HELOC for Debt Consolidation

Many homeowners have been using a HELOC to consolidating debt and refinance high interest accounts. Americans hold trillions in debt, including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and student loans. Some debt can be important to help you achieve financial goals. But high-interest debt, such as credit card balances, can be a major drag on your finances.

Is It Smart to Get a HELOC to Pay Off Debt?

HELOC debt consolidationIf you want to reduce the debt that you owe and own a home, consider a HELOC for debt consolidation.

Debt consolidation is one of the best uses of money from a home equity line of credit.

If you are ready to apply for a home equity line of credit to consolidate debt, speak to one of our loan professionals today.

Leveraging a HELOC for debt consolidation can offer access to lower interest rates and simplified payments. However, it also presents potential risks. With a HELOC, your home serves as collateral, putting it at risk of foreclosure in the event of payment default.

Given that you are leveraging your home as collateral, HELOC rates are notably lower compared to rates on credit cards, certain auto loans, and student loans. A lower interest rate translates to more funds available each month, which can be allocated towards paying down the balance or pursuing other financial objectives.

What Is a Home Equity Line of Credit?

A HELOC is a second mortgage line of credit that uses part of your equity for cash you need today. Many lenders offer HELOCs to borrow up to 80% or 85% of your home’s value, including the balance on your first mortgage.

For example, suppose you have a home worth $300,000 and owe $100,000 on the mortgage. This means you have $200,000 of equity. If you qualify, you could get a home equity line of credit for approximately $160,000. You may not need that much to pay off your high-interest credit lines. Perhaps you would take out $40,000 with the HELOC and pay off your debts and use the rest to renovate your home.

A HELOC has a variable interest rate that may be locked during the first year or so. After that, the rate can vary based upon market conditions. It’s a line of credit, so you only pay interest on the money that you take out. You can reuse the line of credit once you pay it off.

HELOC rates have been in the 9% and 10% range in  2024 as interest rates have risen. There are signs that the Federal Reserve may begin to lower rates soon, so it’s possible your HELOC rate could decline. But if you like financial certainty about your loan payment, you may want to consider a fixed-rate home equity loan, instead. Our loan professionals can help you find the perfect HELOC or home equity loan today.

Can You Use a Home Equity Line of Credit to Consolidate Debt?

Most 2nd mortgage lenders allow you to consolidate debt with a HELOC. In most cases, you have the flexibility to allocate your line of credit towards various purposes, such as debt consolidation, home renovations, purchasing a new vehicle, and other expenses. Additionally, you can diversify your home financing, benefiting from both variable and fixed rates.

Types of Debt to Consolidate With a HELOC

There are several debts that homeowners consolidate with a HELOC:

• Credit cards: The most popular debt consolidation for HELOCs is credit cards. Credit card rates have soared in recent years and 20% to 30% interest rates aren’t unusual. If you qualify for a 9% or 10% HELOC, you will save a lot of interest.
• Personal loans: Personal loans can be secured or unsecured and the interest rate can vary. But chances are the interest rate will be higher than on a HELOC. If the loan isn’t backed by collateral, it will have a higher interest rate.
• Medical bills: Medical expenses in the US can be costly, especially if you need surgery and hospitalization. If you have tens of thousands in medical bills, you may consider getting a HELOC to pay them off.
• Student loans: If you have student loans with a high interest rate, getting a HELOC to consolidate that debt could be smart.

There also are times when you should not use a HELOC to consolidate debt:

• Car loans: Cars are depreciating assets, so you should not use home equity to pay off auto loans. In a few years, the car will probably be less than what you owe on your HELOC. It’s better to improve your credit and attempt to refinance your car loan when you can.
• First mortgages: First mortgages have lower rates than second mortgages, so it rarely makes sense to pay off the first with a HELOC. If you want a lower rate on the first, consider a cash-out refinance, if your current rate is above market rates.
• Investing: Investing for the future is important, but you should use care when deciding to go into debt to invest. Borrowing equity in 2024 is more expensive than a few years ago, and any return you make in the stock market may not be enough to cover your interest payment. It is usually better to invest in the stock market with your 401k or IRA.
• Vacation and luxury items: These are large costs that don’t have a return, so taking out equity to pay for them rarely makes sense. Before you take out equity and splurge, remember: You will be paying for that vacation for five or 10 years with interest with home equity, so it’s better to only use savings.

More Benefits of the HELOC Loan and Credit Lines

There are several advantages to getting a HELOC for debt consolidation and other purposes:

• Lower rate: A HELOC will almost always have a lower interest rate than credit cards. You could have a 20% interest rate on your credit cards and qualify for a 10% HELOC rate in 2024. This is a big interest savings that will help you pay off your debts faster.
• One payment: If you have several credit cards, you need to keep track of several payments and payment dates. With your HELOC, you have only one payment every month for all of your debts.
• Lower payment: Because there is a lower rate, you will have lower monthly payments with a HELOC. This could save you hundreds or thousands in interest every year.
• More flexibility: During the five or 10 year draw period, you usually have to pay interest. You don’t need to pay interest and principal until the draw period is over. If you want, you may pay principal during the draw period and pay off the loan faster. Once it is paid off, you can use it for other things than debt consolidation, such as home improvements.
• Increased credit score: Having high balances on credit cards can lower your credit score. Paying off those balances with mortgage debt can boost your score over time.

However, keep in mind that when you get a HELOC, you have taken on more debt with your house securing the loan. If the HELOC isn’t paid, the lender can foreclose.

4 Crucial Steps to Get a HELOC for Consolidating Debt

  1. Review your credit score. Underwriting will be looking for you to demonstrate your creditworthiness and ability to make the monthly HELOC loan payments. Most brokers an lenders typically require a minimum credit score of 620. The higher credit score you have increases the likelihood of getting approved and securing the best HELOC rate. If you have past delinquencies, collections and credit scores between 500 and 619, you should request a bad credit HELOC loan. If you have a credit score under 500, a hard lending money may be your only option.
  2. Compare options from several home equity lenders before making a decision. Assess whether a home equity loan, offering a lump-sum payment with a fixed interest rate, or a HELOC, providing a revolving line of credit typically with a variable interest rate, better suits your personal circumstances.
  3. Complete and submit an HELOC application. Prepare your financial documentation, including proof of income, such as, pay-stubs, w2’s, 1099’s, and other relevant financial documentation. Most mortgage lenders generally prefer a debt-to-income ratio of below 43%, but there are exceptions.
  4. Calculate potential HELOC closing costs before making a commitment. This includes expenses such as a new home appraisal to obtain an updated valuation of your property’s current worth.

Summary on Getting a HELOC for Debt Consolidation

There are many good arguments for using a HELOC to consolidate debt. You can save thousands in interest per year if you pay off $10,000 or $20,000 in credit cards with a HELOC. However, remember that you are taking out equity and will have a second mortgage to pay.

You should do so carefully and with a lot of thought and planning. Some homeowners may end up running up the credit cards again, so be careful to not let that happen. Our home lending professionals can show you all of your HELOC options, so contact us for more information.