Fixed Rate Second Mortgage or Variable Home Equity Line of Credit?
2006/2007 Home Equity Report
By Barry Donavan

More and more Americans are cashing in on their home's equity by taking out a second mortgage. Home equity financing has evolved to meet the growing consumer demands for borrowing, spending, and building. One of the most powerful cash vehicles driving our economy is the new and improved home equity loan. Consumer debt is at an all time high, and home equity values are also peaking at all-time levels. Let's examine the primary reasons for the increasing popularity of home equity loan products.

Home equity lines of credit are revolving accounts that are considered to be second mortgages secured by real estate. These 2nd mortgage credit lines have become very accessible online. Equity lines of credit can be beneficial tools for homeowners if used properly. Helocs offer flexibility because you can borrow and re-borrow without having to start the loan process over again like you would with a traditional home equity loan. Another great home equity line benefit remains that you only pay interest on the money you access.

A few years ago, second mortgage rates hit all time lows. Over the last year and a half, the Federal Reserve has increased the WSJ prime rates almost 3% points. Unfortunately this has had the biggest impact with variable lines of credit rates. During this record period for rates, home credit lines were over (see lender) lower than the traditional fixed rate home equity loan. There are many reasons people continue to take out home equity lines of credit. Some of the most common purposes for an equity line are bill consolidation, home improvements and buying a second home. What people love most about the equity credit line is the affordability feature that comes standard with low minimum payments.

On the flip-side, many homeowners like the responsible amortization that comes with fixed rate home equity loans. With these fixed rate second mortgages, each monthly payment allocates a portion to pay down both interest and principal of the loan. In 2006, fixed rate home equity loan rates are actually lower than equity lines of credit. The fixed rate mortgage is becoming increasingly attractive to consumers. Fixed rate loans offer "peace of mind" because people can go to sleep at night, knowing that their payment will not go up.

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