Beware the HELOC

Does this rapidly-inflating real estate market look suspiciously familiar?

With many communities in our country still feeling less than financially recovered from the recession, we have to wonder if the more fortunate (i.e. prosperous) communities have learned any lessons from the bust.

Some financial analysts insist that we are NOT headed for another bubble because banks are no longer giving away money as feely as they were in the early 2000’s. However, another reason that we (collectively) got in trouble is because homeowners used their property as ATM’s by borrowing against their equity from an inflated market. It seems as if that part of the equation might repeat itself.

Because interest rates have remained so low for so long, most homeowners who want to refinance to a lower loan rate, have already done so. That means that financial institutions need to find a way to replace the income they were making from refi’s. Some of the large banks have begun encouraging homeowners to once again tap into their equity by applying for a HELOC — Home Equity Line of Credit — to finance things like second homes, vacations, college tuition, etc.  The beauty of a HELOC is that it can be used for any purpose you wish, or simply left as an open line of credit. Much like a credit card, there are no payments to make until you access that credit. Unlike a credit card, your home is used as collateral.

Bankers know that most people who apply for a HELOC, even if they don’t intend to access the credit, will eventually do so. It’s simply human nature. Make no mistake, a HELOC is the equivalent of a second mortgage.  When home prices stop their drastic rise, or perhaps even go down, those who have added a HELOC to their first mortgage could find themselves underwater. I.e. the total of the loans against the property could be more than the property is worth. Or, at the very least, the lack of remaining equity could thwart plans to purchase another home.

I’m not saying that it is never a good idea to utilize a HELOC — it may very well make financial sense for you — but I am cautioning homeowners to consider how it might impact you if home prices don’t continue their current meteoric rise.

If you’d like to know more, give me a call at 206-708-9800, or talk to a trusted lender.

If you know of anyone who is thinking of selling their home, I would appreciate the opportunity to tell them about my services!

Posted 4/1/16

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