Using The Equity in Your Home


If you have owned a home for some time, you probably have amassed a nice nest egg of equity, particularly if you owned it through the recent price run up. So, how do you use it for practical needs?The equity in a home simply refers to the difference between the value of a home and the amount you owe on it. An example always helps, so let’s use a simple one. Assume you purchased a home for $150,000 in 1990 and put $15,000 on it. As the years passed, the home appreciated in value and you paid down the mortgage. Today, the home is worth $200,000 and you owe $100,000 on it. Your equity is $100,000, the value minus the remaining amount you owe.Equity in a home is a beautiful thing. Why? Well you can use it to fund those things in life that you just have to do. If you want to improve your home, you can use the equity to do it. Most people seem to want three types of improvements – a new kitchen, new bathrooms or a new bedroom or two. All of these can be paid for using your home equity. The real beauty of taking this step is the improvements also add to the value of your home.So, how do you access the equity in a home? There are a number of ways, but many people choose to use a home equity line of credit. That is a mouthful, so most refer to it as a “HELOC”. As the name suggests, it is a line of credit based on the value in your home. Using our example above, a lender would verify you have $100,000 in equity and give you a credit line for a percentage of the equity.The percentage of equity that can be used depends on the lender. It tends to be capped at 80 percent of the total value of your home. In the example above, the credit line would be for $60,000 since 80 percent of $200,000 is this amount. That being said, lenders have all types of programs.You can expect to pay a bit more in interest on your credit line. The loan is a second on your home, meaning that it is more risky than the original loan. With risk comes increased borrowing costs, in this case a higher interest rate. You should expect rates to be a point or two higher than what first mortgages are going for.