Home Equity Line of Credit
A home equity line of credit (often called HELOC and pronounced HEE-lock) is a loan in which the
lender agrees to lend a maximum amount within an agreed period (called a term), where the collateral is the borrower's
equity in his/her
A HELOC differs from a conventional home equity loan in that the borrower is not advanced the entire sum up front, but uses a line of credit to borrow sums that total no more than the credit limit, similar to a credit card. HELOC funds can be borrowed during the "draw period" (typically 5 to 25 years). Repayment is of the amount drawn plus interest. A HELOC may have a minimum monthly payment requirement (often "interest only"); however, the debtor may make a repayment of any amount so long as it is greater than the minimum payment (but less than the total outstanding). The full principal amount is due at the end of the draw period, either as a lump-sum balloon payment or according to a loan amortization schedule.
Another important difference from a conventional loan is that the interest rate on a HELOC is variable. The interest rate is generally based on an index, such as the prime rate. This means that the interest rate can change over time. Homeowners shopping for a HELOC must be aware that not all lenders calculate the margin the same way. The margin is the difference between the prime rate and the interest rate the borrower will actually pay.
HELOC loans became very popular in the United States in the early and mid 2000s, in part because interest paid was (and is) typically (depending on specific circumstances) deductible under federal and many state income tax laws. This effectively reduced the cost of borrowing funds and offered an attractive tax incentive over traditional methods of borrowing (such as credit card debt). Another reason for the popularity of HELOCs is their flexibility, both in terms of borrowing and repaying on a schedule determined by the borrower. Furthermore, HELOC loans' popularity growth may also stem from their having a better image than a "second mortgage," a term which can more directly imply an undesirable level of debt. Of course, within the lending industry itself, a HELOC is categorized as a second mortgage.
Because the underlying collateral of a home equity line of credit is the home, failure to repay the loan or meet loan requirements may result in
foreclosure. As a result, lenders generally require that the borrower maintain a certain level of equity in the home as a condition of providing a home equity line.
Traditional mortgages are usually non recourse loans. "Nonrecourse debt or a nonrecourse loan is a secured loan (debt) that is secured by a pledge of collateral, typically real property, but for which the borrower is not personally liable." A HELOC may be a recourse loan for which the borrower is personally liable. This distinction becomes important in foreclosure since the borrower may remain personally liable for a recourse debt on a foreclosed property.
In 2008 major home equity lenders including Bank of America, Countrywide Financial, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, National City Mortgage, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo began informing borrowers that their home equity lines of credit had been frozen, reduced, suspended, rescinded or restricted in some other manner. Falling housing prices have led to borrowers possessing reduced equity, which is perceived as an increased risk of foreclosure in the eyes of lenders.
- Home equity loan
- Loan to value
- Interest-only loan
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