A new report showed that home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, have become more popular in Washington State and across the U.S.
More and more homeowners have turned to equity loans and HELOCs as a way to tap into their home equity. The rise in mortgage rates we’ve seen since the start of 2023 has influenced this shift.
Home Equity Loans, HELOCs More Popular in Washington
In August, the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center published its latest “Housing Finance at a Glance” report. This monthly report offers insight into a variety of mortgage lending and home financing trends.
The group’s latest report showed a steep increase in the use of home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) in Washington State and nationwide. The use of “regular” equity loans has also risen in recent months, according to the report.
During the three-month period from January to May of 2022, the combined volume of both home-equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and traditional equity loans rose by 47%. That’s when compared to the same three-month period last year.
Clearly, these financing options have become more popular among Washington homeowners. We’ll look at the reasons why in just a moment. But first, for those who aren’t familiar with the subject, here’s a quick rundown on home equity loans and HELOCs.
How a Home Equity Line of Credit Works
The terminology in use here can be confusing, especially for those who have never used equity-based financing in the past. There are two similar products with similar-sounding names, but they work differently.
Here are the key features and differences:
- A home equity loan is simply a loan that’s secured by the property. As the borrower, you receive a specific amount of money that must be repaid over a set period of time. The payments are usually fixed, with equal amounts spread over the life of the loan. The amount you can borrow will depend on your income, your credit history, and the current market value of the home.
- A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit that works much like a credit card. The difference is that the HELOC is secured by your home. Borrowers receive a certain amount of credit, which they borrow from as needed by using a check or credit card tied to the account. Unlike a home equity loan, which usually has a fixed interest rate, HELOCs typically have a variable rate that can go up or down over time with market conditions.
- To summarize the difference: A HELOC is a line of credit that lets homeowners borrow money as needed with a variable interest rate. A home equity loan, on the other hand, is a lump sum that’s disbursed up front and paid back in fixed installments over time.
A Response to Rising Mortgage Rates
For many homeowners across Washington State, home equity loans and HELOCs have become more attractive than the cash-out refinance loan. That’s because mortgage rates have risen over the past year. Homeowners with existing mortgage rates that are lower than current market rates often shy away from refinancing, even when it’s a cash-out refi.
During the second week of February 2024, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was hovering around 5.875%. That’s lower than last year, when 30-year mortgages held an average rate of 6.5%.
For some homeowners, the cash-out refinance loan might not be the best way to tap equity in 2024 That could be why we are seeing a rise in the number of home equity loans and lines of credit being originated across Washington, and elsewhere in the U.S.
Price Growth Has Boosted Equity for Washington Homeowners
Many homeowners in Washington are now able to convert some of their equity into cash. In fact, the number of homeowners who could benefit from equity-based financing has risen sharply over the past few years. The reason — price growth.
According to Zillow, the median home value for Washington State rose in Winter of 2024 to $562,290, an increase of 0.8% year or year.
As a result, many homeowners in the state currently have a lot more equity than they did a few years ago. And that equity could be used for a wide variety of purposes.
Some homeowners use home equity loans and HELOCs to pay off high-interest debt, to cover the cost of college tuition, or to fund a renovation project.