HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: Understanding the Key Differences

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) and a Home Equity Loan are both types of loans that allow homeowners to borrow against the equity in their homes. While they share some similarities, there are several key differences between the two:


HELOC: A HELOC is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It provides homeowners with a set credit limit, and they can borrow and repay funds as needed during the draw period, usually 5 to 10 years. The interest rate is variable and can change over time.

Home Equity Loan: A home equity loan, also known as a second mortgage, provides homeowners with a lump sum of money upfront. The loan is repaid over a fixed term, usually ranging from 5 to 30 years. The interest rate is typically fixed.

Access to Funds:

HELOC: With a HELOC, homeowners can borrow funds as needed, up to their credit limit, during the draw period. They can access the funds through checks, credit cards, or electronic transfers.

Home Equity Loan: A home equity loan provides homeowners with a one-time lump sum payment. Once the loan is disbursed, there are no further opportunities to access additional funds.


HELOC: During the draw period, homeowners typically make interest-only payments on the amount borrowed. After the draw period ends, a repayment period begins, usually 10 to 20 years, during which borrowers must repay both principal and interest.

Home Equity Loan: Home equity loans typically have fixed monthly payments over the loan term, including both principal and interest. Repayment starts immediately after the loan is disbursed.

Interest Rates:

HELOC: The interest rate for a HELOC is usually variable and tied to a benchmark rate, such as the prime rate. This means the interest rate can fluctuate over time, potentially increasing or decreasing.

Home Equity Loan: Home equity loans often have a fixed interest rate, which remains constant throughout the loan term. This provides borrowers with more predictable monthly payments.

Cost Structure:

HELOC: HELOCs often have lower upfront costs as homeowners only pay interest on the amount borrowed during the draw period. However, there may be closing costs, annual fees, or early closure fees associated with the HELOC.

Home Equity Loan: Home equity loans generally have higher upfront costs, including closing costs similar to those of a primary mortgage. However, there are typically no annual fees or early closure fees.

Purpose of Use:

HELOC: HELOCs are often used for ongoing or variable expenses, such as home renovations, education expenses, or debt consolidation. They provide flexibility to access funds as needed.

Home Equity Loan: Home equity loans are commonly used for specific one-time expenses, such as major home improvements, medical bills, or debt consolidation with a fixed payoff timeline.

Both HELOCs and home equity loans have the advantage of using the home's equity as collateral, which often leads to lower interest rates compared to other types of loans. However, it's important to consider individual financial goals, borrowing needs, and repayment preferences when deciding between the two. Consulting with a financial advisor or loan officer can help determine which option is best suited for specific circumstances.

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