Published February 1, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • A HELOAN is a single lump sum loan paid back over time
  • A HELOC works like a credit card where you only charge what you need
  • There are two methods to access your equity, by taking out a home equity loan (HEL), or through a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
  • One advantage of a HELOC is that the initial interest rate can be lower than that of a home equity loan.
  • Not all loans are created equal. It's a good idea to ask your lender questions and to compare loan terms. 

What’s the difference between a HELOC and a Home Equity Loan?

A Home Equity Loan (HELOAN) is going to be a set about of money that you take out at one point in time & you’re going to pay principle and interest on those funds. You're not going to have access to the funds over and over again like you can with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A line of credit is also going to save you money because a lot of people don't know exactly how much they need and how much they want to utilize. With a HELOC you can take out just what you need a little at a time & only pay interest on that amount. That will save you a lot of money in the long run. You can have up to ten years to access that line of credit over and over again. This gives you the felxibility to easily access funding when new financial needs arise.

Comparing the Two Types of Equity Loans

Whether you're sending a family member to college, you'd like to make some home improvements or consolidate debt, or an unexpected expense has come up, you can access your home's equity by taking out a second mortgage. Perhaps the value of your home has increased, you've been making payments on your home mortgage for a while, or a combination of both — either way, you've built valuable equity in your home.

There are two methods to access your equity, by taking out a home equity loan (HEL), or through a home equity line of credit (HELOC). These are known as second mortgages and are not to be confused with a cash-out refinance loan. The differences may seem subtle, but once you're informed and compare home equity lending options, you'll be able to choose which loan is the right one for your situation.

How much home equity do I have?

Determine your equity by subtracting the balance you owe on your mortgage from the fair market value of your home and property. Lenders will use a loan-to-value ratio (LVR), the amount you currently owe on your home and the amount you want to borrow, compared to its value, to determine whether they will grant you a second mortgage.

Please note that just like your first mortgage, you are putting your home up as collateral for a second mortgage. The advantage of a second mortgage, when compared to other types of loans, is the relatively lower interest rate.

What type of home equity loan is best for you?

The first question you need to ask yourself before deciding the between the second mortgage options is, “Do I need a lump sum right now to pay off a major expense, or do I need to access cash periodically?” The next question is, “Do I plan to pay this loan off quickly, or do I plan to make payments for an extended time?”

As you learn about the types of loans available to you, you might answer some of these questions.

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

A HELOC is a line of credit, similar to what you receive from a credit card company. You borrow the amount you need when you need it, and you pay interest only on the amount you borrow. Typically, HELOC loans have a variable interest rate that is subject to increase or decrease. These rates are related to the performance of a specific index, plus a margin, which is detailed in your HELOC loan documents. This means that your monthly minimum loan payment could increase or decrease over time.

HELOC advantages

One advantage of a HELOC is that the initial interest rate can be lower than that of a home equity loan. This makes it an attractive loan should you plan to pay the loan off in the short term. Experts say a HELOC is a good solution for shorter-term goals such as a year or two. You can continually draw upon your HELOC, while partially repaying it or paying it off in full, during the drawing period. After the drawing period ends, or if you borrow the entire equity amount, you are not able to borrow any more money.

Another advantage to a HELOC is that your lender may offer you interest-only payments during an initial draw period, which could last as long as ten years. If you take advantage of an interest-only loan, make sure to budget for increased monthly principal and interest payments during the repayment phase of your HELOC loan, which could last as long as 20 years.

What is a home equity loan?

This is a loan you take out in addition to your first mortgage. When you choose to take out a home equity loan, you will receive a one-time lump sum. A home equity loan is a good option if you know exactly how much money you need to borrow. Home equity loans feature a fixed interest rate, which makes your monthly payment consistent no matter what happens to interest rates. A fixed payment also makes budgeting easier. Your monthly payments will apply to both the principal and interest from the beginning. You can work with your lender to determine the term of your loan, which can be between 5 to 30 years.

Home equity loan advantages

Because you start making loan payments on the entire amount of your home's equity that you have borrowed, a home equity loan is a good source to fund a large-scale project or one-time expenses. If you plan to carry the loan for a long period of time, a home equity loan might be the right choice for you because interest rates are not subject to change.

Questions to ask when taking out a second lien

Tax implications

Interest payments for both of these types of loans up to $100,000 can be tax deductible. Ask your tax preparer whether your second mortgage loan qualifies.

The terms of your loan

Not all loans are created equal. It's a good idea to ask your lender questions and to compare loan terms. For instance, is there a minimum-sized draw you can make on a HELOC? Are there any lender fees, annual fees or inactivity fees associated with your HELOC? Are you required to keep a specific balance, or are you charged a fee if you cancel your HELOC? Are there any periodic caps on the amount your HELOC interest rate can increase during each adjustment period? Is there a lifetime cap over the term of the loan that protects you from soaring interest rates?

Once you've taken a close look at both loan options, know how loan payments work with your monthly budget, and decide how long you plan to carry your second mortgage loan, you'll know whether a HELOC or home equity loan is right for you.

If you still need help deciding, check out Credit Union of Texas' Home Equity Loans and HELOC pages.

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*Fixed rate home equity line of credit: Loan has a draw period of 10 years, followed by a repayment period. Interest only payments during the 10-year draw period and will be re-amortized at the time the repayment period begins. If interest only payments are made during the draw period, the loan balance will not decrease.

Variable rate home equity line of credit: Credit Union of Texas offers a variable Annual Percentage Rate (APR) based on the Prime Rate as published in the Money Rates section of The Wall Street Journal (the “Index”) plus a margin based on creditworthiness and credit limit. As of July 27, 2023, the index value is 8.50% . The floor APR will be 3.00%. An increase in the Index will result in an increase in the periodic rate which, in turn, will result in higher payments. In no event, will the APR increase by more than 18% or the maximum rate allowed by applicable law.

The minimum advance during the draw period is $4,000. Property insurance is required, including flood insurance where applicable. Texas homestead properties are limited to 80% combined loan to fair market value for home equity financing. All loans are subject to credit approval and Credit Union of Texas lending policies. Other restrictions may apply. In Texas, there is a 12-day cooling off period on all HELOCs. There is also a three-day right of rescission after closing before the funds may be disbursed. Actual time of funding may differ depending on appraisal, title and other underwriting requirements. This is a limited time offer and is subject to change at any time without notice. The account is subject to application, credit qualification, and income verification; additional evaluation and verification criteria may apply. CUTX home loan programs are only available in Texas. Borrower will be responsible for certain closing costs which may include title insurance. Credit Union of Texas NMLS #576560. Membership required.