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• Alyssa Soles

# How to Tap Into Your Home Equity

Updated: May 29

## Your home is not just a place to hang your hat; it's also your largest financial asset. The good news is, you can leverage it to your advantage.

One of the biggest benefits of owning a home is your home equity, and given the current state of the market and the amount that home values have risen all over the U.S. in recent years, you may have hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity you can use in different ways.

Home equity is a powerful financial tool you can leverage to achieve your short-term and long-term financial goals. For example you can leverage home equity to remodel your home, pay off high-interest debts, cover your child’s college tuition, invest in real estate or simply set aside some extra money for emergency funds.

In this post, we'll explore various ways to tap into your home equity based on your unique needs and financial goals.

## How to Calculate Your Home Equity

Before you can explore the options for leveraging your home equity, it's essential to understand how to calculate it. Home equity is the difference between the current market value of your home and the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

To determine your home equity, you need to know your home’s current value. You can have your home appraised for an official value or you can go off an informal estimate by looking at comparable home sales in your area.

Home Equity = Current Market Value of Home − Outstanding Mortgage Balance

For example, let's say your home is currently valued at \$800,000, and you have an outstanding mortgage balance of \$400,000. Using the formula, your home equity would be:

{Home Equity} = \$800,000 - \$400,000 = \$400,000

This means you have \$400,000 in equity that you can potentially use to your advantage.

This number can go up and down until you've completely paid off your mortgage and the home is entirely yours. The main way to increase your equity is by paying down the main amount of your mortgage (the original amount you borrowed and have to repay). Your home equity can also go down if your home's value drops faster than you're paying down your mortgage. When you finish paying off your mortgage, the home is all yours.

Because of the recent increase in home prices, it's likely that your home equity is going up. This means now could be the perfect time to make the most of this financial resource. But before you do, it's important to understand how it all works.

## How to Tap Into Your Home Equity

There are different ways to access or leverage your home equity. In order to decide on the best strategy, its important to consider how much money you need and how you plan to use it. Always consult your mortgage broker to weigh pros and cons of each option, including interest rates, fees, monthly payments and tax advantages or consequences.

### 1. Purchase a New Home: Become a Move-Up Buyer

You can use your home equity to help with the costs of your next home purchase. If you sell your current home for \$600,000 for example and only owe \$400,000 on the mortgage, then you have gained \$200,000 in home equity. After realtor fees and closing costs, you’ll still have a large portion of that to put down on your next home. This large down payment can help offset the more expensive mortgage if you opt for a pricier home. This strategy is called move-up buying.

Pros:

• Larger Budget for Your New Home: Selling your current home can provide a substantial amount of equity to put towards a larger, more expensive home. This can open up opportunities for more space or desired features.

• Potential for Lower Mortgage Payments: With a larger down payment from the equity of your current home, you may qualify for a lower mortgage rate and potentially lower monthly payments on your new home.

• Avoiding Dual Mortgages: By selling your current home first, you won't have to worry about managing two mortgages simultaneously, which can alleviate financial stress.

Cons:

• Market Fluctuations: The real estate market can be unpredictable. Depending on the timing of your sale and purchase, you might not get the exact price you were expecting for your current home, potentially affecting your purchasing power.

• Temporary Housing Needed: If your current home sells before you find a new one, you may need temporary housing, which can involve additional costs and logistics.

• Potential for a Competitive Market: In a competitive market, finding the right move-up home that meets your criteria can be challenging. It might take time to identify the ideal property within your budget.

### 2. Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs)

HELOCs are a flexible financial tool that operate much like a credit card. With a Home Equity Line of Credit, you have the ability to borrow against your home’s equity and withdraw funds as you need them, providing a safety net for unexpected expenses or opportunities that may arise. These are typically adjustable rate mortgages, so the interest rate will vary depending on market conditions.

Pros:

• Flexibility in accessing funds as needed.

• Lower interest rates compared to some other forms of credit.

• Interest is only paid on the amount borrowed.

Cons:

• Variable interest rates may lead to higher payments in the future.

• Risk of overspending if not managed carefully.

You may benefit from a HELOC if:

• You have ongoing, variable expenses (e.g., education costs, home improvements).

• You prefer a flexible source of funds for emergencies or opportunities.

• You want to have a financial safety net without borrowing a lump sum all at once.

• You are looking to fund short to medium-term projects or expenses.

### 3. Home Equity Loans

Home Equity Loans differ from HELOC's because you are receiving a lump sum upfront, rather than a line of credit. They also provide the stability of fixed-rate loans, allowing you to budget with certainty, knowing your repayment terms are set.

Pros:

• Predictable monthly payments with a fixed interest rate.

• Lump sum provides clarity for budgeting and planning.

• Can be used for one-time expenses or debt consolidation.

Cons:

• Higher interest rates compared to HELOCs.

• Potential for higher initial borrowing costs.

You may benefit from a Home Equity Loan if:

• You have a specific, one-time expense in mind (e.g., debt consolidation, major purchase).

• You prefer the stability of fixed-rate loans and predictable monthly payments.

• You want to secure a lump sum for a large project or investment.

• You are looking for a disciplined approach to managing your finances.

### 4. Cash-Out Refinancing

Cash-Out Refinancing is a strategic move that involves replacing your existing mortgage with a new, larger one. The "cash-out" part means that you receive the difference between the two loans in cash. This is typically the most popular option for accessing home equity during low interest rate times, as it enables you to lower the rate on your entire mortgage, rather than creating a second mortgage lien.

Pros:

• Potentially lower interest rates than other forms of credit.

• Can provide a significant amount of cash for specific purposes.

• May allow for debt consolidation or funding large expenses.

Cons:

• Extending the term of your mortgage could lead to higher overall interest costs.

• Upfront closing costs and fees associated with refinancing.

You may benefit from Cash-Out Refinancing if:

• You have a significant amount of home equity and want to leverage it for a specific purpose.

• You want to take advantage of lower interest rates in the market.

• You are comfortable with the idea of extending the term of your mortgage.

• You have a well-defined financial goal that requires a substantial amount of cash.

### 5. Reverse Mortgages for Seniors

For homeowners aged 62 and older (or 55 in certain cases), Reverse Mortgages offer a unique financial solution. Unlike traditional mortgages, with a Reverse Mortgage, the loan balance actually grows over time. This means you can stop making monthly mortgage payments and access cash while you continue to reside in your home.

Pros:

• Increased cash flow without monthly mortgage payments.

• Ability to stay in your home and access equity for living expenses.

• Non-recourse loans, ensuring you or your heirs never owe more than the home's value.

Cons:

• Accumulating Interest: With a reverse mortgage, interest continues to accrue over time. This means that the overall loan balance can increase, potentially reducing the equity you have in your home.

• Potential for Reduced Inheritance: Because the loan balance may increase over time, there may be less equity available to pass on to heirs compared to if the home were not subject to a reverse mortgage.

You may benefit from a Reverse Mortgage if:

• You are age 55+

• You want more flexibility and stability in your retirement

• You want to remain in your home and financially independent

## Home Equity FAQ’s

Here is a quick FAQ sheet to review what home equity is and ways you can use your home equity.

What is home equity?

• Answer: Home equity is the portion of your property that you own outright, without any mortgage. It's calculated by subtracting the amount you owe on your mortgage from the current market value of your home.

How can I build home equity?

• Answer: Your equity grows as your home’s value increases over time. You can also build home equity by making regular mortgage payments, making extra payments, and increasing your home's value through improvements and renovations.

What are some benefits of having home equity?

• Answer: Home equity can be used for various financial purposes, such as funding home improvements, consolidating debt, covering education costs, or even as a source of emergency funds.

Can I tap into my home equity without selling my home?

• Answer: Yes, you can access your home equity through options like home equity loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), cash-out refinancing, or reverse mortgages.

What is a home equity loan?

• Answer: A home equity loan is a type of loan that allows you to borrow against the equity in your home. It's typically a lump-sum payment with a fixed interest rate and a set repayment term.

How does a HELOC work?

• Answer: A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that allows you to borrow against your home's equity as needed. You can withdraw funds up to a predetermined limit and only pay interest on the amount borrowed.

What is cash-out refinancing?

• Answer: Cash-out refinancing involves replacing your existing mortgage with a new one that has a higher loan amount. The difference is received as cash, which can be used for various purposes.

Can I use home equity for investments?

• Answer: Yes, you can use your home equity to invest in real estate or other ventures. This can be a way to diversify your financial portfolio and potentially generate additional income.

Are there risks associated with leveraging home equity?

• Answer: Yes, tapping into your home equity for non-essential expenses like vacations or luxury items can lead to higher debt and potential financial strain. It's important to use your equity wisely. Consult your financial advisor.

What happens to my home equity if property values change?

• Answer: Changes in property values can impact your home equity. If your home's value increases, your equity grows. Conversely, if property values decrease, your equity may decrease as well.

## Next Steps to Accessing Your Home Equity

The possibilities for leveraging your home equity are as diverse as your unique financial situation. Whether you're planning a major renovation, seeking to consolidate debt, or aiming to enhance your retirement years, there's a strategy that can work for you.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Please consult with a qualified financial advisor or lender about your situation before making any decisions regarding your home equity.