Americans have been tapping their equity from their homes for decades by taking out home equity loans, equity lines of credit or refinancing. When I was child growing up in the sixties, it was inappropriate for neighbors to talk about a second mortgage, because it meant that you mismanaged your money and the implications were always centered on financial trouble. Times have changed, because over 60% of homes purchased today include a second mortgage in the sales transaction.
If you are a homeowner, you have most likely received solicitations all the time to apply for a home equity loan or refinancing your second mortgage. Home equity loans can be efficient tools for financing home improvements and consolidating credit card debt. Home equity lines of credit can improve cash flow, and provide flexibility for investing. Having an equity line of credit secured to your property, can provide a safety net of cash reserves for family emergencies, or sudden investment opportunities. We suggest getting approved for a home equity loan when you need it least. What we mean by that is, “Don’t wait until you are late on your bills or when a close family member needs your help.” Rarely in life can you plan for investment opportunities, financial obstacles. Remember that mortgage lenders and banks can always get you a loan when you need it. For example, If you are late on your credit card bills and the banks report you late to the credit bureaus, there is a good chance that your credit scores have dropped, and you might not qualify for the home equity loan you need. The same is true, for if you stumble across a worthy investment. Typically investments have a small window of opportunity, and by the time you get approved for a second mortgage, and actually close escrow, the opportunity may be gone.
There are three popular second mortgages that are worth considering.
1. Standard Fixed Rate Second Mortgage- This is your traditional lump sum 2nd loan that features a fixed interest rate and repayment terms that range between 15-30 years. Typically these loans have a 3 year pre-payment penalty that can be bought out in most cases if requested in advance to the loan closing. These 2nd mortgages are recommended for consolidating debt or helping with the down payment of a second home. With these loans each payment you make will go towards paying down the principal and the interest. (125% combined loan to value)
2. Home Equity Line of Credit- This 2nd mortgage is a revolving line of credit similar to a credit card, but interest is deductible to 100% of your homes’ value. The best thing about home equity lines is that you only pay interest when you access cash. If you never touch the line, then you never have a payment due. Home equity lines have variable interest rates and the payments start out low with because, only the interest is due each month during the initial 10-year draw period. This is a very popular short-term finance vehicle for home improvement projects and construction. Once the project is completed people will typically refinance the loan into a fixed rate mortgage loan. We recommend this type of home equity financing for establishing reserves in cases of emergency or investment opportunity. (100% combined loan to value)
3. Home Equity Loan Hybrid- This home equity loan boasts of a fixed interest rate with the ability to make interest only payments for the draw period that is usually 5 or 10 years. These home equity loans have fixed interest for the life of the loan, but they allow you to make a minimum payment of just the interest if you choose. The hybrid equity loans usually require high credit scores, but ask your loan officer about the underwriting guidelines, because the program criteria may change. . (100% combined loan to value)
In summary, don’t wait until the last minute to get approved for a home equity loan. If you really don’t know what you will need, then remember the home equity line will cost you nothing each month if you never use it. Talk to your loan officer, and discuss whether or not you will be doing a full documentation loan, or stated income loan. This will determine whether or not you will need to submit your W2′s and pay-stubs with your loan application. Discuss the interest rates and closing costs for each home equity loan option. Takes a few minutes and review the “good faith estimate” with your loan officer, so you feel good about taking out a loan against your home. Don’t wait for the interest rate to go up any more, and get approved for the second mortgage that gives you flexibility today and access to cash tomorrow when you really need it.