home equity

Home equity loans, HELOCs tough to find

"It's just that the underwriting criteria has been ramped up by the lenders and it's a lot harder to get a loan. They really beat up the appraisals to take fear out of the equation," Ruzicka says.

Boost your credit score

Borrowers who have a great credit score have a better chance of getting a HELOC or home equity loan, especially if they live in a part of the country that escaped the worst of the housing bubble excesses -- such as Austin, Texas.

"The market is really good if you have excellent credit," says Jon Spears, an Austin-based mortgage broker with Mylendingplace.com.

Accept today's lending realities

If you live in a state like Texas -- where home prices have remained relatively steady in recent years -- you probably have a decent shot at getting a home equity loan or HELOC.

Spears says strict laws have always made it more difficult for homeowners to pull money out of their homes in Texas, and that approach is now paying off for the Lone Star state.

"We just don't see as much of a problem because the laws have always been much stricter here," he says. "In Texas, you can only go up to 80 percent of your appraisal value anyway."

On the other hand, home equity loans are almost nonexistent in burst-bubble areas like California, Florida and Nevada.

Borrowers in those states and other states that have seen large drops in home values probably should accept that getting a home equity loan or HELOC will be extremely difficult, regardless of the borrower's own personal credit history.

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