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Federal Reserve rate hike impact on home equity

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The average consumer might not be following every signal from the Federal Reserve, but what the central bank does plays a role in what consumers pay for just about everything, including home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), home equity loans and other types of mortgages.

Key takeaways from the Fed’s latest meeting

The Federal Reserve hiked its key rate by three-quarters of a percentage point in September, another large leap for the policymaker as it continues to fight inflation. With the increase, expect to see further jumps on rates for financial products, including home equity lending rates.

How the Federal Reserve affects home equity rates

When the Federal Reserve adjusts the federal funds rate, the rate tied to a HELOC moves with it. That’s because a HELOC has a variable interest rate just like a credit card, meaning your monthly payment changes when the rate goes up or down.

Home equity loans, on the other hand, typically have a fixed interest rate, so the rate won’t change once you close the loan.

Fed rate hike history

One of the Federal Reserve’s primary responsibilities is setting the federal funds rate, or the price of borrowing money. A higher rate tends to tamp down demand and spending, while a lower rate has the opposite effect. While the central bank has taken aggressive steps to raise the fed funds rate this year, the rate is still relatively low. Here’s a look at the history of the Fed rate hikes since the 1980s.

2022 home equity statistics
  • Homeowners with mortgages enjoyed a collective increase in $3.6 trillion in equity over the last year, a 27.8 percent increase, according to CoreLogic, with the average homeowner gaining $60,000 in equity.
  • At the same time, the amount of homes with underwater mortgages — also known as negative equity — decreased to 1 million properties, representing just 1.8 percent of all mortgages, CoreLogic reports.
  • Per homeowner, the median home equity is projected to surpass $129,000 by the end of 2022, according to a forecast from TransUnion.
  • HELOC balances added up to total $319 billion in the second quarter of 2022, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Why homeowners have more equity today

When you bought your home, your down payment determined how much equity you had out of the gate — say 3 percent or 20 percent. As you pay down your mortgage, you’ll continue to build that equity.

With home values up dramatically, however, many homeowners have accumulated equity much faster than they would have had homes appreciated at the usual historical pace. As of June, home prices were up 18.3 percent year-over-year, according to CoreLogic. While this growth is expected to slow some in the coming months, the run-up has given the average homeowner with a mortgage $207,000 of tappable equity, Black Knight reports.

Still, if you’re looking at your climbing home value with thoughts about all you can do with that equity, proceed with caution.

“Just because you have newfound wealth in the form of home equity doesn’t mean you need to do anything with it,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate. “Remember that this is not the same as going to the ATM to withdraw your money. You are borrowing, and with rising interest rates, that borrowing is coming at an increasing cost.”

States with biggest home equity gains

Fed rate hikes and home equity FAQ

Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin is a contributing writer for Bankrate and covers topics like credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
Edited by
Mortgage editor