How to qualify for the lowest home equity line of credit rates
Please note: Discover® Home Loans offers a home equity loan product, but does not offer HELOCs.
A HELOC, or home equity line of credit, is a loan that allows you to borrow against the equity in your home.
This can be a great option if you need to borrow a large sum because the interest rates on HELOCs are typically lower than those on other types of loans.
To get the lowest rates on a HELOC, you'll need to meet certain qualifications, including having an excellent credit score and a low DTI ratio. If you meet these qualifications, there are several ways to get low HELOC rates.
What to know about getting the lowest HELOC rates
- HELOCs allow homeowners to tap into their home equity and receive cash.
- Credit scores, DTI, and LTV all impact HELOC rates.
- Because HELOCs are variable rate, rates and monthly payments can change over time.
Before looking for the lowest HELOC rates, note that you need to have enough home equity to qualify for a HELOC.
Home equity is the percentage of your home's value that you own outright. To calculate your home equity, subtract the amount you still owe on your mortgage from the total value of your home.
While qualifying for a HELOC requires existing home equity, good credit scores, and a low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, getting the lowest HELOC rates comes with stricter requirements.
Beyond these factors, finding the lowest HELOC rates can also depend on the lender you choose, the terms of the HELOC, and external market factors.
What is a low HELOC interest rate?
Because HELOC rates vary based on many factors, and because rates can change overnight, there is no set-in-stone "low" HELOC interest rate.
For example, while an interest rate of 6.5% might be relatively low today, the same rate could be considered incredibly high in the future. Similarly, a 6.5% interest rate could look like a steal if rates increase in the future.
So, while a HELOC rate might look good today, external factors could impact what a low HELOC rate is in the future. Fluctuating rates are normal, so if you're ready to get a HELOC, home equity loan, or similar mortgage, you might not want to wait too long for rates to drop because they could take years to do so.
Typically, qualified homeowners with higher credit scores and lower DTI ratios will be able to get the lowest rates.1
Keep in mind that while meeting these qualifications helps you get the lowest possible HELOC rate, there is no guarantee that you will receive the absolute lowest rate available.
It is important to compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best deal.
Factors that lead to low-interest HELOC rates
Several factors that can lead to low HELOC interest rates. Some of the most important factors include the following:
Credit scores are one of the most important factors lenders look at when deciding whether to offer a HELOC and at what rate.
A high credit score indicates that you are a low-risk borrower. This means that lenders are more likely to think you will repay your loan on time, and so they will typically offer you lower rates.
Maintaining a good or great credit score can help you qualify for the lowest HELOC rates. Paying bills on time, keeping a low credit utilization, and having open lines of credit – including a mortgage – can help improve your credit score.
Your income is another important factor that lenders look at when deciding whether to offer a HELOC and at what rate. A high income indicates that you can afford your monthly payments, leading to lower HELOC rates.
Aside from your primary source of income, you can always find a secondary source to increase your total income. This can help lower your potential HELCO rates even further.
Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is the relationship between your total debt obligations and income. For example, if you earn $5,000 a month and have $1,500 in monthly obligations (including your current mortgage payment), then your DTI would be 30%. Typically, lenders like to see a DTI ratio of 36% or lower, with lower DTI ratios getting access to better rates.
You can improve your DTI ratio by paying off existing debts or by increasing your income.
Lenders also look at your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio when determining HELOC rates. Your LTV ratio is determined by dividing your loan value by the value of your home. For example, a $350,000 home with a $250,000 mortgage would have an LTV ratio of 71%. As with DTI, lower LTV ratios can mean lower HELOC rates.
Federal interest rates
The Federal Reserve's Federal Funds Rate is one of the most important factors that impact HELOC rates.
When the Funds Rate goes up, HELOC rates also typically go up. This is because lenders need to adjust the rates they offer to match changes made by the Federal Reserve.
Higher rates will likely mean higher HELOC rates in the near term. When economic conditions improve, the Fed will likely lower their rate, leading to lower HELOC rates.
Will HELOC interest rates go lower or higher?
In an economic environment where the Federal Reserve is fighting inflation, signs can suggest higher HELOC rates. However, just because average HELOC rates could move higher doesn’t mean that the rate available to you will keep increasing.
One factor of HELOCs to keep in mind is the variable interest rate. Because HELOCs usually come with variable interest rates, the interest you pay on a HELOC could change.
If rates continue trending higher, that will mean higher monthly payments. If rates drop over time, you could end up saving money as the HELOC rate changes.
Trying to time increases and drops in interest rates can be a tricky game. It's impossible to predict exactly when interest rates will go up or down, so it may be best to focus on factors you can control, like credit score and DTI.
Can I get a fixed-rate HELOC?
While a fixed-rate HELOC is rare, it can be a good option to avoid the uncertainty of variable interest rates.
With a fixed-rate HELOC, your monthly payments and overall cost will remain the same over the life of the loan. Fixed rates can be helpful if you want predictability in your monthly budget.
If you're interested in securing a fixed interest rate, a home equity loan from Discover might be better than a HELOC. Like HELOCs, home equity loans tap into home equity to provide you with funds.
The two loans have some differences, with variable rates vs. fixed rates being one. Most home equity loans come with a fixed rate, meaning the interest rate and your monthly payments remain consistent throughout the life of the loan.
Find the lowest rates available to you
If you’re ready to get started with a HELOC, home equity loan, or similar mortgage, the best thing to do is compare lenders and rates.
Each lender offers you different rates and terms, so shopping around can help you access the lowest rates available. Once you’ve compared several options, you can move forward with the best loan to fit your needs!
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