Mortgage Products

Common FAQs and requirements for a second mortgage

Couple sitting on a couch and applying for a second mortgage together online

Second mortgages can be a great way of using the equity in your house to free up cash for important needs. Before you start the application process, review these FAQs and requirements related to second mortgages.

Second Mortgage FAQs

What is a second mortgage? Is it the same as a home equity loan?

A second mortgage and a home equity loan are typically two terms for the same thing. A second mortgage is a loan secured by your home where you leverage your remaining home's equity to get cash for your needs. Your home equity is the difference between the value of your home and what is still owed on the first mortgage (if you have one). For example, if the market value of your home is $300,000 and you owe $200,000 on your mortgage, you have $100,000 in home equity. Second mortgages typically have a fixed interest rate, fixed monthly payment and fixed term. Lenders often suggest that you use your home equity for things that have long-term or significant value like home improvements, debt consolidation, education expenses or other major expenses rather than for everyday or unnecessary expenses since your home secures the loan.

How much money can I take out in a second mortgage?

Generally, your first and second mortgage together have a top limit of 90 percent of the appraised market value of your home. Many lenders use what’s called a combined loan to value (CLTV) ratio. CLTV is calculated by taking your existing mortgage balance(s) plus your desired loan amount, divided by your home value:

CLTV = (Loan Amount + Mortgage Balances) / Home Value

Using the previously mentioned example, here’s how you can determine how much you can borrow:

.9 = (x + $200,000) / $300,000.

In this case, x=$70,000.

This would mean you may be able to borrow $70,000 through a home equity loan.

Some lenders, like Discover®, offer loans with less than 90% CTLV depending on your credit score. To determine your rate and monthly payment on your desired loan amount, use a resource like the home equity loan calculator from Discover.

What are the requirements of a second mortgage?

Similar to a first mortgage, during the application process, you will need to provide documentation of employment, sustained income, good financial history, credit score, your other debts and sufficient equity in your home.

Lenders will verify your employment and income information by reviewing your most recent W2 forms and recent paycheck stubs covering 30 days, if applicable. If you’re self-employed or receive income from other sources than an employer, you’ll need to provide your most recent federal income tax returns.

Your lender will obtain an automated valuation and/or conduct a formal appraisal of your home to confirm its current market value. Lenders will also access your credit report to determine your credit score. Your qualification and interest rate will be determined by all of these things in addition to other underwriting criteria.

What are the terms and payback period for a second mortgage?

Lenders assign higher risk to second mortgages than to first mortgages because first mortgages take precedence in receiving proceeds from the sale of a home in the event of foreclosure.

Because of this risk difference, second mortgages generally have somewhat higher interest rates than first mortgages, but both are usually lower than unsecured loans like personal loans or credit cards. Terms for both first and second mortgages typically go up to 30 years.

What is the difference between a home equity loan and a home equity line of credit?

A home equity loan and a home equity line of credit (HELOC) are similar in that they both use your home’s equity as collateral, are typically second mortgages and will show up on your credit report.

However, a home equity loan is a fixed amount lent to you for a fixed term with payments amortized or spread over the life of the loan. A HELOC is a loan that allows you to draw out money up to the maximum amount of a credit line over a set period of time, which is usually shorter than the term of the loan.

You don’t owe the lender anything on the HELOC until you start withdrawing from it, similar to a credit card. Once you do withdraw from the HELOC, you will begin making monthly payments. You can withdraw a lump sum once or withdraw money multiple times until you reach the maximum amount.

Do I have to get my second mortgage from the same place as my first mortgage?

No. The first and second mortgage are totally independent. Use care and research to find the best mortgage provider that gives you the rates, terms and services you need. Make sure you’re ready to provide all the required information about the first mortgage to expedite the process.

Does a second mortgage have any fees?

While fees vary by lender, Discover Home Loans does not have application fees, origination fees, appraisal fees, or cash due at closing.

Research different lenders to determine the best combination of rates, fees, and service for you.

Does a second mortgage have any tax benefits?

The mortgage interest on a second mortgage may be tax deductible depending upon how you are using the loan. Consult your tax advisor to understand all the details related to tax considerations.

Find your low,
fixed rate

Use our Rate Calculator to find the rate and monthly payment that fits your budget.


Start your application online or give us a call.

  • Weekdays 8am–Midnight ET
  • Weekends 10am–6pm ET