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Refinancing A Home Equity Loan: Is It Possible, And What Are Your Options?

Scott Steinberg5-minute read

April 15, 2021

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Can you refinance a home equity loan? It’s a question that many homeowners are no doubt asking themselves right now, given how popular home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) have proven to be for many families.

These solutions, which allow you to adjust payment terms related to your home or draw upon equity contained within it to help pay for repairs or home improvements, can often provide a helpful financial tool. But it’s not uncommon to also wish to refinance a home equity loan – a process that is indeed possible, and also at times highly recommendable depending on your individual circumstances.

It’s important to note that Rocket Mortgage® does not offer home equity loans at this time.

What Is A Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan is a fixed-term loan that is secured by a borrower’s home and typically takes the form of a second mortgage. Apply for a set amount of funds, and if your request is granted by a financial institution, you’ll essentially receive that amount in the form of an upfront lump sum payment that comes with a fixed interest rate and schedule of payments that applies over the life of the loan. This fixed-term loan is presented to you by the lender based on the equity in your home (the amount of value in your home that you enjoy which exceeds the current outstanding loan balance).

Conversely, HELOC is a financial product that lets you borrow against current home equity using a revolving credit account and repay this money over an extended period. By allowing borrowers to tap into a credit line up to a preset limit, it presents another method of tapping into your home equity, as does a cash-out refinance. A cash-out refinance allows you to replace your current mortgage with a different loan with new payment terms, or transfer home equity into cash – and apply this cash toward paying off many common expenses.

Note that if you’d like to tap into the equity in your home as a means of funding home improvements or upgrades via any of these vehicles, be sure to budget accordingly. This means that you’ll not only want to be aware of potential loan amounts, financing terms, and monthly payments, but also any associated closing costs.

Can You Refinance A Home Equity Loan?

As alluded above, taking on a home equity loan or HELOC can mean taking on additional risks, as it means making yourself responsible for a second mortgage of sorts and associated payments. All things considered though, it’s not uncommon to want to refinance a home equity loan – which is indeed possible – if you find that the opportunity presents itself to secure a better interest rate or more favorable payment terms. In fact, doing so can often help you stay more cash positive, and better able to meet monthly payment obligations.

Sample reasons that you might wish to refinance a home equity loan include:

  • Ability to secure a lower interest rate on your home equity loan or HELOC due to declining real estate market interest rates.
  • Desire to switch from an adjustable-rate loan to a fixed interest-rate loan instead (or vice-versa, depending on your needs).
  • Need for a larger home equity loan or HELOC to provide greater financial liquidity or take more cash out of your home.
  • Want to secure a longer repayment term and/or lowered monthly payment obligations.
  • Chance to remove or avoid a balloon payment. 

In other words, if you possess a home equity loan, you may be given the opportunity to capitalize on falling interest rates during its term – at which time it may be a fine idea to refinance. Alternately, you may wish to refinance your home equity loan as a means by which to obtain a larger loan, or transition from an adjustable-rate loan product (aka variable-rate loan) to a fixed-rate loan solution.

Refinancing a home equity loan can also help you get rid of large balloon payments or change the term of the loan to be shorter (helping you build up equity in the property) or longer (thereby lowering your monthly payments). Of course, you could always go for a cash-out refinance instead, which makes it possible to refinance an existing loan with a new one as a way to take as much cash out of the home as you can manage.

Great news! Rates are still low in 2021.

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Can You Refinance An Existing Mortgage Using A Home Equity Loan?

In addition, it is possible, but not common, to use a home equity loan to refinance your existing mortgage as well. That’s because the process makes financial sense primarily for those who have a lot of equity built up in a home and plan to stay in their property for just a handful of years. For example: If you landed a first mortgage at a time when interest rates were relatively high, only to see them later drop, and hold a great deal of equity in your property, then refinancing using a new home equity loan may prove a handy lifesaver.

Pros And Cons Of Refinancing Your Home Equity Loan

As with any real estate transaction, refinancing a home equity loan can come with advantages and disadvantages attached. 

Pros 

  • Opportunity to capitalize on lower interest rates
  • Chance to transition from adjustable-rate to fixed interest-rate loan
  • Can help you obtain more working capital for home improvements and other projects
  • Offers a means to adjust monthly payments and repayment terms 

Cons

  • Takes additional time and expense to obtain, and is backed by your property
  • Requires homeowners to assume additional risk and additional payments
  • May obligate you for a longer payment term period
  • You can wind up underwater on your property if market values plunge

How To Refinance A Home Equity Loan

Note that refinancing a home equity loan is similar in process to obtaining a mortgage, in that you will need to provide detailed financial documentation ranging from tax returns to pay stubs and home records. In addition, it also helps to have a higher credit score and more favorable debt-to-income (DTI) ratio if you wish to obtain optimum rates when seeking to refinance your HELOC or home equity loan.

In order to refinance a home equity loan, you’ll need to guarantee the transaction with your property and have built up a minimum amount of equity in your home. (Factoring in any and all loans and mortgages that you have currently taken out against the property.) The majority of financial lending institutions will require you to have a combined loan-to-value ratio of under 85%. In other words, the sum of all your current outstanding mortgage balances cannot represent more than 85% of your home’s total current value.

The Bottom Line

As a general rule, you may find that refinancing a home equity loan can help you obtain lower interest rates and payments while also adjusting loan repayment terms and extending financial payback periods. Similarly, it can also create an opportunity to switch from an ARM to a fixed-rate loan and back or borrow additional funds if you find that you need more money for personal savings or home repairs and improvements. However, it’s generally best to reserve refinancing for times when you’ve built up a significant amount of equity in your home, or rates have dropped significantly since you first obtained a home loan.

If a cash-out refinance makes more sense for you, contact the Home Loan Experts with Rocket Mortgage®.

 

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Scott Steinberg

Hailed as The Master of Innovation by Fortune magazine, and World’s Leading Business Strategist, award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists. A strategic adviser to four-star generals and a who’s-who of Fortune 500s, he’s the bestselling author of 14 books including Make Change Work for You and FAST >> FORWARD. The CEO of BIZDEV: The Intl. Association for Business Development and Strategic Planning™, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.