When applying for a mortgage loan, your lender may ask you for an insurance binder. In that event, you’re going to need to know what it is, and how to acquire it. An insurance binder is a temporary proof of insurance. If your loan is being insured, you’ll need to ask the company insuring it to provide an insurance binder before the loan can be approved. This temporary proof of insurance exists because the official proof of insurance probably won’t come until after the deadline for loan approval has passed.
Mortgage loans aren’t the only situation in which you may need an insurance binder. You may also need proof of insurance to buy a car, start a business, or rent property. Some of these may involve loans as well, but even if they don’t, it’s still possible you need to be insured for other reasons. The insurance binder in these situations is exactly the same thing — temporary proof of insurance before the official proof of insurance arrives.
As of August 2023, interest rates are somewhere around 7%, possibly higher. While this isn’t astronomically high — they have historically been over 10% — it’s too high for current homeowners to want to exchange their homes. This is because 92% of current homeowners with a mortgage have an interest rate below 6%. Almost a quarter even have locked in an interest rate below 3%.
High home prices are actually somewhat helping current homeowners, since the price boost increases their equity. Prices have increased 14% in the past two years, which results in approximately $86,000 in equity over that time period. However, this may not be enough to offset the increased mortgage costs, especially for those with very low interest rates. Assuming a mortgage of $500,000 and a current interest rate of 3%, a new purchase with the same loan amount would result in a $1,200 increase in mortgage payments per month.
Normally, when demand is low like this, supply is high. This isn’t the case right now. Previously, we would have been able to blame declining construction due to increased construction costs. That’s no longer the case, though, as construction has largely, though not completely, recovered. It may even be simple lack of demand that is the final obstacle to a full recovery for construction. To see the real problem, remember which group we’re talking about — current homeowners. These are the same people who would be selling to buy a new home. If they’re not willing to buy in the current mortgage climate, they’re not selling either.
Year to date through July, the gross revenue for South Bay is a mere 3% above that of 2019. At the same time, sales volume, the number of homes sold, is 23% below the sales of 2019. By most standards, 2019 was the pinnacle of real estate business prior to the turbulent years of the Covid pandemic.
Many sources compare current business to that of the pandemic years, partially because it’s easy and partially because the “numbers look better.“ Undeniably, the statistics do look more favorable, however, this analysis takes comparisons beyond the normal “last month” and “same month last year” to include 2023 versus 2019. This allows our readers to see 2023 in a historical context and to more readily recognize the unfolding recession.
While median prices are still above those of 2019 right now, we project the median prices will also drop below the 2019 level before this recession ends. On a month to month basis, prices are falling approximately half the time. On a year to year basis, 2023 prices have dropped below 2022 medians 82% of the time. Median prices for June and July of 2023 fell below 2022 in all four areas both months. Buyers and sellers should anticipate the bottom of the recession in late 2024, or possibly 2025. Normal growth should return in 2026.
The July report from the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) notes that inflation is expected to continue above the target of 2% through 2025. Accordingly, the Fed efforts to “restrain” the economy (meaning increase interest rates) will continue into 2025. The report indicates that while housing costs are slowing, they continue to increase at inflationary levels, necessitating further reduction.
In the meantime, buyers who are financially able should plan to acquire desirable properties at substantially better prices than will be available after recovery begins. Sellers who anticipate a need to sell before the economic turn-around, should look toward selling sooner rather than later, to minimize the impact of the down-trending market.
Beach Cities Summer Market Fizzles
From June to July the number of homes sold in the Beach Cities fell 27% and those sold for a median price of 2% less. Some of the decline in sales is attributable to fewer homes available, as sellers hold properties off the market in hopes of improving conditions. Even more is a result of buyers who have lost significant purchasing power as mortgage interest rates have rocketed to over 7%.
Compared to July of 2022, the number of homes sold this July dropped 22% with a decline in median price of 4%. This set of statistics is somewhat deceptive in that last July the real estate market was still in the early stages of the downturn. As the current year progresses, year over year figures will demonstrate the slide more clearly.
Comparing the first seven months of 2023 to both 2022 and 2019 (the most recent year of business not impacted by the pandemic) shows the drift of sales and prices. The number of homes sold fell 24% from 2022 (802 homes) to 2023 (607 homes), while it was down 35% from 2019 (930 homes). The Fed dropped mortgage interest rates to essentially zero during the pandemic to keep the general economy afloat, which resulted in rapid price escalation which ultimately made purchasing a home unaffordable for about 25% of potential buyers. Then to control the resulting inflation, the interest rates jumped up around the 7% mark, which further slowed the real estate market by “pricing out” another 10-15% of buyers. With fewer buyers and stagnating prices, sellers are reacting by pulling property off the market and delaying planned sales.
Median prices fell 4% from 2022 and are still 28% above the median price of Beach Cities homes in 2019.
Harbor Area Sales VolumePlummets
Sales volume in the Harbor area has held up better than the Beach, possibly because median price has taken a greater hit. On a monthly basis, 24% fewer homes were sold (269 in July versus 353 in June). Comparing July of 2023 to July of last year, only 18% fewer closed escrow (269 versus 329).
Generally being an entry level market, the Harbor area tends to react faster to changes in market condition. More upscale neighborhoods frequently “stick to the price” for a longer period of time when markets are declining. Month to month median price dropped 4% in July to $565K. For July of 2022 versus July of 2023, the median fell 5%, from $780K to $740K.
Year to date through July, sales volume was off 24% from last year. Median price was down 4% when compared to the same period in 2022. Looking back to 2019, the number of homes sold during the first seven months of 2023 dropped by 21%. Median price for the same time frame shows up at 32% higher than 2019. Given the median price dropped 4% over the past month (from $772K to $740K), it’s reasonable to project the Harbor area median will end the year near $600K, as it was in 2019.
PV Hill Shows Volatility
Month over month, the number of homes sold on the PV Hill fell from 79 units in June to 50 in July, a decline of 37%. At the same time, the median price dropped 10%, ending the month at $1.8M. This despite a high sale of $12.5M, up from the high of $10M in June.
Year to year, July volume dropped 6% from 53 units in 2022, while median price plummeted 18%, from last year’s $2.2M. Palos Verdes is a unique community with large homes on large lots, many of them highly custom. Combined with the small overall number of homes, these properties truly need to be assessed on an individual basis for realistic projections.
Comparing cumulative sales data for January through July, volume is down 23% and median price is down 17% versus last year. Going back to the stable year of 2019, the number of sales is down 16% while the median is up 34%.
Interestingly, if the Fed’s annual 2% inflation target is added to the years between 2019 and 2023, the median on the Hill would be $1.5M today, instead of $1.8M. Under those circumstances, it would only take a decline of $300K to erase all gain from the past three years. Not a comforting thought for anyone who purchased recently.
Inland Cities Most Stable
The Inland area typifies a classic “middle of the road” performance in the real estate world. Generally the homes are everyday family properties, the sales trends are at the middle of the current South Bay market, and everything seems to happen with minimum drama. So there is little surprise at the minimalist 19% decline in monthly sales volume, the lowest of the South Bay. Likewise there is no shock the Inland cities came in with the lowest monthly price decline, a mere 1% below June.
Similarly, the annual sales volume showed July of 2023 only 14% below last July and the median price just 1% below the same month a year ago.
Year to date for the first seven months of 2023 compared to 2022 looks much the same. The number of homes sold dropped by 22%, 799 in 2023 versus 1021 last year. The median price fell 2% to $868K from $883K. Looking back to the 2019 sales volume for the same time period, the Inland area is off by 18% for the current year. Much like the rest of the South Bay, the median price in 2023 ($868K) remains above that of 2019 ($662K) by 31%.
You might think that once you’ve qualified for a mortgage loan, it’s locked in and you’re free to take on debt without affecting the home purchase. This is not the case. Lenders continue to look at your debt until the purchase is finalized, and taking on additional debt could increase your interest rate, or potentially even disqualify you from the loan.
You certainly don’t want to take additional loans during this process. This includes personal loans and lines of credit. Both can affect your credit score as well as your debt-to-income ratio, both of which lenders look at. Large purchases are also not advisable, especially if they’re paid in installments. This includes vehicles such as cars or boats, and may also include furniture or large appliances. Lenders also look for consistent employment. Even if you’re getting a pay increase by switching jobs, you probably shouldn’t do it just before finalizing a mortgage. At best, it delays the process, and getting paperwork in on time is very important, even if you’ve already locked in the rate.
There are many barriers to homeownership. Many of them are economic, and unfortunately no small percentage of them are the result of discrimination. But one very frequent barrier to homeownership is lack of understanding of the process. Plenty of people who can afford to buy don’t think they can, or don’t think they should, because of misconceptions about mortgages.
One myth that, despite repeated attempts by experts to clarify it, continues to plague prospective homebuyers is the 20% down payment requirement. There is actually no such requirement — it’s a suggestion. It’s a rather economically sound suggestion in many cases, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy with a lower down payment. The reason it’s so heavily suggested is that not only does a higher down payment translate to reduced loan value and potentially a lower interest rate, but it also avoids private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is an additional cost that you won’t incur if your down payment is at least 20%. So a minimum of 20% down payment significantly reduces your overall monthly cost. These high monthly costs are perhaps what’s leading people to believe that renting is cheaper than buying. It can be, in the short term, but almost never is in the long term. But the reason it can be cheaper in the short term is not high mortgage costs; it’s actually the upfront cost of buying a home. Monthly rents usually go up at the same time house prices do, and are often fairly close to monthly mortgage payments. Moreover, buying a home builds equity and allows for resale, while there is no return on investment for renting. Another misperception that leads people to think they can’t get a mortgage is credit requirements. Lenders do look at your credit, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. Most people do not have perfect credit. As long as the lender believes you could reasonably pay back the mortgage, you can qualify with a credit rating as low as 500, though you may only qualify for mortgages with higher interest rates.
The misunderstanding doesn’t stop with whether or not one can qualify for a mortgage. Even once a prospective homebuyer gets to the stage of choosing a mortgage option, there is some confusion about which mortgage options are the best for you. Many people categorically refuse adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and always pick the loan with the lowest interest rate. Neither of these are necessarily the right idea. Fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) definitely offer stability and can be excellent for people who plan to keep their new home for a while or who are uncertain about their future. On the other hand, ARMs typically have a lower initial interest rate than FRMs. This means they can be more financially sound for people who don’t plan to own the home very long, or who are better positioned to take risks. A low interest rate is obviously a good thing, but it’s far from the only cost associated with getting a loan. If you need to pay PMI, that’s also a factor. But even if you don’t, there will always be closing costs, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and maintenance costs. Some of these depend on the price of the home, but some depend on the lender, so be sure to get a breakdown of all the costs before committing to a loan.
Freelance workers and some self-employed people typically don’t have a consistent income. This leads some to doubt whether or not they qualify for a mortgage loan. Lenders will never blanket deny everyone with an irregular income, but it certainly could be more difficult to get a loan. As long as your credit history and debt-to-income ratio are good, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue — you simply may need more documentation to prove that you’re good for it. While lenders will always look at recent income, in the case of irregular income, they may also consider whether or not you’re likely to have clients in the near future based on your occupation.
If you get rejected outright, it’s likely that now isn’t a good time for you to buy in the first place. As long as you aren’t getting rejected, the worst case scenario is a non-qualified mortgage loan, or non-QM loan. Non-QM loans don’t meet the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guidelines that are designed to ensure borrowers are able to repay their loans, and not all lenders offer them. They may be used for self-employed people, people with irregular income, people with low credit scores, or non-traditional types of properties. Because non-QM loans are riskier for the lender, they do have a drawback for the borrower. They typically have higher interest rates, larger down payment minimums, and/or shorter repayment periods.
Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, is a type of insurance that many lenders require for any mortgage with a down payment less than 20%. This is the main reason a minimum 20% down payment is so widely suggested. But if you aren’t able to put 20% down and are forced to take PMI, you needn’t worry too much. It’s also possible to get rid of existing PMI in certain circumstances.
One method that doesn’t require any specific action on your part is to simply wait until automatic termination of PMI, which occurs when you reach 22% equity and are current on your mortgage payments. However, it’s possible to request to terminate it earlier as long as your equity is at least 20%. There are a few ways to do this faster. The simplest option is to pay more than the required mortgage payment. This allows you to reach 20% equity faster while also reducing your PMI costs along the way. Another way you could potentially reduce payments to speed up equity gain is to refinance to a lower interest rate. Depending on your circumstances, this may or may not increase your total mortgage cost excluding PMI, but could eliminate PMI faster. There’s one more possibility: Reappraising your home. It’s possible that your home has accrued enough value that determining the new value of your home reveals that you actually do have at least 20% equity. If you do, you can request to remove PMI.
At the start of May, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) modified the fee structure for loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The goal of the change was to increase the accessibility of homeownership to disadvantaged groups. In order to achieve this, fees were reduced for low-income borrowers, first-time homebuyers, and those with credit scores below 680.
However, reducing some fees meant needing to increase fees elsewhere. Fees increased significantly for middle income earners, those making larger down payments, cash-out refinance applicants, and second-home buyers. Critics argue this is a bad idea, since middle-income earners are more ready to buy and less risky to lend to. But despite the fee increases for middle-income earners, fees are still lower the higher your credit score — that hasn’t changed. If the changes push middle-income earners away, the effect is probably psychological, not necessarily financial.
A bridge loan is a type of loan that uses equity in your current home to finance the purchase of a new home. Like nearly any loan, a bridge loan has interest and is paid off in installments. Unlike a traditional loan, though, the balance is paid off when your current home is sold. While you don’t technically need to sell your current home to pay off a bridge loan, it’s most useful in situations in which you want to both buy and sell.
Some seller-buyers will sell first, then use the sale proceeds to purchase a new home. However, this comes with potential uncertainties about how long you will be left without a home, especially if you make offers and aren’t successful. You may be staying in hotels or renting for longer than anticipated. Another option is to buy a home first using a traditional loan, then sell. If bridge loans weren’t a thing, there wouldn’t be anything inherently wrong with this. But they are a thing, and this is exactly the situation they’re designed for. While bridge loans do come with a higher interest rate than traditional loans, the length of the loan is typically much shorter. After all, most traditional loans are 15 or 30 years, and no one is going to be waiting that long for a sale to finalize. One caveat of bridge loans is that since they are based on the equity in your current home, if your equity is low, the loan amount will also be low.
When comparing loans, buyers frequently only look at the interest rate. However, that’s not the entire story. There’s another number that lenders are required to supply, but that lendees rarely pay attention to. That number is the annual percentage rate, or APR. This shows an estimate of the actual percentage of the loan amount that you pay each installment period. It takes into account the interest rate, principal loan amount, and loan length, as well as any lending fees or closing costs.
Even though the APR gives you a better idea of how much you’re actually paying, the interest rate by itself is still important. This is because APR doesn’t take into account compound interest. If the interest rate is high, the amount you pay each installment period could increase significantly over time. This means a loan with a lower APR could potentially cost more over time if it has low lending fees. If two loans look very close and you’re concerned about exact numbers, you may also want to look into the APY, which is the annual percentage yield. This value does take into account compound interest. As such, it’s going to be slightly different each year, but knowing the APYs across multiple years will give you the best idea of how much you are actually paying.
For people who don’t necessarily have a lot of cash on hand but are willing to invest over longer periods, buying a home in need of repairs is often what they look to. This may be in to live in or to resell the home later, but in either case, you may need to finance the repairs, the purchase itself, or even both if you’re low on ready cash. Fortunately, there are loans that are designed specifically for this situation. One such loan is the FHA 203(k) rehab loan.
The FHA 203(k) rehab loan can be used to finance both a purchase and repairs simultaneously, preventing the need for multiple loans, credit usage, or a line of credit. This can definitely save you money in the long run, especially if you are able to qualify for a low interest rate. There are two types of FHA 203(k) rehab loans: a standard loan and a streamline loan. The standard loan is designed for long-term, larger projects, such as renovating entire rooms. This type has no limit on the portion of the loan used for repairs, unlike the streamline loan, which has a limit of $35,000. It’s quicker and easier to access funds from a streamline loan, which makes it more suitable for smaller projects, like installing an HVAC or repairing plumbing.
Having a 20% down payment used to be a requirement for nearly all loans. That hasn’t been the case for quite some time, but it’s still touted as the conventional wisdom. In many cases, that may be true, but it’s not always the best idea. There are both advantages and disadvantages to putting 20% down.
If you have the money available already, it’s quite likely that the benefits heavily outweigh the drawbacks. Even though 20% down is no longer a requirement to get a loan, it is still a requirement to avoid mortgage insurance fees. Putting 19% down, for example, simply makes no financial sense at all, regardless of your financial situation. It’s also good to put down as much as you feasibly can in order to reduce the loan amount, thereby reducing your payments. The 20% mark is important if you can reach it.
If you still need to save money in order to achieve a 20% down payment, you’re going to need to crunch some numbers and also make some predictions in order to arrive at the correct solution. If you’re close to being able to put down 20%, it may be in your best interest to continue saving up to avoid mortgage insurance fees. But if you aren’t close, it may be best to simply forget about it. Even if you are definitely able to save money, by the time you get to the point that you can put down whatever 20% is now, home prices are likely to be significantly higher. In that case, it may be better not to wait. You also need to consider other costs and where you’re getting the money. If you need to take out a loan or draw on investments to reach 20%, this is probably not a good investment, unless it’s the only way you can viably make a home purchase.
If you’re planning to renovate your home, whether you intend to continue to live in it or to sell it at a profit, you need to think about how to pay for the renovations. Of course, it’s possible you have the cash on hand, which is great. But if not, there are a few financing options you can look into. It’s common to get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or simply take out an additional loan. However, another option you may not be aware of is cash-out refinancing. It works by refinancing to a loan amount higher than your current loan balance, and taking the difference as cash.
The most important thing to consider when determining if you should get a cash-out refinance loan is the interest rate. It very likely won’t be the same as your current interest rate. If the rate is higher or even the same, it’s probably financially negative in the long run unless you can increase your home’s value significantly with the renovations. That’s why it’s a good option specifically for renovations. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible the rate is lower, or simply lower than traditional loans or HELOCs, in which case it’s a good financing option for any purpose. However, you may not want to use cash-out refinancing for large projects. Since you don’t receive the entire value of the new loan, but only the difference between the new loan balance and old loan balance, you’d need to increase the principal significantly to finance large projects. This could increase your interest payments by quite a bit even if the rate is lower.
The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) recently launched the Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan, a secondary loan to be used in conjunction with CalHFA’s Dream For All Conventional first mortgage. This secondary loan carries its own set of requirements, which may or may not differ from the initial Dream For All Conventional first mortgage. The requirements of the secondary loan are provided here, but you should consult with CalHFA to be sure that you meet all requirements. The requirements are provided for two categories, both for the borrower and for the property.
The borrower must be a first-time homebuyer, which CalHFA defines as not having owned and occupied a home in the past three years. The borrower must also occupy the property as their primary residence and meet income limits for the program. In addition, the borrower, or at least one of the co-borrowers if there is more than one, for any CalHFA first-time homebuyer loan must take a CalHFA approved Homebuyer Education and Counseling course. This course does have a fee, which varies by method and agency, and can be done online or in-person. The Dream For All program also has its own additional course. Fortunately, this course is free, but it is only accessible online.
The property requirements are simple for single-family residences and manufactured homes, which are both allowed, but may be more complex for other types of properties. Condominiums must also meet the guidelines for whichever initial mortgage you choose. Guest houses, granny units, and in-law quarters may be eligible, but would not be eligible in addition to the main residence, since the property must be only one unit.
Wrap-around mortgages are not very common, but it’s still a good concept to know in case you find it difficult to get a more traditional mortgage loan. A sale with a wrap-around mortgage has two important components distinguishing it from a regular sale: First, the seller retains the current mortgage on the property being sold. This differs from standard sales in which the seller normally pays off the remaining mortgage as part of the sale process. Second, the loan is not issued by a lender but rather by the seller. In this way, the seller is most likely planning to pay their mortgage using the money gained from payments the buyer makes to the seller on their new mortgage.
Wrap-around mortgages have both advantages and disadvantages. The primary reason to get a wrap-around mortgage is that they don’t have any standardized qualification requirements. This mostly benefits the buyer, but can also be useful to the seller if they’re having difficulty finding buyers. The primary drawback is that the buyer and seller must write up the contract themselves, since there is no lender involved. That means both parties need to be legally and financially savvy. It’s also impossible to wrap around a mortgage that doesn’t exist, so the seller needs to have a mortgage. There are also cons specific to the seller and buyer. The seller in this instance incurs the same financial risk that a lender would normally. The buyer is very likely paying a higher interest rate, since the arrangement is not worth the risk to the seller unless they are profiting.
Some of the questions on a mortgage application may seem unnecessary, but they’re all there for a reason. Certain omissions can lower your interest rate and make your offer seem more appealing. But even if you haven’t done anything wrong — especially if you haven’t done anything wrong — you should always disclose all relevant information.
Money changes hands all the time, and the transfer doesn’t always leave a paper trail. But lenders will still find it odd for you to suddenly have additional money or fewer debts. It’s perfectly legal to ask a friend or family member for some cash to help you buy a home or pay off a debt. That money came from somewhere, though, and if you don’t list it, your lender could assume you are hiding something and deny your application.
A common lie that seems more innocuous but can actually have even more drastic consequences is stating that you plan to live in the home when you actually don’t. People do this because interest rate is lower on loans for primary residences, and they figure it’s fine because of course they can always change their mind. However, this is actually a crime. It’s considered a form of mortgage fraud.
There’s plenty of advice out there telling you that negotiating your mortgage is important and that you should get multiple opinions. However, unless you know what you’re looking for, you’re probably not actually getting the best deal. On the surface, it may look like the lowest rate you can find, but it likely isn’t. You’ll often need to dig and ask the right questions.
So what are the right questions? Ultimately, you want to know the exact breakdown of the estimate. As you probably already know, interest rates aren’t based on just one factor. You may not realize that some of these factors are actually negotiable, or you may even have more information about it than the lender and be able to correct the estimate. Ask if the estimate includes any discount points. Discount points are an up-front payment that lenders aren’t going to tell you actually lowers your interest rate, rather than being just a standard fee. Discount points are negotiable, but lenders won’t mention that unless you bring it up. The estimate that a lender provides may or may not also include closing costs. Discount points and lender fees are part of closing costs, but a significant portion of them are not actually under the lender’s control. Lenders frequently underestimate escrow fees, so when it comes time for you to pay the closing costs, your fee may be higher than the estimate even if the rate is locked. Make sure to only compare costs the lender can control.
If you’ve just unexpectedly come into some extra cash, you may be tempted to immediately put it towards a home so you can start accruing equity as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Most, but not all, lenders require at least a portion of your down payment to come from what they call seasoned funds. Typically, seasoned funds are those that have been in your possession at least 60 days. Lenders will require a paper trail to confirm how and when you acquired the funds used for your down payment.
Usually, at least half of your down payment must come from seasoned funds. However, rules vary by lender, both with the percentage of funds that must be seasoned and the length of “seasoning.” Fortunately, this mainly applies to windfall gains, and there are other methods of acquiring money that don’t need them to be seasoned. If the money was acquired via borrowing from your savings or retirement account, this is generally allowed, though you should discuss the tax implications of this with an accountant. Some lenders will allow gifts to be used for a down payment. Some don’t allow it at all, and those that do will probably require a written confirmation from the person gifting the money.
Those who are not citizens or possibly not even residents of the US may have trouble qualifying for mortgage loans. Fortunately, there is an option available, so you don’t necessarily have to be stuck renting if you have just recently moved to the US. ITIN stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and is a number that the IRS can assign to taxpayers who cannot get a Social Security Number. If you apply and are assigned an ITIN, this can help you qualify to get an ITIN loan.
While you don’t need to be a resident or citizen, there are still some requirements for ITIN loans. You do need to provide tax returns and may have to fill out Form W-7. It’s possible that you will also be asked for additional forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate. As with any mortgage loan, you will be expected to provide proof of income, assets, or employment.
With home prices having skyrocketed and now starting to slow, many homebuyers are curious whether it’s a good time to get a home equity loan. In a survey of 1000 homeowners by MeridianLink, 21% stated they were considering getting a home equity loan at some point during the year, compared to just 8% last year. However, a little under half — 48% — aren’t even confident they know what a home equity loan is, or definitely don’t know, which encompasses 13% of respondents. Rising prices have, in fact, increased total equity by 15.8%. But that’s not the only thing you need to know.
The most important factor to keep in mind is whether it’s actually a home equity loan you’re interested in, or the similar but distinct home equity line of credit (HELOC). The answer will depend what you need the funds for and how quickly you want to repay it. A home equity loan has a fixed interest rate that is locked when you take out the loan. They’re relatively safe if you have good credit, but with current interest rates being high, they’re most useful for short-term uses, such as funding home improvement projects with a solid return on investment. HELOCs, on the other hand, have a variable interest rate that is based on the benchmark rate. The benchmark rate is currently still increasing, but that should change in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, a HELOC can be useful if you want to take advantage of high equity now and aren’t particularly worried about paying it off any time soon.