What is a Home Equity Loan for Debt Consolidation?

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 30, 2023

Are you struggling to keep up with multiple debts and looking for a way to simplify your financial situation? A home equity loan for debt consolidation might be the solution you need.

Debt consolidation is a popular strategy for managing debt, and a home equity loan can be a valuable tool in this process. By using the equity in your home, you can consolidate your debts into one manageable loan with a potentially lower interest rate.

If you're unfamiliar with home equity loans for debt consolidation, this article will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of what they are and how they can benefit you. By the end, you'll have the knowledge to make an informed decision about whether a home equity loan for debt consolidation is the right choice for you.

How Does a Home Equity Loan Work?

A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your home. It’s based on the amount of equity you have in your home. 

Your equity is the difference between your home’s value and the amount you owe on your mortgage. Let’s say you own a home valued at $175,000. You owe $125,000 on your mortgage. That means you have $50,000 in equity. 

With a home equity loan, you borrow against a percentage of your home’s equity. Lenders will typically allow you to borrow about 80% of your home’s equity. If you have $50,000 in equity, that means you could borrow around $40,000. 

You receive the funds as a lump sum, and your home secures the loan. If you fall behind on your payments, your lender has the right to foreclose on your home and sell it to pay off your loan. 

Home Equity Loan Requirements

What will lenders consider when you apply for a home equity loan? Let’s take a look. 

  • Your home’s value: Lenders will typically request an appraisal to confirm the value of your home. Since your home’s equity is based on the value of your home, lenders want to have an accurate assessment of how much it’s worth. 
  • Your credit score: As with most financial transactions, how you’ve handled credit in the past plays a role in whether lenders will approve you for a home equity loan. Lenders prefer a credit score of 620 or higher, but there might be some flexibility depending on the lender. 
  • Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your DTI ratio compares your monthly debt payments, including your potential home equity loan, to your pre-tax income. Let’s say your current mortgage, home equity loan, car payment, credit card minimums and student loans come to $2,000 per month. Your pre-tax income is $5,000 per month. That gives you a DTI ratio of 40% ($2,000 / $5,000 = 0.4 * 100 = 40). Lenders are typically looking for a DTI ratio of 43% or less. 

Best Lenders for a Home Equity Loan

What’s the best mortgage company for a home equity loan? Here are Benzinga’s picks. 

When You Should Consider a Home Equity Loan

When is a home equity loan the right move? It might be the right move if:

1. You Have Enough Equity in Your Home

Getting a home equity loan is a process, and you have to pay closing costs. You need to make sure it’s worth the trouble and the closing costs. If you don’t need much, you might be better served by a different product like a personal loan. 

2. It Makes More Sense Than Alternative Products

A cash-out refinance and a home equity line of credit (HELOC) also allow you to tap into your home equity. A cash-out refinance means taking out an entirely new mortgage on your home, though. HELOCs are second mortgages, like home equity loans. They offer a flexible credit line instead of a lump sum, and they tend to have variable interest rates, which are interest rates that can change. HELOC requirements are a bit more stringent; you typically need a credit score of at least 680 to qualify. 

3. The Interest Rate Makes Sense

If you’re taking out a home equity loan to consolidate debt, the interest rate needs to be the same or lower than the interest you’re paying on your debt. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense or benefit you in the long run. Although having 1 payment for everything is simpler, you’ll pay more in interest if the rate isn’t competitive. 

4. You’re Comfortable with the Payments

Since a home equity loan is secured by your home, make sure the payment is affordable. If you’re consolidating debt, it should be since you won’t be making those debt payments, but run the numbers to be sure. You’ll also need to continue making your mortgage payments. 

Home Equity Loan for Debt Consolidation

A perk of home equity loans is that you can use the funds for anything you want, including debt consolidation. While there are no restrictions on how you can use the funds, you want to be sure it makes financial sense. 

For example, federal student loans tend to have low interest rates and special accommodations if you experience hardship, so that’s 1 type of debt you may not want to pay off with a home equity loan. 

You also need to be committed to not continuing the same spending patterns that got you into debt in the 1st place. You may have racked up debt due to special circumstances, like a job loss or unexpected medical bills. In that case, using a home equity loan makes sense to lower your debt and streamline your spending. 

If you got into debt due to challenges with budgeting and overspending, consider taking a look at your habits before you take out a home equity loan. If you take out a home equity loan, pay off your credit cards, and then max them out again, you’ve put yourself in a worse position than before. 

Have a plan for keeping your debt low. For example, you might find a budgeting app that’s easy to use so you keep your spending on track. Or you might work with a non-profit credit counseling agency to develop a budget and a debt management plan for improving your credit score. 

Many people struggle with debt, and there are a lot of resources to help. Home equity loans tend to have reasonable interest rates and are accessible to those with less than perfect credit. It could be the right move for you and a path to paying off your debt. 

Choose a Home Equity Loan

If you’ve decided a home equity loan is right for you, you’ll need to choose a lender. Check with at least a few lenders and compare interest rates and APRs. Look at both online mortgage lenders and brick-and-mortar institutions to get a sense of which home equity loan rates will serve you the best. 

Once you find a lender, the process of getting a debt consolidation loan is similar to the process of buying your home. You’ll fill out an application and you’ll need to provide proof of income. You’ll also need to provide a copy of your current mortgage statement and proof of homeownership. 

Once you’ve submitted your application, your lender will order an appraisal. The sooner you get it scheduled, the better. Once your lender has all the information it needs, it will make a decision on your application. If approved, you’ll set a date to sign the closing documents. You’ll receive the documents a few days in advance. Take the time to review them and ask the lender questions if there are any unexpected changes. 

Once you sign the documents, it will take a few days to receive the funds. If you’re consolidating debt, pay off your debts with the proceeds as soon as the funds are available.

Frequently Asked Questions


What types of debts can I consolidate with a home equity loan?


You can consolidate various types of debts, such as credit card debt, personal loans, medical bills, or even student loans in some cases.


Are there any risks involved with using a home equity loan for debt consolidation?


Yes, there are risks involved. Since your home is used as collateral, failing to make payments on a home equity loan can result in foreclosure. It’s important to assess your financial situation and ensure you can afford the loan’s repayments before proceeding.


How much can I borrow with a home equity loan?


The amount you can borrow depends on various factors, such as the value of your home and the amount of equity you have. Lenders typically allow borrowers to borrow up to 80% of their home’s appraised value minus any existing mortgage balance.

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