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HELOC vs. Home Equity Loans


A couple researches the benefits of a home equity line of credit on their laptop.

Evaluating the wide selection of financial products for home equity access can often feel overwhelming. With so many available options, homeowners may struggle to determine which one aligns best with their financial goals and personal circumstances.

Fortunately, there's a silver lining to this cloud of financial jargon and decision-making. Two of the most popular pathways—home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans—offer solid solutions for converting home equity into usable funds.

Read on to learn more about these popular borrowing options so you can make a more informed decision. 

What Is Home Equity?

The equity in your home represents the value of your ownership stake. Lenders calculate it by taking the current market value of your home and subtracting any mortgage debt or other loans leveraged against it.

For example, if your home is worth $300,000 on the market right now and you have $100,000 left on your mortgage, your equity would be $200,000. This means you have a 66% ownership share in the home. At OUCU, you can borrow up to 95% of your loan-to-value. That’s more than many other institutions.

Over time, you build additional value as you pay down your mortgage principal and your home potentially appreciates in market value. This growing pool of equity can provide financial flexibility if adequately utilized.

Tapping into equity should be approached thoughtfully and tied to clear goals. For example, significant expenses like home improvements, medical bills, college tuition, or consolidating high-interest debt are situations where leveraging equity may make sense financially.

The key is using equity intentionally and only accessing amounts aligned with prudent financial planning. Borrowing too much against your home or using the funds for risky investments could put your home at risk. Carefully evaluating your options allows you to intelligently leverage equity as a strategic asset.

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Understanding Your Options

HELOCs and home equity loans comprise most home equity lending due to their competitive rates, reasonable fees, and easier qualification process. While both options have advantages, there are also key structural differences to consider.

Understanding how these products compare across areas like repayment plans, interest rates, and costs is critical in determining which one aligns best with your financial situation.

Comparing HELOCs and Home Equity Loans

When paying back borrowed money, HELOCs and home equity loans take vastly different approaches that can dramatically impact your financial plans. 

Repayment Structure

A major HELOC benefit is its flexible repayment options, such a 10-year draw period. This makes it a versatile financial tool for homeowners. After this period ends, the loan switches to a repayment phase that often lasts 10 years, during which time you must pay back both the principal and interest.

Conversely, home equity loans require fixed monthly payments (principal and interest) from the start. The payment schedule is consistent throughout the loan's term, typically 5 to 15 years.

Interest Rates

The interest rates for HELOCs are usually variable and tied to market rates, like the prime rate. This can lead to fluctuations in your monthly payments, making it crucial to consider potential rate increases over time.

Conversely, home equity loans come with fixed interest rates. This ensures your payments remain the same throughout the loan's term, offering predictability in budgeting and protection against rising interest rates. One of the key benefits of a home equity line of credit is its variable interest rate, which can be beneficial in a declining rate market.

Access to Funds

With a HELOC, the revolving credit line offers the flexibility to borrow, repay, and borrow again, similar to how a credit card functions. It’s particularly advantageous for ongoing expenses or projects with no fixed costs.

Home equity loans provide a one-time lump sum, making them ideal for immediate, large expenses where the total cost is known. This includes debt consolidation, major home renovations, or significant medical expenses.

Costs and Fees

HELOCs generally have lower upfront fees. Home equity loans usually have higher initial costs but lack recurring fees in the long run. Evaluating total costs matters when determining which option works better for your situation. OUCU has no recurring transaction fees and annual maintenance charges

Potential Tax Benefits


HELOC interest may be tax deductible in certain situations such as using the funds for home improvements or purchasing a new primary residence. Similarly, home equity loans used for qualified home purchases or improvements may allow the interest to be deducted from your taxes.

However, it’s essential to consult a tax advisor for advice about your financial situation before you make a decision one way or the other.

Application Process


The HELOC application process typically involves getting approved for a variable interest rate tied to market indexes. Lenders assess your credit score, existing home equity, and other qualifications to determine the terms and credit limit offered.

Home equity loans generally have a more straightforward application, with pre-set fixed interest rates based primarily on your credit score and available home equity. The documentation and timeframe may more closely resemble applying for a first mortgage.

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Comparison Table

The following table provides a summarized version of the information in the section above.



Home Equity Loan

Repayment Structure

Draw period of 10 years followed by a repayment phase of 10 years with principal and interest.

Fixed monthly payments from the start, including principal and interest, typical range is 5 to 15 years.

Interest Rates

Usually variable, tied to market rates (e.g. prime rate). Can result in monthly payment fluctuations.

Fixed interest rates, ensuring consistent payments throughout the loan term.

Access to Funds

Revolving credit line. Allows you to borrow, repay, and borrow again, like a credit card. Suited for ongoing expenses or projects.

A one-time lump sum is ideal for immediate, large expenses like home renovations, debt consolidation, or medical expenses.

Costs and Fees

May have lower upfront costs but may include transaction fees and annual maintenance charges.

Tend to have higher initial costs (e.g. closing costs) but generally do not have ongoing fees. It's important to consider these costs in the total loan expense.

Tax Deductibility

Interest payments on HELOCs may be tax-deductible if the funds are used for home-related expenses (consult a tax advisor for details).

Interest payments on home equity loans may also be tax-deductible if used for qualified home improvements or purchases (consult a tax advisor for details).

Application Process

Typically, it involves a variable interest rate application process, and approval may depend on credit score and home equity value.

Generally, it has a straightforward application process with fixed interest rates, often based on creditworthiness and home equity value.

Deciding Which Option Suits You

Determining if a HELOC or home equity loan better fits your situation involves carefully weighing a few key factors:

Intended Use of Funds

Consider what you need the money for. Ongoing or variable expenses like home improvements may benefit more from a HELOC's flexible access. Conversely, one-time big-ticket items like debt consolidation may warrant a fixed-amount home equity loan.

Cash Flow Preferences

HELOCs have lower predictable monthly costs during the interest-only draw-down period. However, payments spike later when the principal repayment begins. Home equity loans have consistent installments covering interest and principal from the start. Evaluate your budget trade-offs.

Rate and Payment Certainty

Home equity loans lock in a fixed interest rate for the entire repayment timeline. HELOCs fluctuate based on market indicators like the prime rate. Think about your risk tolerance for shifts in monthly costs.

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Navigating Your Home Equity Options

HELOCs and home equity loans offer two effective ways to utilize your home's equity for financial goals. Understanding the differences and how each option aligns with your goals is key to making an informed decision.

At OUCU Financial, we're more than just a lender. We're your ally in turning home equity into real possibilities. Whether planning a home renovation project, looking to consolidate debt, or preparing for future financial needs, we’re here to guide you through every step.

We'll help you compare the intricacies of each option and understand the impact on your long-term financial picture. Click below to learn more about our attractive HELOC and home equity loan options.

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