Your home's equity is an asset you can use either by:
- borrowing against it with a second mortgage
- or a home equity line of credit (HELOC)
- or by refinancing.
There are pros and cons to all three options. Let's take a closer look at the options!
This is an entirely new loan on the property and pays out the existing mortgage. You can choose to refinance to take advantage of a lower interest rate or take out cash to pay off debts or to renovate. There has to be sufficient equity since you can only refinance up to 80% loan-to-value (LTV) through conforming lenders. However, if you're in the first year or two of a fixed-rate mortgage, the penalty to refinance may be onerous.
A second mortgage is a separate loan on the property, but is still secured by the property. This is a popular way to get much-needed cash quickly -- the application process is fast, as is the turnaround time. Second mortgage lenders focus on the property and the equity available. The interest rate will likely be higher because a second mortgage is riskier than a first. For example, in case of default, the first mortgage lender has the first right to proceeds from a sale or power of sale. However, there are situations when a second mortgage can be advantageous, especially if you already have a great mortgage rate on your existing first mortgage.
Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit (HELOC)
A HELOC can be a stand alone first mortgage or an all inclusive collateral mortgage. The loan is approved using the same basic criteria as a mortgage loan. The full amount of the money is made available up front, and you can access as much or as little as you want. It's an installment loan that acts as a revolving line of credit. You access the credit line online, by using a cheque, credit card or by using your debit card. The "credit limit" is determined by the equity, but you'll only pay interest on the funds you use.
Whether you choose any of these options depends on your financial needs and situation. For example, if current interest rates are lower than the rate on your existing first mortgage, refinancing may be the best choice. However, if rates are up, taking out a second mortgage might make more sense. Or, depending on what your needs are, selecting a HELOC may be the way to go.