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Explained: Home Equity Line of Credit
As housing prices continue to rise homeowners are looking into how they can leverage their home’s equity to receive low-interest financing. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a great way to gain access to a line of credit based on a percentage of your home’s value, less the amount you still own on your mortgage.
The downsides are that if get yourself into a situation where you cannot repay your HELOC, the lender may force you to sell your home in order to settle the debt.
How a HELOC Works
Let’s say your home has an appraisal value of $400,000 and you have a remaining balance of $200,000 on your home’s mortgage. A lender typically allows access to up to 85% of your home’s total equity.
(Value X Lender Access) – Amount Owed = Line of Credit
$400,000 X 0.85 = $340,000
$340,000 – $200,000 = $140,000
Unlike home equity loans, your home equity line of credit will have a variable rate, meaning that your interest rate can go up and down over time. Your lender will determine your rate by taking the index rate and adding a markup, depending on the health of your credit profile.
When a HELOC Makes Sense
Your home equity line of credit is best used for wealth-building uses such as home upgrades and repairs, but may also be used for things like debt consolidation, or the cost of sending your kid off to college. While it may be tempting to use your HELOC for all sorts of things, such as a new car, a vacation, or other splurges, these don’t do anything to help improve your home’s value. To ensure that you will be able to pay back your loan, it’s important to focus on wealth-building attributes where you can.
Home Equity Line of Credit vs. Home Equity Loan
If you’re exploring various lending options, you’ve probably come across two different home lending terms, home equity line of credit and home equity loan.
While home equity loans give you all the flexibility and benefits of tapping into the value of your home when you need it, a home equity loan offers a lump-sum payment.
Depending on your situation, a lump-sum withdrawal may be better suited for your needs. Understanding the differences is the first step in making a loan decision that is best for you.
• Home Equity Loan (HEL) – A home equity loan lets you borrow a fixed amount in one lump sum, secured by the equity of your home. The loan amount you will qualify for will depend on your Loan to Value ratio, credit history, verifiable income, and payment term. These types of loans have a fixed interest rate, which is often 100% deductible on your taxes.
• Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A home equity line of credit is not so much a loan, but a revolving credit line permitting you to borrow money as you need it with your home as collateral. Applicants are typically approved based on a percentage of their home’s appraised value and then subtracting the balance owed on your existing mortgage. Things like credit history, debts, and income are also considered. Plans may or may not have regulations on minimum withdrawals and balances, as well as a variable interest rate.
Before tapping into your home’s equity, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each type of loan for your situation. Because your home equity line of credit and loan involves your most important asset – your home – the decision should be considered carefully. Is a second mortgage better than a credit card or a secured loan? If you’re not 100% sure, talk to a finance specialist before putting your home at risk.
How to Repair Your Credit Following a Divorce
While divorce proceedings can be stressful and time-consuming, there’s a huge amount of relief that comes after everything is said and done. After all, divorce marks the end of one chapter and the start of a new one.
There’s only one thing that might be holding you back from your new life – your credit history. It might be overwhelming to deal with the aftermath of a divorce, but every good financial decision will put you one step closer to your goals.
Review Your Financial Standing
First and foremost you want to know where you stand financially after a divorce. Take some time to review your accounts. Request a credit report from all three credit bureaus and find out exactly what is affecting your credit. This will give you some perspective of both the good and the bad and enable you to start forming a plan for repair.
Take Care of any Remaining Joint Accounts
You’ll never have complete control of your financial standing while you still have open accounts with your former spouse. Your ex’s actions – or lack thereof – will only continue affecting your score following a divorce. Make a note of all personal accounts as well as joint accounts that weren’t addressed in your divorce decree. Consider refinancing, consolidation, and balance transfer options to separate accounts into the responsible parties’ names. This will take some cooperation between you and your former spouse. If necessary, talk with your lawyer about seeking mediation on separating joint accounts.
Balance Your Budget
After a split, it may take time to adjust to your new income-to-expense story. During this adjustment period, it’s important to stay current on all your current accounts. Maintaining good credit history is the key to saving your credit after a divorce. If you weren’t previously responsible for bill pay, this may take some getting used to. Identify your priorities, create a budget, and start tracking your spending. This will give you an idea if you need to cut back in certain areas or start exploring what’s out there in the workforce to prevent you from falling behind.
Establish Credit Independently
When it comes to building credit on your own, you want to start small and build up. Start by getting a credit card with a small limit. Only use your card for bills that you’ve already outlined in your budget and always pay them on time. Be careful of running up any debt that you can’t afford to pay. After 6 months, apply for another car and continue paying bills consistently. If you’re not ready for a card on your own, try applying for a secured credit card. Secured cards are typically backed by your savings account, therefore more financially secure than an open line of credit. Build a positive credit history for a few months before venturing out on your own.
Rebuild a Positive Credit History
After a divorce, you can pick up the pieces and start fresh over a positive credit report. Your most recent bill-paying behavior (18 to 24) is the most important to decide whether you are a good credit risk. Even a single late payment can affect your ability to get a mortgage. Keep your credit balances low (less than 30%) and always make more than your minimum payment. This shows responsibility and reliability when it comes to your accounts, which lenders love to see.
Bankruptcy – A Last Resort
If you are simply in over your head consider bankruptcy, but only as a last resort. Bankruptcy is not an easy way out and there’s no guaranteeing a judgment will be granted in your favor. And even if you do a bankruptcy has implications on your credit score for up to 10 years. During this time you may find it difficult, or even impossible to find a new mortgage or personal loan.
How Bankruptcy Works & When it’s a Good Idea
Bankruptcy offers a way out of debt by either eliminating it or repaying part of it. The decision on whether or not to file for bankruptcy is however not an easy one. You may end up losing most of your assets or none at all. At the same time, some debts are not covered by bankruptcy. To help you in making the right decision let’s look at how bankruptcy works and when it’s a good idea to file for one.
Which Debts are Discharged by Bankruptcy?
Before filing you have to decide on the type of personal bankruptcy that is unique to your financial situation. The process covers consumer debts such as credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, and medical debts. Non-consumer debts cannot be forgiven through personal bankruptcy. These include alimony, taxes, child support, and criminal restitution.
It’s advisable to have a bankruptcy attorney go through your finances to ascertain which debts qualify as consumer debts and which ones do not. For example, a student loan can be either depending on how it was used.
Types of Personal Bankruptcies
In the United States a person can file for either one of the following personal bankruptcies;
Chapter 7 is also known as liquidation bankruptcy. It involves the sale of assets that are not protected by bankruptcy and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors. The proceeds can cover your debts in as little as 3 months. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be ideal if you don’t have a lot of assets that need protection.
Chapter 13 is also referred to as debt repayment or reorganization. It’s ideal for debtors who have many or valuable assets and don’t want to lose them. Basically, the debtor tables a proposal that shows how he/she plans to clear amounts owed within a given time frame. One gets the chance to clear all debts either partially or in full. You can also have others dismissed entirely.
Your attorney does a “means test” to determine which bankruptcy you are eligible for. In a nutshell, you may not be eligible for Chapter 7 if it’s evident that your income can settle debts under Chapter 13. Similarly, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be denied if your debts are too high in comparison to your income.
When is Bankruptcy a Good Idea
Being eligible for bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to file for one. It could be that all you need is a little professional advice on how to manage your finances.
You also have to contend with the fact that bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven to ten years. That said, there are some circumstances that call for bankruptcy;
#1 When debt management programs don’t work
Credit counseling is a service offered by most financial advisors and organizations. You may be advised on how to reduce personal expenses in order to free more of your income to clear debts. Other measures include renegotiating terms with credit companies or other creditors.
When debt management fails, whether it’s due to non-commitment on your part or refusal by creditors, then bankruptcy could be your only way out.
#2 When you are being sued
A lawsuit filed by creditors can be tricky when you have no means of repaying and remaining liquid. The judgment could lead to the sale of assets or foreclosure on your properties. When faced with such eventualities, filing for bankruptcy could be the only way for you to remain afloat. The process offers you the chance to retain some of your property that would otherwise be auctioned.
#3 When faced with overwhelming medical bills
Most financial woes result from making wrong decisions on investments and credit lines. You may however find yourself faced with bills that are not of your own making. Such include medical bills that are not covered by insurance and are beyond your financial reach. In such circumstances, filing for bankruptcy is advisable; the bill will be discharged without over-tasking your income or your family’s finances.
#4 Insolvency Due to Industry Crisis
More often than not you will find yourself contemplating mortgage as an investment. When the industry is in a boom, then you are all set to make a profit on resale in the foreseeable future; that is however not always the case. Upward adjustments on mortgage repayments can leave you deep in debt. Filing for bankruptcy could be the only way of salvaging your property from mortgage lenders.
Bankruptcy is a federal court-protected financial tool that gives you a “fresh start” from the debt burden. The process becomes part of your credit report for 7-10 years. It can also lead to loss of assets hence should be done as a final result. If you are facing foreclosure, hefty medical bills or a creditor’s lawsuit then filing for bankruptcy could be your only way out. The above information gives you an overview of how to go about it.
Related Article: Life After Bankruptcy
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