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What is Home Equity and How Do You Use it?

Home Equity is one of the best things we can ever have on our list of assets. But, many of us are still a little confused about exactly what equity is and how we can get it. Once we have it, what do we do with it?


Equity basically means ownership that is free and clear of debt. Most of us carry a mortgage on our homes and make monthly payments on them. As we pay down the loan on our home, we increase our equity in the home because we have more “ownership” in it. When we pay off our mortgage completely, we have 100% equity in our home.

How to Use Equity

Equity is a great financial tool. We can use it for many things. Depending on how much equity we have in our home, we can borrow against it, refinance our existing mortgage to rearrange our finances or we can just sit on it to increase our net worth.

A home equity loan is when we borrow money using the equity in our home as collateral. Most lenders have specific formulas that apply to home equity loans. The more ownership you already have in the property, the more you can generally borrow against it.

Whenever you consider a home equity loan, you should do a little shopping and get some quotes to compare the rates and conditions on offer from the different lenders so that you get the best rate and the best terms to suit your personal situation.
Some people refinance their mortgages when they have built up some equity in their homes.

This strategy allows you to stretch the remaining portion of your mortgage out over a longer period so that your monthly payments are lowered. This is a great way to reduce monthly payments and give yourself a little more financial room for other expenses and savings.

Some people want to be debt free as soon as possible. Refinancing a mortgage to increase equity faster is another possibility. This allows you to make much larger payments on your loan and get out of debt faster.

Reverse Mortgages and Equity

A reverse mortgage is an excellent way to use the equity in your home. It is an especially practical way for older people to use the value of their property without selling their homes.

A reverse mortgage is tied to the equity in your home. Generally you will need to have a significant amount of ownership in your home to qualify for this type of financial arrangement. This type of mortgage pays you each month rather than you making a payment.

You receive income from the value of your home as long as you remain living there. Once you move or die, the ownership of the property goes to the lender rather than to your estate.

If you still carry a mortgage on your home when you are looking for a reverse mortgage, you will want to be clear about whether the new arrangement pays off the existing loan or whether you will still be required to make those payments.

If you are considering a reverse mortgage, be sure to compare the plans from several financial institutions and ask lots of questions. This is not an arrangement that suits everyone and you will need to be sure you fully understand how it works and how you will be paid.


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Shopping and Comparing

As with any kind of loan, a home equity loan is something that you should shop for. Get some quotes and compare the conditions and interest rates before you decide which one is best for you.

Be sure that you are realistic about your monthly expenses before you start shopping. Make sure you are clear about what you want from your home equity loan – whether that is reducing monthly costs or paying off loans sooner. Once you know what you want to achieve, get some quotes and see how each loan on offer fits your personal financial goals.

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