A home equity line of credit, HELOC, is a mortgage loan made to homeowners to be used on an as-needed basis. A lender, such as a bank, will approve a borrower for a specified amount based on the equity in their home and all the necessary paperwork is signed to authorize the loan.
The line of credit amount is available to the borrower and no interest is due until some or all of the money is used. When the money is paid back, the line of credit is again available in full to the borrower.
The specifics of the repayment will depend on the HELOC lender. It may require interest only or it may require amortized payments of principal and interest.
The proceeds from a HELOC can be used to make improvements on the home or for anything else such as medical expenses, college tuition or unexpected expenses, or for other liquidity issues.
Unlike personal credit card interest, the interest on a HELOC may be tax deductible. Your tax advisor will be able to let you know about your specific situation.
Rates and fees can vary widely on HELOC loans. Borrowers should shop around, compare and get recommendations before deciding on a lender.
What your home is worth depends on why you ask the question. It could be one value based on a purchase or sale and an entirely different value for insurance purposes.
Fair market value is the price a buyer and seller can agree upon assuming both are knowledgeable, willing and unpressured by extraordinary events. This value is generally indicated by a comparable market analysis done by real estate professionals.
Insured value is determined for insurance coverage. Homeowner policies typically have replacement clauses in them and the cost of demolition, new construction and the added complexities of matching existing construction could exceed the cost of new construction.
Investment value is based on the income it can generate during its useful life. This value is dependent on what kind of yield an investor requires to capitalize the value over time. The formula for this is to divide net operating income by the capitalization rate required by the investor.
The assessed value of a home is used to determine the property taxes the owner must pay. This value is determined by the responsible state government agency.
Homeowners are generally most familiar with their home’s tax assessed value, and often are more familiar with their home’s probable market value than with its insurance replacement cost. Since market value may be lower than the replacement cost, owners should review the insured value with their property insurance agent periodically.
There can be a surprising difference in each of these separate values. It is important to know the purpose for which a value is going to be used.
Whether you’re refinancing your current home or buying a new one, something worth considering is a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year term. The payments will be a little higher but you’ll get a lower interest rate and you’ll build equity much faster.
Let’s look at an example of a $300,000 mortgage with the choice of a 30-year term with a 3.92% rate compared to a 15-year term with a 3.2% rate. The payments would be $682.28 higher on the shorter term but the equity would be considerably higher even after you adjust for the higher payments.
Another benefit is that the shorter-term loan creates a forced savings situation where the savings on longer term loan might end up being spent rather than being saved and invested. A conscious decision to pay more in payments could pay big dividends in the future.
After the mortgage payment, the largest homeowner expense is for utilities and the major component is energy. Contributing factors include air leaks, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, water heaters and lighting.
Computers, monitors, TVs, cable and satellite boxes, DVRs and power adapters are spinning your electric meter even when they’re not being used. Even though they only represent a small percentage of a home’s total energy consumption, about 3/4 of the electricity is used when the products are turned off.
Unplugging devices can actually make a difference in the size of your electric bill. Plugging several of these offenders into a power strip with a single on/off switch may make the task easier. Most computers have options to put them into sleep mode or even turn off when not in use.
The Department of Energy has an Energy Saver Guide and do-it-yourself suggestions.
Home is a place you should feel safe and secure. Sometimes, we take it for granted and unfortunately, we do need to remain vigilant about things we do that could compromise our safety. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Everyone loves an inviting home including burglars. Make sure it looks occupied and is difficult to break in.
- Always lock outside doors and windows even if you’re only gone for a brief time.
- Lock gates and fences.
- Leave lights on when you leave; consider timers to automatically control the lights.
- Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home; don’t tempt thieves with what you have in your garage.
- Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery when you’re out of town or get a neighbor to pick it up for you.
- Posting that you’re out of town or away from home on social networks is like advertising your home is unprotected.
- Equally dangerous could be allowing certain social network sites to track your location.
- Don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or the plastic rocks; thieves know about those hiding places and even more than you can think.
- Trim the shrubs from around your home; don’t give criminals a place to hide.
- Use exterior motion detectors and yard lighting.
- Have an alarm system and use it when you leave home and go to bed.
- Put 3 ½” deck screws in door plates and door hinges.
- Have good deadbolts on all exterior doors.
- Exterior doors should be solid core.