will visit your house to assess its condition, size, location, and compare it with nearby properties.

Home Equity Loan vs. Line of Credit: Which is Right for You?

Deciding between a Home Equity Loan and a HELOC depends largely on your financial needs, the interest rates available, and how you prefer to repay the money.

If you need a lump sum for a one-time expenditure and prefer stable monthly payments, a Home Equity Loan might be the better choice. It’s fixed interest rate provides predictability and simplicity in managing repayments, especially if you’re not comfortable with fluctuating interest payments.

On the other hand, if you need flexibility and don’t mind variable interest rates, a HELOC could be a more suitable option. It can serve as a reservoir of funds that you can tap into whenever needed.

About The Author

Channing Moore

Channing is the owner of Bayou Mortgage. He is passionate about empowering people through education and training to own a home. In his spare time you can catch him at church, reading a book or working on his latest project.

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