A home equity loan is a type of second mortgage that lets you borrow money against the value of your home. Whether you own your home outright or have a standard first mortgage, home equity loans let you unlock the equity in your home in exchange for a second mortgage.
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A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, has an adjustable rate of interest attached to paying it off, which means that your payments can fluctuate based on the federal funds rate. Think about a home loan if the idea of an adjustable rate unnerves you.
Know your loan-to-value, or LTV, ratio. This is how much you owe versus how much the home is worth. Many people are in trouble now because their homes dropped in value. You don't want to be stuck owing more than your house is worth.
Figure out what the loan is for and how long you'll need the money to help decide which kind of loan you need. Home equity loans are better for single lump sum expenses while home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, are best for prolonged expenses, like college tuition.