The Center For Debt Management
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Lines of Credit vs Traditional Second Mortgage Loans

If you are thinking about a home equity line of credit, you might also want to consider a traditional second mortgage loan. A second mortgage provides you with a fixed amount of money repayable over a fixed period. In most cases the payment schedule calls for equal payments that will pay off the entire loan within the loan period. You might consider a second mortgage instead of a home equity line if, for example, you need a set amount for a specific purpose, such as an addition to your home.

In deciding which type of loan best suits your needs, consider the costs under the two alternatives. Look at both the APR and other charges. Do not, however, simply compare the APRs, because the APRs on the two types of loans are figured differently:

  • The APR for a traditional second mortgage loan takes into account the interest rate charged plus points and other finance charges.

  • The APR for a home equity line of credit is based on the periodic interest rate alone. It does not include points or other charges.

Disclosures From Lenders

The federal Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose the important terms and costs of their home equity plans, including the APR, miscellaneous charges, the payment terms, and information about any variable-rate feature. And in general, neither the lender nor anyone else may charge a fee until after you have received this information. You usually get these disclosures when you receive an application form, and you will get additional disclosures before the plan is opened. If any term (other than a variable-rate feature) changes before the plan is opened, the lender must return all fees if you decide not to enter into the plan because of the change.

When you open a home equity line, the transaction puts your home at risk. If the home involved is your principal dwelling, the Truth in Lending Act gives you 3 days from the day the account was opened to cancel the credit line. This right allows you to change your mind for any reason. You simply inform the lender in writing within the 3-day period. The lender must then cancel its security interest in your home and return all fees—including any application and appraisal fees—paid to open the account.


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