By Joseph Kenny

When it comes to getting money out of the equity in your home for that project, or expense, that you have, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be the best way to go. It gives you a number of options that other equity loans do not give, along with the flexibility of being able to make some choices. Here is how you can make a home equity line of credit work for you.

A home equity line of credit is a second mortgage (in most cases), and as such, it will add another payment to your bills each month. This means that you need to be careful about how much you borrow. For this reason, you should determine how much of a payment you can afford each month so that it will not be a problem to come up with the money each month. You do not always want to let a lender determine this for you – they cannot lose whether you make the payment or not. Closing fees may or may not apply, but since many lenders have few fees for closing on a HELOC, you should look around and find one that does not.

Once you are approved for the loan, you will have an account set up for you, which will have a credit limit. You will be issued either a credit card, or a check book, that gives you access to the funds. Many lenders who give home equity lines of credit require that you make an immediate withdrawal, and some will require each withdrawal after that to also be of a minimum amount.


A home equity line of credit gives you the opportunity to withdraw as much money as you need – when you need it. There is also a draw period, which is a period of time that you are allowed to make withdrawals. This could be up to about 11 years – depending on your home equity line of credit terms.

During the draw period, you will be paying the interest on the amount of money that you have used so far. The interest that you will be paying will most likely be calculated on a daily basis in order to keep current with your withdrawals. You need to be aware, though, that unless you opt to do otherwise, you are only paying the interest, which means that you will have 100% of the loan to pay during the amortization period – or as a balloon payment at the end of the draw period. If possible, you may want to pay down some of the principal, too, in order to have reduced payments later. You will want, however, to check with the lender to make sure that there is not any early payoff penalty.

Certain fees may also apply to your HELOC. Some lenders will charge you with an account maintenance fee. This could result in a monthly charge, an annual charge – or both. There also may be a per withdrawal charge, and possibly even a no activity charge. Since a lender only makes money on a HELOC when you withdraw the money they do not want to see their money not being used – and earning interest for them. By looking around, however, you could find a home equity line of credit that does not have all of these charges associated with them.

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