Home Equity Lending on the Rise Again

If you have at least 20% equity in your house and good credit, you're a prime candidate.

As home prices began their long slide, banks pulled the plug on home-equity lending. Homeowners who had already snagged home-equity lines of credit lost out, too, as many received notice that their lines of credit had been frozen. Home-equity loan originations are still 80% below their peak, according to a recent report from Moody's Analytics and Equifax. But as the housing market emerges from the doldrums, home-equity borrowing is beginning to perk up, too.

Pick your flavor. A home-equity loan, which usually comes with a fixed monthly payment and interest rate, is best for projects or purchases with a one-time, fixed cost, such as con­solidating debt. Home-equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, make sense for ongoing expenses, such as long-term home-improvement projects or college-tuition payments. HELOCs usually have a variable rate that's tied to the prime rate, plus or minus some percentage. On a fixed-rate loan, a borrower with good credit (with a FICO score of about 720 to 740) may pay 6.5%; that same borrower would likely pay the prime rate (currently 3.25%) plus 1.5 to 2 percentage points on a HELOC, says Keith Gumbinger, vice-president of HSH.com, a mortgage-information site. You may be able to trim your rate by a half-percentage point if you have a lot of equity and impeccable credit.

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Lisa Gerstner
Editor, Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine

Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.