What's the Difference Between a Home Equity Loan and a Home Equity Line of Credit?


Red house, small white porch


When homeowners seek to leverage the equity in their property, they often consider two popular options: a home equity loan and a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Both financial products allow homeowners to tap into their home's value, but they differ significantly in structure, usage, and financial implications. Understanding these differences, along with the pros and cons of each, can help homeowners make informed decisions about which option best suits their needs.


Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan, sometimes referred to as a second mortgage, provides a lump sum of money based on the equity you have in your home. This loan is repaid over a fixed term with regular, equal payments that cover both principal and interest.


Pros of Home Equity Loans

  1. Fixed Interest Rates Home equity loans typically come with fixed interest rates, providing stability and predictability in monthly payments.
  2. Lump Sum Disbursement The entire loan amount is disbursed at once, which is ideal for large, one-time expenses such as home renovations or debt consolidation.
  3. Structured Repayment With a fixed repayment schedule, borrowers can plan their finances with certainty.


Cons of Home Equity Loans

  1. Upfront Costs These loans may come with higher upfront costs, including origination fees, appraisal fees, and closing costs.
  2. Fixed Amount Borrowers cannot draw additional funds after the loan is disbursed, which can be a limitation if unexpected expenses arise.
  3. Risk of Foreclosure Defaulting on a home equity loan can lead to foreclosure, as the loan is secured by the home.


Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home, up to a certain limit. Similar to a credit card, borrowers can draw from and repay the line of credit as needed during the draw period, which is typically 5-10 years. After the draw period ends, the repayment period begins, lasting 10-20 years.


Pros of HELOCs

  1. Flexibility: Borrowers can draw and repay funds multiple times, which is ideal for ongoing expenses or projects with variable costs.
  2. Lower Initial Costs: HELOCs often have lower initial costs compared to home equity loans, though there may be fees for maintaining the line of credit.
  3. Interest-Only Payments: During the draw period, borrowers may have the option to make interest-only payments, reducing initial financial burden.


Cons of HELOCs

  1. Variable Interest Rates: HELOCs usually have variable interest rates, which can lead to fluctuating monthly payments and overall interest costs.
  2. Potential for Overspending: The revolving nature of a HELOC can tempt borrowers to overspend, leading to higher debt levels.
  3. Risk of Rate Increases: Interest rates can increase significantly over time, especially if tied to market conditions, potentially making repayment more difficult.


Key Considerations

When choosing between a home equity loan and a HELOC, homeowners should consider their financial situation, the purpose of the loan, and their ability to manage debt. Those with a clear, one-time expense and a preference for stable payments might find a home equity loan more suitable. Conversely, those needing flexibility for ongoing expenses or who anticipate fluctuating financial needs may benefit from a HELOC.



Both home equity loans and HELOCs provide valuable opportunities for homeowners to access funds by leveraging their home equity. However, they cater to different financial needs and come with distinct advantages and disadvantages. By carefully evaluating their financial goals and understanding the specific features of each loan type, homeowners can make informed decisions that align with their long-term financial plans.