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A young couple smiling while holding their two kids in their renovated backyard that was paid for by a HELOC loan from NextMark Credit Union.

What Is a HELOC and How Does It Work?

Finding the extra cash to cover large projects or unexpected expenses can be challenging on the best of days. Navigating the myriad of financial options leaves many homeowners feeling stressed out and unsure of where to turn.

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) offers a potential solution for homeowners seeking financial flexibility. Tapping into the equity in your home gives access to the funds needed to tackle various financial goals. 

However, it comes with several considerations that can impact your decision years down the road. 

Read on to learn more about how a HELOC works and how it compares to other home equity financing options.


A HELOC is a type of loan that is based on the equity in your home. Equity is the difference between your home’s current market value and the outstanding mortgage balance. 

A home equity line of credit works similarly to a credit card. You can borrow, repay, and borrow again up to your limit. They typically have two phases: the draw period and the repayment period. 

The draw period usually lasts between 5 to 10 years, during which you can withdraw funds as needed. When you repay the borrowed amount, the repayment period often lasts 10 to 20 years.


One of the main risks of a HELOC is the variable interest rate. Monthly payments could increase if rates rise during the repayment period. It’s also easy to overborrow if you lack the discipline to stick to a budget. 

Some repayment terms require interest-only payments during the draw period. Once this initial phase ends, borrowers should prepare for principal payments and potentially higher monthly costs.

Using your home as collateral is another risk. If you fail to repay the loan, you could face foreclosure. If your home value declines, your equity could decrease, affecting both your borrowing power and financial stability.


You’ll typically need a good credit score, sufficient home equity (usually at least 15-20% equity), and proof of stable income to qualify. Lenders will also assess your debt-to-income ratio to ensure you can handle the additional debt. 

Repayment involves making monthly payments that cover both interest and principal. During the draw period, you might only make interest payments. Once the repayment period starts, you must make higher payments to reduce the principal balance.


Homeowners can use HELOCs for various purposes, including home improvements, debt consolidation, and unexpected expenses. They may also benefit from potential tax deductions on interest payments if they use the funds for home improvements. 

HELOCs also often have lower interest rates when compared to other loans. This can lead to significant cost savings over time. They also offer flexible repayment terms that align with your changing financial needs.

One of the key advantages is that you borrow only what you need and repay it as you go. This approach makes it a valuable financial tool and financial safety net, providing quick access to funds when necessary. Having this credit available makes it possible to tackle large or unexpected expenses with confidence.


Common uses for HELOCs include financing home renovations, covering emergency expenses, or funding education. Homeowners often use them to consolidate debt by paying off higher-interest debts with a lower-interest HELOC. This savvy strategy helps to simplify their finances and reduce overall interest costs.

Some homeowners use HELOCs to invest in other properties or financial opportunities. This can be a strategic way to leverage home equity for potential financial gains. However, it is crucial to carefully consider the risks and benefits before using one to invest.


Fixed-rate Home Equity Loans offer stability, with interest rates that remain constant throughout the term. This can provide predictable monthly payments, making budgeting easier. Variable-rate HELOCs often start with lower initial rates, but the rates can increase over time, leading to higher payments.

Choosing between fixed and variable rates depends on your financial situation and risk tolerance. Fixed rates provide peace of mind, while variable rates can offer initial savings. Before deciding, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of each option.


Home equity loans provide a lump sum of money at a fixed interest rate with fixed monthly payments. They are well-suited for large, one-time expenses where you know the needed amount. 

Home equity lines serve as revolving accounts that provide borrowers with access to their home’s value. This allows for flexible access to funds over time, making them a good fit for ongoing or unpredictable expenses.

A HELOC might be more suitable for ongoing or unpredictable expenses. Home equity loans are better for specific or large expenses. Your choice between the two options depends on your financial needs and preferences.


Understanding HELOCs and how they operate is crucial for making informed decisions. This knowledge helps you avoid costly mistakes and ensures you’re getting the best possible deal for your situation.

At NextMark Credit Union, our team of experts is here to help guide you every step of the way. We take the time to get to know our members, understand their financial goals, and provide customized solutions that meet their needs.

Click below to discover the value you can expect working with NextMark to secure a home equity loan or line of credit.


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