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5 Pros and Cons of Using a HELOC for Home Improvements

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It may come as something of a surprise, but a reported 90 percent of homeowners are planning some form of upgrade. Many anticipate making home improvements with the next 24 months, and that often requires borrowing from a local lender like Peach State.

The home equity line of credit, also known as a HELOC, has emerged as a go-to option for homeowners wanting everything from updated kitchens to a new roof. But deciding which line of credit or loan product makes sense for your home improvement project can be complicated. By understanding what a HELOC is, as well as the pros and cons for using it to finance your home improvement project, you can rest easy knowing you will make an informed financial decision.

 

What is a HELOC?

A home equity line of credit — commonly referred to as a HELOC— allows property owners to borrow money against the largest investment many of us make, our house. As homeowners pay down the mortgage and property values increase, the growing equity emerges as an asset they can access.

Equity ranks among a homeowner's top resources in terms of borrowing power. Lending institutions recognize equity as a way to secure products such as a HELOC. But there are significant differences between opening a HELOC and other loan products.

A HELOC can act much like a credit card with a borrowing limit. In some cases, homeowners utilize the funds, pay the line of credit down and tap the resource again.

Once a homeowner has been approved for a HELOC, the lender may specify a time period for withdrawals. When the withdrawal date passes, borrowers start repayment on the total amount used. In some cases, lenders may adjust or extend the withdrawal and borrowing periods. Some products enjoy an overlap of repayment and withdrawal, making them increasingly flexible.

As you can see, home equity lines of credit are structured quite different from other financial alternatives, like personal loans.

renovated outdoor space using a heloc

5 Pros of Using a HELOC for Home Improvements

Qualifying borrowers can typically get a home equity line of credit and borrow up to 90 percent of the home’s overall value. Line of credit products can be helpful for cash-strapped property owners with substantial equity. Here are a few of the top benefits of leveraging a HELOC:

  • Low APR: A HELOC is a very cost-effective option, especially when interest rates are at or near historic lows. Some lenders also lower upfront costs and processing fees.
  • Tax Deductible: When a HELOC is used to make home improvements, the interest you pay usually qualifies as a tax-deductible expense. Be sure to consult a tax advisor for your specific situation.
  • Flexible Borrowing: Many other loan products require people to take a lump sum and promptly begin repayment. The HELOC allows borrowers to withdraw only the specific amount they need. If your project runs under budget, you will not pay interest on unused funds.
  • Easy Access: Borrow from your HELOC easily with access typically offered by check, transfer or a credit card linked to the account.
  • Easy Application Process: Applying for a HELOC can be done in minutes with the right lender. Credit unions like Peach State, typically make the decisions in-house, typically leading to a faster approval.
  • Added Bonus: Finish your project ahead of schedule and have some money left over? Consider debt consolidation! If rates remain favorable, use the remaining money in your HELOC to consolidate any high-interest debt to save you money. Consider the disparity between some credit card interest rates and a HELOC to see if consolidation makes fiscal sense.

Homeowners often prefer securing a HELOC due to its flexibility. Another benefit is that consistent repayment can help improve credit scores. Even with all the positive benefits of a HELOC, it is important to understand and consider all the aspects this and other borrowing options offer to make informed financial decisions.

woman painting her home using a heloc

 

5 Cons of Using a HELOC for Home Improvements

It’s essential to understand that the perfect loan or line of credit does not necessarily exist. The HELOC has proven benefits, but you need to keep the following elements in mind:

  • Collateral Risk: A home equity line of credit involves leveraging your home as collateral. While homeowners generally breeze through the withdrawal and repayment process, a HELOC is a calculated risk. Some people are uncomfortable leveraging their homes.
  • Equity Can Fluctuate: The country has experienced home and property values dropping quickly and families can find themselves “underwater” when they owe more than their home is worth. Be sure to borrow only what you need and confirm the home improvements you are making will increase the value of your home.
  • Interest Rates Increase: Even though interest rates may currently be low, that could change. The repayment on an adjustable-rate HELOC could rise should the interest-rate climate change.
  • Payment Surprise: Interest-only payments for the draw period can be typical for HELOCs, but if you only plan on making these minimum payments, your principal balance won’t be touched. When the repayment period begins, you may be surprised at the total payment due each month. To stay on top of this, make sure you are keeping track of your total expenses and keeping in mind both the interest and principal portion of your upcoming payments.
  • Loan Disbursement: If you are looking for money tomorrow, a HELOC may not be the best solution. Although most financial institutions offer a quick application process, the entire loan process through disbursement may take two to six weeks.

Among the other negatives of taking out a HELOC include the unexpected need to sell your home. Having a home equity line of credit in place typically means you will need to clear that debt at or before the closing. This may leave home sellers with less cash-on-hand.

man using a heloc to pay for updates to his home using a drill


Personal Loans Offer Alternative Fast Financing

Personal loans, unlike HELOCs, are not tied to your equity or property. This type of loan tends to be an unsecured product, not requiring the title to your home or other assets for security. Lowering asset risk ranks among the top reasons property owners prefer personal loans. Here are some other reasons why property owners may prefer personal loans:

  • Application and approval process can take around 24 hours, so homeowners can complete repairs quickly.
  • There are typically no closing costs associated with personal loans.
  • Your home isn’t at risk because it is an unsecured loan.
  • A Peach State Personal Loan allows you to borrow up to $50,000.

Like any loan product, there are things to keep in mind. When considering a personal loan, be sure to remember:

  • Personal loans may involve shorter repayment periods.
  • Personal loans may include higher interest rates because they do not ask for collateral such as your home.

It’s not uncommon to weigh the financial and time elements when deciding between a HELOC or personal loan for home improvement projects. Don’t be surprised if the complexity of some loan products feel overwhelming or if you are not sure which is the right fit for your project.


How to Decide Which Solution is Right for You

Making informed decisions about major borrowing requires due diligence. Review available financing options for your home improvement project and be sure to take advantage of free online budgeting calculators to see what payment you can potentially afford.

Narrow your search to solutions that offer favorable interest rates, repayment structures and make you feel comfortable. Once you have finalized your decision, consider opening a Home Equity Line of Credit or Personal Loan at Peach State! Visit any of our branch locations or call 770.580.6000 to speak with a Loan Specialist.

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