April 29, 2015
CreditCards.com quoted me in HELOC vs. Cash-out Refinance for Card Debt Repayment. It reads, in part,
On paper, it may look as if it makes a lot of sense to replace high interest card debt with a low interest payment if you have home equity you can tap into. If it’s available and will ease your pay-off pain, why not use it, right?
While using a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or cash-out refinance (in which you refinance your mortgage, but tack on an additional cash payout) to rectify your debt woes might seem like a no-brainer, there are lots of factors to consider to determine which avenue is right for you or if you should go that route at all.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” says Malcolm Hollensteiner, director of retail lending sales at TD Bank. “Utilizing equity to pay down or eliminate higher interest rate consumer debt can be a very beneficial strategy, but it should be done in moderation, accessing some — not all — of your equity,” he says.
Gone are the days when banks allowed homeowners to tap into 125 percent of their home value (thanks to the lessons learned during the real estate market meltdown, which left many people “underwater,” owing more on their home loans than the value of the home). And, you’ll need to have a respectable credit score to qualify. But even with more restrictions in place now than in years past, borrowers still should tread carefully if they’re contemplating borrowing against their home.
“Although the interest rates are much lower on a HELOC or cash-out, the issue becomes that you’re taking your short-term debt and turning it into something you’re going to be paying back for 30 years,” says John Walsh, CEO of Total Mortgage Services.
And then there’s the risk factor. Before you jump on that lower rate, you have to understand that if you cannot keep up with your new payments, you risk going into foreclosure, warns David Reiss, professor of law and research director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School, who also writes the REFinBlog. “In other words, you are getting the lower rate in exchange for putting up your house as collateral for the debt,” he says.
With stakes this high, it’s not as simple as using a HELOC or cash-out refinance as your “get out of debt free” card. Here are the factors you need to consider.
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As you consider your options, think about both the short-term and long-term benefits and costs, says Reiss. “You can’t think of home equity as free money. That’s your retirement, money you may leave to your children or use for an emergency. It’s money that your future self may need,” he says. If you do decide to move forward, make sure you’re using your home equity wisely — paying off your debt would fall into that category, as long as you commit to smart spending habits moving forward.
Take an honest assessment of where you are in life, and think through your ability to pay off the debt in whatever form it may take. “Run some numbers, and talk this through with someone whose financial judgment you trust,” says Reiss. By being honest with yourself and becoming an educated consumer, you can figure out which option makes the most sense for you.| Permalink