A home equity loan is usually used by homeowners to borrow some of the equity in the home. Doing so may raise the monthly housing payment considerably. More and more lenders are offering home equity lines of credit. The interest may be tax deductible because the debt is secured by a home. A home equity line of credit is a form of revolving credit secured by a home. Many lenders set the credit limit on a home equity line by taking a percentage of the home’s appraised value and subtracting from that the balance owed on the existing mortgage. In determining the credit limit, the lender will also consider other factors to determine the homeowner’s ability to repay the loan. Many home equity plans set a fixed period during which money can be borrowed. Some lenders require payment in full of any outstanding balance at the end of the period.
Home equity lines of credit usually have variable rather than fixed interest rates. The variable rate must be based on a publicly available index such as the prime rate published in major daily newspapers or a U. S. Treasury bill rate. The interest rate for borrowing under the home equity line will change in accordance with the index. Most lenders set the interest rate at the value of the index at a particular time plus a margin, such as 3 percentage points. The cost of borrowing is tied directly to the value of the index. Lenders sometimes offer a temporarily discounted interest rate for home equity lines. This is a rate that is unusually low and may last for a short introductory period of merely a few months.
The cost of setting up a home equity line of credit typically includes a fee for a property appraisal, an application fee, fees for attorneys, title search, mortgage preparation and filing fees, property and title insurance fees, and taxes. There may also be recurring maintenance fees for the account or a transaction fee every time there is a draw on the credit line. It might cost a significant amount of money to establish the home equity line of credit, although interest savings can justify the cost of establishing and maintaining the line.
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. If the home involved is a principal dwelling, the Truth in Lending Act allows 3 days from the day the account was opened to cancel the credit line. This right allows the borrower to cancel for any reason by informing the lender in writing within the 3day period. The lender must then cancel its security interest in the property and return all fees.