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HELOC: Home Equity Line Of Credit


Feb 2, 2023



Imagine you’re at a party, talking about what’s happened with home prices and how much more your home is now worth, and then suddenly people start talking about their HELOCs. You start to look for a way to change the subject, but it’s too late. Someone asks you if you’ve gotten a HELOC and now the truth is going to come out: you don’t really know what a HELOC is or how it works. Your only choice is to fake a nosebleed and gracefully flee the room. While that scenario might sound silly, if you’re a homeowner – or even contemplating becoming one – it’s important to know what a HELOC is and how it can fit into your personal financial picture. Intelligently and responsibly using credit can be the difference between living a comfortable life and feeling like all your money is going to paying interest with no hope of saving for the future.

What is a HELOC?

HELOC stands for Home Equity Line of Credit. When you get a HELOC, you obtain a line of credit, which is essentially credit you can tap at any time – much like a credit card. Unlike a credit card, a HELOC is secured by your home’s equity, which is the value of your home minus whatever you owe on your mortgage.

How Does a HELOC Work?

### ### 1. Home Equity Evaluation: With a HELOC, a lender will look at the value of your home and what you owe on your first mortgage, and then determine how much money they are willing to lend you based on your equity in the home. Unlike a [Home Equity Loan (HEL)](https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/homeequityloan.asp), you don’t actually have to borrow all of that money at once. Instead, you take what is called a “draw” and that draw will count against the total amount you can borrow. ### 2. Draw Period: Over time, you might find you have other large expenses you need to handle, and that’s where your HELOC comes in handy. You can take additional draws as you need them, which gives you the flexibility of borrowing only what you need, and only when you need it. ### 3. Payment Period: All good things come to an end eventually, and ultimately your HELOC’s draw period will end. At this point, the focus shifts to paying down the amounts drawn against your HELOC. Up until now, you’ll have been paying interest on your draws, but your HELOC now begins to amortize – which is a fancy way of saying that you’ll be paying off the amount you borrowed. NOTE: By the way, you don’t need to wait until the end of the draw period to start paying down your HELOC. In fact, by paying down some of your HELOC, you can save on interest and replenish your ability to take additional draws. ### What if you need to borrow more money, but your draw period has ended? No need to worry! By the time you’ve reached the end of the draw period, a lot of time has passed. During that time, two things will be happening: You’ll be making payments on your first mortgage; and Your home may have gone up in value. Depending on what your financial situation looks like, you could be in a position to obtain a new HELOC, paying off your existing HELOC balance and having additional capacity for future borrowing needs.

Benefits of Leveraging a HELOC

“But I already have eight credit cards! Why do I need a HELOC?” Remember that a HELOC can be like a credit card, but they are different animals altogether. A HELOC brings some key benefits to the table that you simply do not have with a credit card.

  • Lower interest rates:

Sure, your credit card might offer you a promotional rate for a couple of months, or even a year, but eventually you’ll be stuck paying astronomically high interest rates. This is because credit cards are unsecured debt – the credit card company is relying on your promise to pay back your debt, and not much else. They have to charge you sky high interest because of how many people run up credit card debts and don’t pay them back. In contrast, a HELOC is secured by the equity in your home. Because your HELOC lender will have a claim on your home, called a lien, they have additional assurance that whatever you borrower will be repaid – one way or another. As a result of this assurance, they can afford to charge you less to borrow money. This advantage is most obvious with credit cards, but often extends to personal loans (also unsecured) and even loans for things like motorcycles and recreational vehicles.

  • More time to pay back what you’ve borrowed:

With the exception of credit cards, most loans are structured so that you pay them back over a fixed period of time. With a HELOC, you have a significantly longer period of time to pay back what you owe. This translates into a lower payment which gives you increased financial flexibility.

  • Consolidate your bills:

If you have two car payments, eight credit cards, and two or three home-related improvements you’re paying off, you’re juggling a lot of different numbers. Different interest rates, loan terms, and even loan balances can make it hard to figure what you should be paying off first. If you get a HELOC, you can use it to pay off all of those debts, leaving you with a financial picture that’s easier to understand. Instead of trying to guess what you should pay down first, you can simply focus on paying down your HELOC without any guesswork.

  • Make it easier to pay for and track home improvements and repairs:

While big box hardware stores and various contractors may offer you financing, you could be setting yourself up for some surprises if you don’t pay off large bills in a matter of months. In contrast, with a HELOC you have a predictable source of funds with no “gotcha” type gimmicks, and enough time to pay off the amount you borrowed without needless stress. What’s more, you might even be able to deduct the interest you pay if you’re borrowing to make a home improvement – but be sure to talk to a tax advisor first.

  • Flexibility:

It can sometimes feel intimidating to apply for credit. With a HELOC, you’re one and done, as opposed to the stress-filled process of applying for credit every time your financial needs change. By getting a HELOC, you go through the process just once – and it’s a far easier process than getting your first mortgage. After that, whenever you need more funds, they’re never more than a few mouse clicks away.

Some Things to Consider Before Getting a HELOC:

A HELOC isn’t simply someone throwing money at you from a helicopter. For starters, there is no helicopter involved, but beyond that, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • HELOCs usually have variable interest rates:

    With every draw of your HELOC, you’ll be charged interest until it’s paid back. With many loans, you have a fixed interest rate, but with most HELOCs your interest rate can go up or down. If interest rates go down, so does the amount of interest you owe each month, but if rates go up, so too will your payment. Variable interest rates aren’t all bad though - a fixed rate loan’s interest rate is going to reflect the cost of the interest rate risk your lender is taking on. By taking on the interest rate risk yourself, you are potentially saving some money, but you do need to be certain that your finances can handle your monthly payment increasing. That being said, Hitch does have a fixed rate HELOC option, which is something to consider if you’re planning to immediately utilize most of your HELOC. That way, you can decide if a fixed rate is right for you since you’re planning to put a large chunk of your equity to work right away.
  • HELOCs require an application process:

You will have to go through an application process, and it will result in an inquiry on your credit report. The good news is that if you are shopping for a HELOC, having multiple inquiries within a short amount of time won’t add up to a large impact. Your lender is going to look at your credit and the value of your home, and this is going to determine what size your HELOC is and how much your interest rate is going to be. Anything else is just an estimate. Pay attention to the details around your HELOC: Every HELOC has the potential to be different. Therefore, you’re going to want to read all your paperwork to understand what conditions may exist around withdrawals and the draw period.

  • There are fees associated with getting a HELOC:

    Remember how I mentioned that you’re likely going to pay a lot less in interest with a HELOC? This is certainly true, but there are some costs associated with getting a HELOC, such as obtaining a value for your home and the paperwork processes associated with obtaining a HELOC. Every lender incurs some sort of cost when they lend you money, but the difference here is that these costs are considered separate to the interest you are charged.

HELOC vs Refinancing

It might be tempting to just Refinance your first mortgage as a method to extract equity from your home, but this could be a costly mistake – even if the mortgage rate you’re being quoted is less than what you could get on a HELOC.

  • For starters, consider this scenario:
BalanceInterest RateInterest for One Month
Existing Mortage$2,40,0003.00%$600
Mortage + HELOC$2,70,000Effectively 3.56%$800
Potential Refinance$2,70,0006.00%$1.35

In the simplified example above, you’d be paying $600 in interest on your first mortgage, and $200 in interest on your HELOC, for a total of $800 for a month’s worth of interest. If you divide that by the total amount owed, you’re looking at the equivalent of an all-in interest rate of 3.56%.

Meanwhile, the cash-out refinance in the scenario above would have you paying $1,350 in interest for the month – a whopping $550 more in interest.But there’s another way to look at this which makes you realize just how big a mistake refinancing your first mortgage could be in this scenario. There’s math involved, but I’ll handle the number crunching for you. If you take the interest cost of the refinance and subtract the interest cost of your original mortgage, you get $750. Take that $750 and multiply it by twelve to get an effective annual interest expense of $9,000. Dividing that $9,000 by the amount of equity you extracted results in an effective borrowing cost of 30%. Essentially, if you went the refinance route, you’d be paying credit card type interest rates to extract equity.


Because when you refinance, that new interest rate applies to the entire amount of money you owe. While your HELOC rate might be more than the rate on your existing mortgage or even a new refinance, your existing mortgage with your really low rate gets to stay in place. **But it isn’t just about interest.
Remember that getting a new first mortgage can be a lengthy application process, with a lot of extra cost that you simply don’t have when getting a HELOC.
In addition, getting a new first mortgage often means that you’re extending the length of time that it’ll take to pay off your home.
The guidelines for getting a mortgage when you’re taking cash out can be stringent, and you may find that you can’t access nearly as much equity as you can via a HELOC.

Putting Your Home Equity to Work – Things You Can Do With a HELOC:

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the ins and outs of a HELOC, but it’s also important to identify some of the uses of a HELOC. While you can certainly go all Nick Cage and try to buy a T. Rex skull, there are some really practical uses for your new HELOC:

Educational expenses:

Everyone’s financial picture is going to be a bit different, but don’t just assume that student loans are the best way to finance higher education. Take the time to consider your options, understanding the interest costs, time it takes to pay back your debt, and what the monthly payment looks like.

Financing a wedding:

Unless you’re planning to hop a plane to Vegas and use a coupon to get married at a chapel on the cheap, weddings can be an expensive proposition.

The vacation of a lifetime:

Whether you want to descend on an amusement park with your extended family, spend a summer touring Europe, or even travel around the world, a HELOC could save you a significant amount of money over paying for it all with credit cards.

Start your own business:

Speaking from personal experience, it costs money to make money. Setting up an LLC, getting your business licenses, buying equipment, and even potentially needing to rent space – it all adds up. With a HELOC, you could have that money on hand so that you can quickly get up and running.

Fund investments:

What’s the difference between someone like us and people that are extremely wealthy? Well, besides the fancy cars, mansions, and yachts, they also have less of their wealth tied up in their homes. If you haven’t been investing towards your retirement, a HELOC could provide enough capital to get you started. While investments, and even home values, can go up and down, having a diversified nest egg is a smart idea.

Consolidate debts:

This one we’ve obviously mentioned before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Complicated finances are hard to manage, and it makes it easier to dig yourself deeper into debt.

Down payment on a car:

Cars have gotten really, really, really expensive over the past few years thanks to all the new bells and whistles. While many car companies will find a way to finance your purchase without any money down, you might want to think twice. Without a down payment, you will instantly owe far more than the car is worth before the ink is dry on the paperwork. By putting a down payment, you can be in a better equity position from day one, which is useful if you ever need to trade the car in or if your car is totaled in an accident.

Big ticket purchases:

Whether it’s a want or a need, there are times in your life when you’re going to make a whopper of a purchase. While you could drain all the cash you have on hand, or max out your credit cards, a HELOC is a great way to lessen the immediate financial impact.

Create a rainy-day fund:

How many months of salary do you have saved up? If you’re like most Americans, that number is lower than the number of months you could be unemployed in the event of an economic downturn. With the cost of living these days, it’s increasingly harder to build enough savings to provide for peace of mind. A HELOC can take money that’s tied up in your house and give you liquidity for when you need it most. Remember, once you’re unemployed, your ability to obtain credit will likely be significantly curtailed.

Deal with medical expenses:

Medical debt is a leading cause of bankruptcy, and can significantly impact your ability to obtain credit with reasonable terms. Having a HELOC in place means that you can not only help avoid taking on medical debt, but also deal with the occasional emergency without it blowing a hole in your budget.

How to Get a Frictionless HELOC with Hitch

Now that you’ve decided that a HELOC is the easy way to address your current financial needs, what’s next?

That’s where we come in.

You can Get pre-qualified for a HELOC in a matter of minutes with no impact to your credit score.

What’s more we can even help you figure out how much you could borrow, and how much you could save by consolidating your debts.

Once you’ve done your research, Hitch can make it quick and easy to get a HELOC with minimal out of pocket expense. You’ll even have a dedicated loan officer available to help answer any questions you might have.

With a HELOC from Hitch, you’ll enjoy the choice of 10 years of variable interest-only payments or a fixed rate that allows you to start paying down your HELOC immediately, the potential to borrow up to a total of 95% of your home’s value, the ability to redraw the money you’ve used to pay down your HELOC, and much more.

Borrow from yourself, not the bank!

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Equal Housing Lender

Hitch, Inc. NMLS #2383367 #2383367

2158 NW Toussaint Drive. Bend, Oregon 97703

1. Qualified applicants may borrow up to 95% of their home’s value. This does not apply to investment properties.

2. HELOCs have a 10-year draw period. During the draw period, the borrower is required to make monthly minimum payments, which will equal the greater of (a) $100; or (b) the total of all accrued finance charges and other charges for the monthly billing cycle. During the draw period, the monthly minimum payments may not reduce the outstanding principal balance. During the repayment period, the borrower is required to make monthly minimum payments, which will equal the greater of (a) $100; or (b) 1/240th of the outstanding balance at the end of the draw period, plus all accrued finance charges and other fees, charges, and costs.The lender will calculate this amount by taking the outstanding Account Balance on the last day of the draw period and dividing it by 240 months and then adding any finance charge that accrues but remains unpaid during the monthly billing cycle plus any other fees, charges and costs to the fixed principal payment that is due. During the repayment period, the monthly minimum payments may not, to the extent permitted by law, fully repay the principal balance outstanding on the HELOC. At the end of the repayment period, the borrower must pay any remaining outstanding balance in one full payment.

3. The time it takes to get cash is measured from the time the Lending Partner receives all documents requested from the applicant and assumes the applicant’s stated income, property and title information provided in the loan application matches the requested documents and any supporting information. Most borrowers get their cash on average in 21 days. The time period calculation to get cash is based on the first 4 months of 2024 loan funding's, assumes the funds are wired, excludes weekends, and excludes the government-mandated disclosure waiting period. The amount of time it takes to get cash will vary depending on the applicant’s respective financial circumstances and the Lending Partner’s current volume of applications. Closing costs can vary from 3.0 - 5.0%. An appraisal may be required to be completed on the property in some instances.

4. Not all borrowers will meet the requirements necessary to qualify. Rates and terms are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility. This offer is subject to verification of borrower qualifications, property evaluations, income verification and credit approval. This is not a commitment to lend.

5. The content provided is presented for information purposes only. This is not a commitment to lend or extend credit. Information and/or dates are subject to change without notice. All loans are subject to credit approval. Other restrictions may apply.