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By: AgFed Credit Union

Welcome to AgFed Credit Union's MoneyDig blog! 

Get confident about your personal finances with a number of articles, tips, advice and more.


HELOC: Your Emergency Lifeline

 Sep 01, 2021
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Unexpected expenses or emergencies can be devastating to your finances. One medical bill can set you back hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Even smaller financial problems, such as finding the money to perform repairs after a storm, can leave you without any way to make ends meet.

However, if you own your house, you have an emergency lifeline surrounding you: the equity in your home. You can tap into this equity with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) and use the money however you need.


What is Equity in a Home?

Your house has a market value. Depending on several factors, such as the home's location and the state of the real estate market, your home value may appreciate over time. When people talk about home equity, it deals with the current market value of your home.

Most homeowners take out mortgage loans when purchasing their house. The amount of your remaining mortgage is subtracted from the market value of the house. What is left over is the home's equity. You can borrow against a portion of the equity of your home and use the funds however you wish.


                Current Market Value of Your Home                        $200,000

                Current Mortgage Balance Owed                              $120,000

                Home Equity Available                                                 $80,000

In this example, you would be able to borrow a portion of the $80,000 in equity as a HELOC. The amount of the available equity that you can borrow varies by lender.


Tap into Your Equity with a HELOC

HELOC stands for "Home Equity Line of Credit." Think of a HELOC as a second mortgage being placed onto the house. The lender uses your home as collateral to provide you with the funds you need. With a HELOC, it is similar to a secured credit card since the lender decides on a set borrowing amount, such as $50,000.

You obtain this amount for a specific portion of time, usually between 5 years to 10 years (varies by lender), and you only pay back the amount you actually spend. So even though your limit is $50,000, if you only use $10,000 to pay off a medical bill, you only have to pay back the $10,000 balance. In addition, you still have the remaining $40,000 to use if you so desire.

For Example:

                HELOC Limit                                                                        $50,000

                Amount Spent                                                                   $10,000

                Balance Available                                                            $40,000

In this example, you are only required to repay the $10,000 you utilized of your HELOC. You still have $40,000 available should another emergency or unexpected expense arise.

HELOCs offer flexibility as you don't have to use the total amount that the lender provides to you. In addition, they are usually more affordable borrowing options than other types of loans.

First, your home is being used as collateral, making a HELOC a secured loan. Secured loans typically have lower rates than unsecured loans (personal loans, credit cards). Second, HELOCs have longer repayment periods (usually 5 to 10 years), which helps lower your monthly payment even more.


The Possibilities are Endless

Another great feature about a HELOC is you can use the money for just about anything, such as remodeling your home, paying for college, consolidating debts, or even funding events like a wedding or well-deserved vacation.

However, one of the greatest benefits of a HELOC is that it’s available to use when you need it. Should an emergency or unexpected event take place, such as a job loss or medical problem, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you have the funds necessary to make ends meet.

Yet, just like with any credit card, make sure only to borrow what you can reasonably pay back as you don't want to miss any payments.


We’re Here to Help!

Ready to explore how a HELOC can become your emergency financial lifeline? We’re here to help answer all your questions and walk you through the entire approval process. Email us at or give us a call at 202-479-2270.

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