Is a HELOC a Second Mortgage?

More than ever before loan officers are answering the question, “Are HELOCs considered a second mortgage?” It seems like a pretty straight forward question, but let’s explore the definition of a home equity line of credit and 2nd mortgage loan so we can address this properly. banks and lenders use terms like home equity loan, HELOC and second mortgage loosely, so it’s time we answer this question.

Is  a HELOC Considered a 2nd Mortgage?

HELOC 2nd mortgageYes the HELOC is considered a second mortgage lien. The home equity line of credit, also known as a HELOC is a type of second mortgage.

It is secured line of credit obtained while the original, or first, mortgage is remains in place, untouched and ranked in first place on the Title of the property.

A second mortgage against your house can either be a home equity loan, which provides a lump sum with a fixed term and rate, or a HELOC, which offers variable interest rates and ongoing access to funds.

This is relevant because if for some reason the borrower does not pay the loan back and the property is sold to recover losses, then the company ranked first on title is paid first and the second mortgage company would be paid back secondly if there were any remaining funds.

You can take out a HELOC after building equity in your home, typically by paying down a portion of the principal on your primary mortgage. This credit line allows you to borrow against your home’s equity without altering the rates and terms of your existing mortgage with a home equity lender.

Understanding Home Equity Lines of Credit AKA HELOCs

Similar to the first mortgage, the second mortgage uses your property as collateral. Two common types of second mortgages are home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

First mortgage rates have been rising. Homeowners often find themselves exploring various financial products to manage expenses, fund large projects, or consolidate debt. One common tool is the Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). However, there can be some confusion about whether a HELOC qualifies as a second mortgage. This article will delve into the specifics of HELOCs, how they compare to 2nd mortgages, and when each financial product might be suitable for different situations.

What is a HELOC?

A HELOC is a type of 2nd mortgage that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity they have built up in their home. The loan operates similarly to a credit card, providing a revolving line of credit that you can draw from, repay, and draw from again, up to a certain limit. The equity in your home serves as collateral, which means the lender can take possession of the property if you fail to repay the loan.

As a 2nd mortgage, a HELOC is secured by your home but operates differently from a home equity loan. With a HELOC, a homeowner applies for an open line of credit and can borrow up to a fixed amount as needed. Interest is only paid on the amount borrowed. Typically, a HELOC remains open for a set term, often around 10 years. After the draw period ends, the loan transitions to an amortization phase, during which you make fixed monthly payments, usually over 20 years.

One of the key benefits of a HELOC is that you only pay interest on the amount you borrow. For example, if you need $50,000 over three years for small business investments, your interest payments will increase gradually as your loan balance grows. In contrast, with a lump-sum loan for the same amount, you would start paying interest on the entire $50,000 from day one.

Key Features of a HELOC

  1. Revolving Credit: Unlike traditional loans where you receive a lump sum upfront, a HELOC allows you to borrow as needed during the draw period, which usually lasts 5-10 years.
  2. Variable Interest Rates: Most HELOCs have variable interest rates, meaning the rate can change based on market conditions. This can make monthly payments unpredictable. Check today’s HELOC interest rates.
  3. Draw and Repayment Periods: HELOCs typically have a draw period during which you can borrow money and make interest only payments on the HELOC, followed by a repayment period during which you can no longer draw funds and must repay the outstanding balance, usually over 10-20 years.
  4. Interest-Only Payments: During the draw period, many HELOCs allow you to make interest-only payments, which can keep monthly payments low initially.

Advantages of a HELOC Loan

  • Flexibility: You can borrow only what you need when you need it, and repay it at your own pace during the draw period.
  • Lower Initial Payments: Interest-only payments during the draw period can help manage cash flow.
  • Potential Tax Benefits: Interest paid on a HELOC may be tax-deductible, but this depends on how the funds are used and current tax laws.
  • Use a HELOC to Pay Off High Rate Mortgages: Many homeowners goy stuck with high interest bad loans and a HELOC could be one of the solutions for a lower payment.

Disadvantages of a HELOC

  • Variable Rates: The interest rate can increase, leading to higher monthly payments.
  • Risk of Foreclosure: Your home is collateral, so failure to repay the HELOC can result in foreclosure.
  • Fees and Costs: HELOCs can come with various fees, such as application fees, appraisal fees, and annual fees.

What is a Second Mortgage?

A second mortgage is a loan that uses your home as collateral, just like your primary mortgage. The “second” in second mortgage means that in the event of foreclosure, this loan is subordinate to the primary mortgage. This means that the primary mortgage gets paid off first, and the second mortgage is paid off with any remaining funds.

Similar to HELOCs, interest rates on a home equity loan are generally higher than those on first mortgages but lower than other loan options. This is because the lender assumes more risk compared to a primary mortgage. If the homeowner encounters financial difficulties and the home is foreclosed, the original mortgage is prioritized for repayment.

Types of Second Mortgage Loans

  1. Home Equity Loan: This is a lump-sum loan with a fixed interest rate and repayment term. It is also known as a second mortgage.
  2. HELOC: As discussed earlier, a HELOC can also be considered a second mortgage because it uses the home as collateral and is subordinate to the primary mortgage.

Key Features of a Second Mortgage

  • Lump-Sum or Revolving Credit: The home equity loan provide a lump sum, whereas HELOCs offer a revolving line of credit.
  • Fixed or Variable Rates: Home equity loans typically have fixed interest rates, while HELOCs usually have variable rates.
  • Collateral: Both types of second mortgages use your home as collateral, putting it at risk of foreclosure if you fail to make payments.

Advantages of a Second Mortgage

  • Access to Home Equity: You can access a significant amount of money by borrowing against your home’s equity.
  • Fixed Interest Rates: The home equity loan program offer fixed interest rates, providing predictable monthly payments.
  • Potential Tax Benefits: Similar to HELOCs, interest paid on 2nd-mortgages may be tax-deductible under certain conditions.

Disadvantages of a Second Mortgage

  • Higher Interest Rates: 2nd-mortgages typically have higher interest rates than primary mortgages because they are riskier for a second mortgage lender.
  • Risk of Foreclosure: As with HELOCs, failing to repay a second mortgage can result in foreclosure.
  • Fees and Closing Costs: Taking out a second mortgage often involves fees and HELOC closing costs, which can add up.

Comparing HELOCs and Home Equity Loans

When faced with a major expense, such as financing a home renovation, consolidating debt, or paying for education, some homeowners opt to borrow against their home equity. In these cases, borrowers may consider either a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. Let’s analyze the pros and cons of both fixed home equity loans and variable rate HELOCs.


  1. Collateral: Both HELOCs and second mortgage loans use your home as collateral, putting it at risk if you default on the loan.
  2. Access to Home Equity: Both allow you to borrow against the equity you have built in your home.
  3. Potential Tax Benefits: Interest paid on both types of loans may be tax-deductible, depending on how the funds are used and current tax laws.


  1. Loan Structure: A HELOC provides a revolving line of credit with a variable interest rate, while a home equity loan (second mortgage) offers a lump sum with a fixed interest rate.
  2. Repayment Terms: HELOCs have draw and repayment periods, whereas home equity loans have a fixed repayment term.
  3. Interest Rates: HELOCs typically have variable rates that can change over time, whereas home equity loans have fixed rates.

When to Use a HELOC

  • Ongoing Expenses: If you have ongoing expenses, such as home improvements or medical bills, a HELOC’s revolving credit line can be beneficial.
  • Uncertain Funding Needs: If you’re unsure how much money you’ll need, a HELOC provides flexibility in borrowing and repayment.
  • Interest-Only Payments: If you need lower initial payments, a HELOC’s interest-only payment option during the draw period can help manage cash flow.

When to Use a Home Equity Loan

  • Large, One-Time Expenses: If you need a significant amount of money for a single expense, such as debt consolidation or a major home renovation, a home equity loan’s lump sum can be advantageous. Many people are using a HELOC to consolidate debt in 2024.
  • Fixed Monthly Payments: If you prefer predictable monthly payments, a home equity loan’s fixed interest rate offers stability.
  • Lower Interest Rate Stability: If you want to avoid the risk of rising interest rates, a home equity loan’s fixed rate can provide peace of mind.

HELOC vs Cash Out Refinance 

Learn more about what the difference is between a HELOC loan and cash out refinancing. Both are secured by real estate but the cash out refinance is considered a first mortgage and the HELOC is considered a second mortgage.

Risks and Considerations

Assessing Your Financial Situation

Before deciding between a HELOC and a second mortgage, it’s crucial to assess your financial situation. Consider your income stability, existing debt, and long-term financial goals. Both financial products come with the risk of foreclosure if you cannot make payments, so it’s essential to ensure you can afford the additional debt.

Interest Rate Environment

The current interest rate environment can also influence your decision. If interest rates are expected to rise, a fixed-rate home equity loan might be more appealing than a variable-rate HELOC. Conversely, if rates are stable or expected to fall, a HELOC could offer more flexibility and lower initial payments.

Costs and Fees

Both HELOCs and second mortgages come with costs and fees, including application fees, appraisal fees, and lending closing costs. Be sure to factor these into your decision and compare offers from multiple second mortgage lenders to find the best terms.

Tax Implications

Interest paid on HELOCs and second mortgages may be tax-deductible, but this depends on how the funds are used and current tax laws. Consult with a tax advisor to understand the potential tax benefits and implications for your situation.

FAQ for HELOCs and 2nd Mortgages

How do you use a HELOC to pay off mortgage?

Since HELOCs and second mortgages occasionally have lower interest rates than non-QM mortgages, they can help you save money and potentially pay off your mortgage sooner. Even if HELOC interest rates are similar to your current rates, refinancing your first mortgage with a HELOC might still be the best option for you.

Is a HELOC the same as a second mortgage?

A second mortgage is a secured lien taken out while the original, or first, mortgage is still being repaid. The HELOC is a second mortgage and uses your property as collateral. These second mortgages include fixed rate home equity loans and variable rate home equity lines of credit, also known as HELOC.

Summary on HELOCs and Second Mortgages

A HELOC can indeed be considered a second mortgage, as it is a loan secured by your home and subordinate to your primary mortgage. However, it differs from a traditional second mortgage, such as a home equity loan, in its structure, interest rates, and repayment terms.

Choosing between a HELOC and a second mortgage depends on your financial needs, preferences, and the current economic environment. A HELOC offers flexibility and lower initial payments, making it suitable for ongoing or uncertain expenses. On the other hand, a home equity loan provides a lump sum with fixed monthly payments, which can be advantageous for large, one-time expenses and those who prefer stability.

Before deciding, carefully assess your financial situation, consider the costs and risks associated with each option, and consult with financial professionals as needed. By understanding the nuances of HELOCs and 2nd mortgages, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and helps you leverage your home equity effectively.

Applying for a HELOC or 2nd mortgage can be a lengthy process, and approval is not guaranteed. Lenders will conduct a thorough review of your financial health to determine your eligibility. This process may involve examining your credit reports to verify your borrowing history and appraising your home to assess its market value.

The Home Equity Mart can help you shop HELOC and 2nd mortgage lenders with no application fees required. You can compare quotes from competitive lending companies with no pressure.