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A homeowner installs a new deck with funds from a NextMark CU home equity loan.

Cash Out Refinance vs. Home Equity Loan

Home equity loans and cash-out refinances are two popular financial tools for homeowners. They allow you to access your home’s equity to fund renovations, consolidate debt, or cover unexpected expenses.

Despite their similarities, these options have distinct features that make them suitable for different financial circumstances and goals. Read on to learn about home equity loans and cash-out refinance to be able to make a more informed borrowing decision.

Understanding Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is often referred to as a second mortgage. It provides homeowners with a lump sum of cash based on the equity they’ve built in their homes. It functions as a separate loan alongside your primary mortgage, with its own interest rate and repayment terms. 

Typically, home equity loans have fixed interest rates, providing predictable monthly payments over a set period, which can help with budgeting and financial planning. The application process is similar to a traditional mortgage, requiring credit checks, income verification, and a home appraisal to determine the amount you can borrow.

Exploring Cash-Out Refinances

A cash-out refinance involves replacing your existing mortgage with a new one with a larger loan than you currently owe. The difference between the two mortgages is in cash, allowing you to access a portion of your home equity. 

Cash-out refinances can offer fixed or adjustable interest rates depending on market conditions. They may provide access to lower interest than home equity loans.

Like obtaining a new mortgage, the application process involves credit checks, income verification, and a home appraisal.

Common Ground: Similarities Between the Options

Both home equity loans and cash-out refinances enable homeowners to access their home equity for various financial needs, such as home improvements, debt consolidation, or education expenses. 

Both options involve borrowing money that must be repaid with interest. Both require an application process with credit checks and income verification. Additionally, depending on the lender and loan amount, both may involve closing costs and fees.

Key Differences: Comparing Home Equity Loans and Cash-Out Refinances

While these options share similarities, they have distinct differences that impact your finances. A home equity loan is a second loan, leaving your original mortgage untouched. Conversely, a cash-out refinance replaces your existing mortgage with a new loan. 

Interest rates also differ; home equity loans typically have fixed rates, while cash-out refinances can have fixed or adjustable rates. This means your monthly payments with a home equity loan will be in addition to your existing mortgage payment. In contrast, a cash-out refinance results in a single, potentially higher monthly payment.

Weighing the Advantages: Home Equity Loan Benefits

Cash-out refinances offer several potential benefits:

Fixed interest rates: Provides stability and predictability with consistent monthly payments.

Preserves original mortgage: Allows you to keep your existing mortgage terms, including a potentially lower interest rate.

Potentially lower rates: May offer lower interest rates than other loan options like personal loans.

Weighing the Drawbacks: Home Equity Loan Considerations

Home equity loans provide access to funds but have potential drawbacks to consider before borrowing.


Increased financial burden: Adds a second monthly payment, potentially straining your budget.

Potentially higher interest rates: Rates may be higher than cash-out refinances, especially in a low-rate environment.

Closing costs: Can be significant, adding to the upfront expense of the loan.

Unlocking Possibilities: Cash-Out Refinance Advantages

Cash-out refinancing can offer benefits such as lower interest rates and simplified finances.


Potentially lower interest rates: Especially in a low-rate environment, offering the potential for significant long-term savings.

Simplified finances: Consolidates your debt into one monthly payment, streamlining your financial obligations.

Flexible loan terms: The option to shorten or lengthen your loan term to align with your financial goals.

Understanding the Trade-offs: Cash-Out Refinance Considerations

It’s important to understand the potential trade-offs of cash-out refinancing, which include increased loan costs and adjustable rate risks.


Potential for increased loan cost: Extending your loan term may lead to more interest paid over time, despite a lower interest rate.

Risk of adjustable rates: Adjustable-rate mortgages can lead to payment fluctuations and potential financial strain if interest rates rise.

Closing costs: Can be significant, adding to the upfront expense of the refinance.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Side-by-side Comparison: Home Equity Loan vs. Cash Out-Refinancing

Home Equity Loan

Cash-Out Refinance

Type of Loan

Home Equity Loan

Second mortage

Cash-Out Refinance

Replaces existing mortgage

Interest Rates

Home Equity Loan

Typically fixed

Cash-Out Refinance

Can be fixed or adjustable

Monthly Payments

Home Equity Loan

In addition to an existing mortgage payment

Cash-Out Refinance

Single, potentially higher payment

Loan Terms

Home Equity Loan

Typically shorter (5 - 15 years)

Cash-Out Refinance

Varies, can be longer (15 - 30 years)

Closing Costs

Home Equity Loan

Can be significant

Cash-Out Refinance

Can be significant

Impact on existing mortgage

Home Equity Loan

Leaves original mortgage untouched

Cash-Out Refinance

Replaces existing mortgage

Choosing the Right Path

Deciding between a home equity loan and a cash-out refinance depends on your individual financial circumstances and goals. Consider factors such as your current interest rate, desired loan amount, risk tolerance, and budget flexibility. 

Carefully compare interest rates and loan terms, and evaluate each option’s impact on your monthly budget and overall financial situation. Seeking guidance from a financial advisor or mortgage professional can provide personalized insights to help you make the best decision for your needs.

Charting Your Course

Both home equity loans and cash-out refinances offer valuable ways to access your home equity and achieve your financial goals. By understanding each option’s key differences, advantages, and drawbacks, you can confidently choose the path that aligns with your circumstances and sets you on a course toward financial success.


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