As a homeowner, your equity is your secret weapon. With every mortgage payment you make, your stake in the home grows — and so does your equity.
When your equity stake is large enough, it can be used to improve your financial standing. Tap into it to pay off debts, use it to cover home improvement costs or, most importantly, consider it a safety net in case of emergency.
Have you been paying down your current mortgage for some time? Then you probably have equity to tap. So what can you do with it?
- Home Equity Loan: This is a loan you take out in addition to your existing mortgage. It lets you borrow against your stake in the home in exchange for a lump-sum, one-time payment.
Often, you’re able to borrow up to 85% of your home’s appraised value, minus what you owe. Many homeowners use these for large expenses like tuition, medical bills or the down payment on an additional property.
- Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): HELOCs work like credit cards, only without the sky-high interest rates. The equity in your home is used to create a line of credit that you draw from as needed.
HELOCs typically come with long draw periods (think decades) and are often used for ongoing expenses, like regular home improvements or maintenance. This method should allow you to borrow 75% to 80% of your home’s appraised value, minus what you still owe.
- Cash-Out Refinance: Refinancing essentially replaces your existing mortgage loan. You take out a new loan larger than the balance on your current one, and then keep the difference in cash to cover whatever expenses you’re facing.
You can typically borrow up to 80% of your equity with a cash-out refi. Some homeowners use the money to pay off debts or high-balance credit
Your credit score plays a big role in the homebuying process. It can influence what interest rates you’re eligible for, as well as what options you have for loans in general.
If your current score isn’t as high as you’d like, don’t lose hope. You can boost your score and improve your chances of qualifying for a mortgage or a better rate. Here are a few ideas that can help:
- Check your credit report. Credit reporting agencies collect data from a variety of sources, and this info may contain errors. Plus, there’s always the possibility of identity theft. Request a copy of your annual credit report from one (or all) of the three main agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — and make sure everything is correct. If you see something that looks off, report the issue to get it resolved.
- Settle any debts in collections. Having an account in collections hurts your credit score. Pay these off as soon as possible, or work with the creditor to set up a payment plan.
- Work toward paying off other debts. Start paying down your debts as much as you can, focusing on high-interest ones first. Your total debt balance has a big impact on your score, so reducing even one account can help immensely.
Additionally, don’t open any new credit cards, take out a new car loan or put extra purchases on your existing cards when gearing up for a home purchase. Though this won’t improve your score, it will keep it from getting worse — and that’s just as important.
If you’ve got a mortgage, you probably want to pay it off sooner rather than later. But how do you do that when you’re busy just getting by? More importantly, how do you do it while also saving for the future?
It takes the right planning, tools and mindset. But paying off your loan and saving for retirement at the same time is an attainable goal. Start with these steps:
1. Use windfalls strategically. Are you expecting a bonus or a big tax refund? Don’t spend it all on new clothes or a fancy vacation. Instead, use that windfall to get one step closer to your goals. Put at least some of the money in a high-interest savings account, or use it to make an extra mortgage payment.
2. Make realistic savings goals. Everyone would love to have millions in the bank, but that isn’t always possible. Instead of shooting for the stars, set realistic, incremental savings goals. That way you can reach them while still supporting your household.
3. Create a budget. Planning where your money goes ahead of time can be super useful. You should create an overall budget, mapping out how much to spend on items like entertainment and groceries. Again, make sure the budget is reasonable for your family’s needs.
4. Find helpful tools. You don’t have to go it alone. Money-saving tools and budgeting apps can help you cut costs and save more. Best of all, they’re conveniently available on your phone.
When it comes to saving and paying off debts, staying the course is crucial. And you might even be able to make it easier by refinancing your mortgage. Reach out today for more information.