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Loans Updated: 20 Apr 2018

What is a HELOC and how does it work?

Among the many perks of homeownership is the equity you build over time as your home appreciates and your total loan amount decreases. Equity is an asset that you can use in a variety of ways, including borrowing against it in the form of a Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC.

If you’re a homeowner and in the market for a loan, a HELOC may be the right option for you. To find out more, read on to understand what a HELOC is and how it works.

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A HELOC is a line of credit that revolves - similar to a credit card - and can be used for large expenses, unexpected expenses, home remodeling, debt consolidation(1) or the like. Like a credit card, each time you repay some or all of the money used from the HELOC, your credit line is correspondingly replenished.

A HELOC is a secured loan in that you are borrowing against the equity that has been built in your house. Typically, lenders will let you borrow from 80 to 95 percent of your home’s equity.

When you obtain a HELOC, you are given a draw period, or length of time during which your line of credit will stay open. Draw times typically average 10 years. After the draw period is over, you enter into the repayment period, which can be anywhere from 10 to 20 years.


Borrowers apply for HELOCs from a lender. The lender will assess the borrower’s home LTV (loan-to-value) ratio, as well as their income, credit score and other debt. Like a home loan, HELOCs - once approved - include closing costs. Borrowers should be sure to check with multiple lenders to understand how their closing costs might work, as rules - and specific fees - may vary.

HELOCs typically have a variable rate which, in large part, will be based on the current prime rate. This means that when rates rise - as they have been lately - the rate on a HELOC will rise accordingly. Even so, the rate on a HELOC is usually lower than credit card rates.

Once the HELOC has been approved, the borrower begins the draw period. During this time, any money borrowed from the line of credit is repaid each month by interest only payments, which may mean a lower monthly payment. When the draw period is over, the borrower moves to the repayment period, during which time the monthly payment begins to include principal plus interest for any money borrowed, meaning the monthly payment may increase.


BBVA Compass offers a variety of options for home lending, including HELOCs. To read more about BBVA Compass HELOCs, including a special limited time offer, click here.

  1. Debt Consolidation: The relative benefits you receive from loan consolidation will vary depending on your individual circumstances. If your Home Equity Loan has a longer term than the bills you are consolidating, you may not realize savings over the entire terms of your Home Equity Loan or Line.