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Home Equity Line of Credit

  • When opening a home equity credit line, expect these expenses: an application fee, title search, appraisal, attorneys' fees, and points.

  • A "discount" rate is a low, introductory interest rate that usually lasts only six months. Find out what the rate will be at the end of that period.

  • Most credits lines have variable interest rates. If the interest rate goes up, so does your monthly payment.

  • Some lenders charge continuing fees. such as transaction fees each time you borrow money.

  • When you open a home equity account, you have three days to cancel the transaction, for any reason. You must cancel in writing.

Using a credit line to borrow against the equity in your home has become a popular source of consumer credit. And lenders are offering these home equity credit lines in a variety of ways.

You will find most loans come with variable interest rates, some come with attractive low introductory rates, and a few come with fixed rates. You also may find most loans have large one-time upfront fees, others have closing costs, and some have continuing costs, such as annual fees. You can find loans with large balloon payments at the end of the loan, and others with no balloons but with higher monthly payments.

No one loan is right for every homeowner. The challenge, then, is to contact different lenders, compare options, and select the home equity credit line best tailored to your needs.

Be sure to review the home equity contract carefully before you sign it. Do not hesitate to ask questions about the terms and conditions of your financing. To help you do this, you may want to consider the following questions.

Is a home equity credit line for you?

If you need to borrow money, home equity lines may be one useful source of credit. Initially at least, they may provide you with large amounts of cash at relatively low interest rates. And they may provide you with certain tax advantages unavailable with other kinds of loans. (Check with your tax adviser for details.)

At the same time, home equity lines of credit require you to use your home as collateral for the loan. This may put your home at risk if you are late or cannot make your monthly payments. Those loans with a large final (balloon) payment may lead you to borrow more money to pay off this debt, or they may put your home in jeopardy if you cannot qualify for refinancing. And, if you sell your home, most plans require you to pay off your credit line at that time. In addition, because home equity loans give you relatively easy access to cash, you might find you borrow money more freely.

Remember too, there are other ways to borrow money from a lending institution. For example, you may want to explore second mortgage installment loans. Although these plans also place an additional mortgage on your home, second mortgage money usually is loaned in a lump sum, rather than in a series of advances made available by writing checks on an account. Also, second mortgages usually have fixed interest rates and fixed payment amounts.

You also may want to explore borrowing from credit lines that do not use your home as collateral. These are available with your credit cards or with unsecured credit lines that let you write checks as you need the money. In addition, you may want to ask about loans for specific items, such as cars or tuition.

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