Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a Home equity loan?

A. An equity loan is secured by the equity you have in your homestead. Your "equity" is the value of your homestead minus any outstanding debt already secured by your homestead. In Texas we are limited to 80% of the value, not 100% like some states.

$100,000 = Value of your homestead
$ 60,000 = Mortgage (loan to purchase home)
$ 40,000 = Equity in your homestead

Texas Example:
$100,000 = Value of your homestead
$ 60,000 = Mortgage (loan to purchase home)
$ 40,000 = Equity in your homestead

**AVAILABLE is $100,000 x .80 = $80,000 - $60,000 (owing)= $20,000 available.


Q. How could I use an equity loan?
A. You could use the money for any purchase. Such as sending a child to college, paying medical expenses not covered by insurance, or starting/expanding your own business. The equity you have in your homestead is your money.

Q. Is there a limit on the amount a home owner can borrow?
A. Yes, all loans are limited to 80% of the market value of the property in Texas. For example, if a home is worth $100,000 and the balance of the homeowners mortgage is $70,000 , the homeowner would be able to borrow up to $10,000 under an equity loan. ($70,000 + $10,000 = $80,000 which is 80% of a $100,000 home.)

Q. What is an "interest only" loan? 
A. This loan can cut some house payments almost in half! You have a minimum payment per month. To pay it off you just send what principal payment per month that you are comfortable with. Some months are better then others as we all know..

Q. What is a reverse mortgage?
A. A reverse mortgage (RM) is a a method for helping house-rich, cash-poor unlock their equity and convert it into income without having to sell their homes. Unlike an equity loan, which requires a borrower to make monthly payments, a reverse mortgage borrower receives payments from a lender.

Because borrowers do not make monthly payments, they cannot default on a RM. Foreclosures are impossible by definition, they are strictly prohibited.


What is a home equity loan?
A home equity loan is a financial product that allows a borrower to use the market value of a home as collateral for a loan. Loans secured by real estate generally are considered safer by lenders, resulting in lower interest rates than for other types of loans.

Equity is easily calculated by subtracting the amount owed on the home from the current market value. For example, if a house with a market value of $100,000 has an outstanding mortgage of $30,000, the homeowner has equity of $70,000. If there were no mortgage or other type of lien on the house, the homeowner would have $100,000 in equity.



How much can I borrow?
Through home equity loans, Texans can borrow money using up to 80% of the value of their homes as collateral. Consider the example of a home valued at $100,000 with an outstanding mortgage debt of $30,000 and $70,000 worth of equity. Because homeowners are limited to borrowing no more than 80% of the home's value, the homeowner would simply calculate 80% of $100,000 ($80,000) and then subtract $30,000 to arrive at a maximum loan amount of $50,000.

Total mortgage debt, including the amount of any existing mortgages plus the projected home equity lien, cannot exceed 80% of the home's current fair market value.

Homeowners with 20% or less equity in their homes are not eligible for home equity loans.



Why can't I borrow against more than 80% of the home's value?
Texans voted to limit the loan amount to 80% to help prevent overextensions of credit and protect our economy during times of economic slowdown.



How are home equity loan interest rates determined?
Market competition and conditions determine the rates in general; the borrower's own credit history will further affect the rate offered. Home equity loans usually have lower interest rates than do other types of consumer loans, such as loans secured by personal property or loans secured simply by a borrower's signature (unsecured loans). First mortgages (the primary loan on a house) generally have the lowest interest rates. As with any financial arrangement, you should shop around to find the best deal. In the Consumer Assistance section of our Web site are links to some handy online calculators that will help you compare loan programs.



What other costs are involved?
Lenders can charge certain fees, usually called closing costs, in addition to interest. On a home equity loan, closing costs cannot exceed three percent (3%) of the principal amount borrowed. Prepaid interest, also known as points, is not subject to the 3% cap.



What if I feel a lender has overcharged me on closing costs?
As a savvy consumer, you should always carefully examine a loan agreement before signing it. Have the lender thoroughly explain the contract's fee structure; you'll discover that any points you've purchased are not considered part of the fee amount subject to the three percent limitation.

If a lender has overcharged you, you must give the lender a chance to correct the mistake (called curing the loan) before you can take legal action against them. You need to send a written request to the lender specifying the error so that the lender can issue a corrected loan agreement and refund any amounts due. 



Are there different kinds of home equity loans?
No, but a home equity loan can hold either first lien or junior lien (often called second) position.
If you own your home outright and take out a home equity loan, it will be considered a first mortgage because it is first in line to receive payment if the home is sold or a borrower defaults. If you refinance an existing first mortgage, and pledge some of your equity to receive cash in hand, you will still have just one-but larger-first mortgage. In this loan, generally called a cash out re-fi, the dollar difference between the original mortgage and the refinanced mortgage is the home equity loan amount.

A secondary mortgage is a loan secured by a house that already has at least one other mortgage or lien. Taking out a home equity loan in addition to a first mortgage places a second lien against the home. The law prohibits a homeowner from having more than one home equity loan at a time, although a homeowner may have secondary liens from other sources, such as a home improvement loan or a tax lien.



Can I set up a line of credit with my home equity?
As of September 2003, Texans can establish lines of credit using up to 50% of the value of their homes as collateral (as opposed to the 80% allowed on standard loans).



How can I use the money?
However you choose. There are no legal restrictions regarding how you use your loan proceeds.



What if I change my mind?
The law requires a 12-day waiting period from the time an application is taken AND a legally mandated written consumer rights notice is given to the borrower. For example, if a potential borrower submits an application on Monday, but doesn't receive a copy of the consumer rights notice until Wednesday, then the 12-day countdown would begin on Wednesday. The 12-day period is measured in calendar days (rather than business days) per the Home Equity Commentary issued by this office. Once the waiting period has passed, the loan can be closed. Further, the homeowner or homeowner's spouse may still cancel the loan agreement without penalty within three days after closing.


How many home equity loans can I have?
A borrower may have only one equity loan at a time. Furthermore, it cannot be refinanced more frequently than once a year. Because of this limitation, it is crucial to shop for the best terms among lenders. It is also important, as in any credit transaction, to compare the total costs of a home equity loan to other types of credit available to the consumer. For example, a borrower might not face a prepayment penalty for early payoff of a home equity loan. However, if the loan is paid off early, a home equity loan could end up being more expensive than an unsecured loan with a higher interest rate if you paid closing costs and points. To better determine the best solution to your situation, see the financial calculators in the Consumer Assistance section of our Web site for help crunching the numbers.



Why do I have to wait a year to refinance a home equity loan?
Texas voters placed this provision in the Texas Constitution as a consumer protection. Because closing costs and points are collected each time a mortgage loan is closed, generally it's not a good idea to refinance often.


Could a lender foreclose on my home if I'm late paying on a car loan or a credit card?
On a standard car loan, the car itself is the collateral, and Texas law prohibits using a person's homestead as additional collateral on the same loan. However, if a homeowner decides to take out a home equity loan to pay off credit card debts or buy a car, the home is then collateral for the home equity loan and can be foreclosed on if the homeowner does not make payments on time.



What else should I know?
It's always a sound practice to shop around for a loan, but don't fill out any applications until you've picked the company you definitely want to work with. Filling out too many applications may unduly harm your credit report.


Before you sign on the dotted line, find out what kind of experience other consumers have had with your potential lenders. Check out lenders with the Better Business Bureau.

The Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner regulates certain home equity lenders and offers a Consumer Helpline for credit-related questions at 800.538.1579. We can let you know about consumer complaints we have on file. To get more information about home equity issues or to request lender complaint files, visit our Consumer Assistance page.



A Fact Sheet on Reverse Mortgages

Until recently, there were two main ways to get cash from your home:

you could sell your home, but then you would have to move; or
you could borrow against your home, but then you would have to make monthly loan repayments.

Now reverse mortgages give you a third way of getting money from your home. And you don't have to leave your home or make regular loan repayments.

A reverse mortgage is a loan against your home that you do not have to pay back for as long as you live there. It can be paid to you all at once, as a regular monthly advance, or at times and in amounts that you choose. You pay the money back plus interest when you die, sell your home, or permanently move out of your home.

Who's Eligible

All owners of the home must apply for the reverse mortgage and sign the loan papers. All borrowers must be at least 62 years of age for most reverse mortgages. Owners generally must occupy the home as a principal residence (where they live the majority of the year).

Single family one-unit dwellings are eligible properties for all reverse mortgages. Some programs also accept 2-4 unit owner-occupied dwellings, along with some condominiums, planned unit developments, and manufactured homes. Mobile homes and cooperatives are generally not eligible.

How They Work

Reverse mortgage loans typically require no repayment for as long as you live in your home. But they must be repaid in full, including all interest and other charges, when the last living borrower dies, sells the home, or permanently moves away.

Because you make no monthly payments, the amount you owe grows larger over time. As your debt grows larger, the amount of cash you would have left after selling and paying off the loan (your "equity") generally grows smaller. But you can never owe more than your home's value at the time the loan is repaid.

Reverse mortgage borrowers continue to own their homes. So you are still responsible for property taxes, insurance, and repairs. If you fail to carry out these responsibilities, your loan could become due and payable in full.

What You Get

These loans can be paid to you all at once in a single lump sum of cash, as a regular monthly loan advance or as a credit line that lets you decide how much cash to use and when to use it. Or you may choose any combination of these payment plans.

Some reverse mortgages are offered by state and local governments. These "public sector" loans generally must be used for specific purposes, such as paying for home repairs or property taxes. Other reverse mortgages are offered by banks, mortgage companies, and savings associations. These "private sector" loans can be used for any purpose.

The amount of cash you can get from a private sector reverse mortgage generally depends on your age, your home's value and location, and the cost of the loan. The greatest cash amounts typically go to the oldest borrowers living in the most expensive homes on loans with the lowest costs.

The amount of cash you can get also depends on the specific reverse mortgage plan or program you select. The differences in available loan amounts can vary greatly from one plan to another. Most homeowners get the largest cash advances from the federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). HECM loans often provide much greater loan advances than other reverse mortgages.

What You Pay

The lowest cost reverse mortgages are offered by state and local governments. They generally have low or no loan fees, and the interest rates are typically low or moderate as well. Private sector reverse mortgages include a variety of costs. An application fee usually includes the cost of an appraisal and a credit report. Other loan costs typically include an origination fee, closing costs, insurance, and a monthly servicing fee. These costs generally can be paid with loan advances, which mean they are added to your loan balance (the amount you owe). Interest is charged on all loan advances.

Reverse mortgages are most expensive in the early years of the loan, and then become less costly over time. The cost can be very high in the short term, and is least costly if you live longer than your life expectancy. The federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is almost always the least expensive private sector reverse mortgage.

Consumers considering a private sector reverse mortgage other than a HECM should carefully consider how much more it is likely to cost before applying. Other articles in The Basics section of this web site's Reverse Mortgages information provide more details on measuring and comparing the total cost of these loans.

Taxes, Estates, and Public Benefits

Reverse mortgages may have tax consequences, affect eligibility for assistance under Federal and State programs, and have an impact on the estate and heirs of the homeowner.

An American Bar Association guide states that generally "the IRS does not consider loan advances to be income." The guide explains that if you receive SSI, Medicaid, or other public benefits loan advances are counted as "liquid assets" if you keep them in an account past the end of the calendar month in which you receive them. If you do, you could lose your eligibility for these programs if your total liquid assets (for example, money you have in savings and checking accounts) are greater than these programs allow.



Basic Loan Features

Although there are different types of reverse mortgages, all of them are similar in certain ways. Here are the features that most have in common.


With a reverse mortgage, you remain the owner of your home just like when you had a forward mortgage. You are still responsible for paying your property taxes and home-owner insurance and for making property repairs.

When the loan is over, you or your heirs must repay all of your cash advances plus interest. Reputable lenders don't want your house; they want repayment.

Financing Fees

You can use the money you get from a reverse mortgage to pay the various fees that are charged on the loan. This is called "financing" the loan costs. The costs are added to your loan balance, and you pay them back plus interest when the loan is over.

Loan Amounts

The amount of money you can get depends most on the specific reverse mortgage plan or program you select. It also depends on the kind of cash advances you choose. Some reverse mortgages cost a lot more than others, and this reduces the amount of cash you can get from them.

Within each loan program, the amounts you can get generally depend on your age and your home's value:

The older you are, the more cash you can get; and
The more your home is worth, the more cash you can get.

The specific dollar amount available to you may also depend on interest rates and closing costs on home loans in your area.

Debt Payoff

Reverse mortgages generally must be "first" mortgages, that is, they must be the primary debt against your home. So if you now owe any money on your property, you generally must either :

pay off the old debt before you get a reverse mortgage; or
pay off the old debt with the money you get from a reverse mortgage.

Most reverse mortgage borrowers pay off any home debt with a lump sum advance from their reverse mortgage. You may not have to pay off other debt against your home if the prior lender agrees to be repaid after the reverse mortgage is repaid. Generally only state or local government lending agencies are willing to consider "subordinating" their loans in this way.

Debt Limit

The debt you owe on a reverse mortgage equals all the loan advances you receive (including any you used to finance the loan or to pay off prior debt), plus all the interest that is added to your loan balance. If that amount is less than your home is worth when you pay back the loan, then you (or your estate) keep whatever amount is left over.

But if your rising loan balance ever grows to equal the value of your home, then your total debt is limited by the value of your home. Put another way, you can never owe more than what your home is worth at the time the loan is repaid. The lender may not seek repayment from your income, your other assets, or from your heirs.

(The technical term for this cap on your debt is a "non-recourse limit." It means that the lender does not have legal recourse to anything other than your home's value when seeking repayment of the loan.)


All reverse mortgages are due and payable when the last surviving borrower dies, sells the home, or permanently moves out of the home. (Typically, a "permanent move" means that neither you nor any other co-borrower has lived in your home for one continuous year.)

Reverse mortgage lenders can also require repayment at any time if you:

fail to pay your property taxes;
fail to maintain and repair your home; or
fail to keep your home insured.

These are fairly standard "conditions of default" on any mortgage. On a reverse mortgage, however, lenders generally have the option to pay for these expenses by reducing your loan advances and using the difference to pay these obligations. This is only an option, however, if you have not already used up all your available loan funds.

Other default conditions on most home loans, including reverse mortgages, include:

your declaration of bankruptcy;
your donation or abandonment of your home;
your perpetration of fraud or misrepresentation;
if a government agency needs your property for public use (for example, to build a highway); or
if a government agency condemns your property (for example, for health or safety reasons).

Changes that could affect the security of the loan for the lender can also make reverse mortgages payable. For example:

renting out part or all of your home;
adding a new owner to your home's title;
changing your home's zoning classification; or
taking out new debt against your home.

You must read the loan documents carefully to make certain you understand all the conditions that can cause your loan to become due.


After closing a reverse mortgage, you have three days to reconsider your decision. If for any reason you decide you do not want the loan, you can cancel it. But you must do this within three business days after closing. "Business days" include Saturdays, but not Sundays or legal public holidays.

If you decide to cancel, you must do it in writing, using the form provided by the lender, or by letter, fax, or telegram. It must be hand delivered, mailed, faxed, or filed with a telegraph company before midnight of the third business day. You cannot cancel by telephone or in person. It must be written.


HELOC stands for home equity line of credit, or simply "home equity line." It is a loan set up as a line of credit for some maximum draw, rather than for a fixed dollar amount. 

For example, using a standard mortgage you might borrow $150,000, which would be paid out in its entirety at closing. Using a HELOC instead, you receive the lenderís promise to advance you up to $150,000, in an amount and at a time of your choosing. You can draw on the line by writing a check, using a special credit card, or in other ways.

HELOCs are convenient for funding intermittent needs, such as paying off credit cards, making home improvements, or paying college tuition. You draw and pay interest on only what you need.

Upfront costs are also relatively low. On a $150,000 standard loan, settlement costs may range from $ 2-5,000, unless the borrower pays an interest rate high enough for the lender to pay some or all of it. On a $150,000 HELOC, costs seldom exceed $1,000 and in many cases are paid by the lender without a rate adjustment.

Most HELOCs are second mortgages. An increasing number, however, are first mortgages, as yours would be if you used it to refinance your existing first mortgage. Using a HELOC as a substitute for a first mortgage is risky, for reasons discussed in a moment.

Because the balance of a HELOC may change from day to day, depending on draws and repayments, interest on a HELOC is calculated daily rather than monthly. For example, on a standard 6% mortgage, interest for the month is .06 divided by 12 or .005, multiplied by the loan balance at the end of the preceding month. If the balance is $100,000, the interest payment is $500.

On a 6% HELOC, interest for a day is.06 divided by 365 or .000164, which is multiplied by the average daily balance during the month. If this is $100,000, the daily interest is $16.44, and over a 30-day month interest amounts to $493.15; over a 31 day month, it is $509.59.

HELOCs have a draw period, during which the borrower can use the line, and a repayment period during which it must be repaid. Draw periods are usually 5 to 10 years, during which the borrower is only required to pay interest. Repayment periods are usually 10 to 20 years, during which the borrower must make payments to principal equal to the balance at the end of the draw period divided by the number of months in the repayment period. Some HELOCs, however, require that the entire balance be repaid at the end of the draw period, so the borrower must refinance at that point.

The major disadvantage of the HELOC is its exposure to interest rate risk. All HELOCs are adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), but they are much riskier than standard ARMs. Changes in the market impact a HELOC very quickly. If the prime rate changes on April 30, the HELOC rate will change effective May 1. An exception is HELOCs that have a guaranteed introductory rate, but these hold for only a few months. Standard ARMs, in contrast, are available with initial fixed-rate periods as long as 10 years.

Note: Some HELOCs are convertible into fixed-rate loans at the time of a drawing. This is a useful option for borrowers who draw a large amount at one time.

HELOC rates are tied to the prime rate, which some argue is more stable than the indexes used by standard ARMs. In 2003, this certainly seemed to be the case, since the prime rate changed only once, to 4% on June 27. However, as recently as 2001, the prime rate changed 11 times and ranged between 4.75% and 9%. In 1980, it changed 38 times and ranged between 11.25% and 20%.

In addition, most standard ARMs have rate adjustment caps, which limit the size of any rate change. And they have maximum rates 5-6% above the initial rates, which puts them roughly at 8% to 11%. HELOCs have no adjustment caps, and the maximum rate is 18% except in North Carolina, where it is 16%.

Donít compare the APR on a HELOC with the APR on a standard loan because they mean different things. The APR on a HELOC is the interest rate, period. Among other things, it does not reflect points or other upfront costs, as the APR on standard loans does. Requiring lenders to show the interest rate on a HELOC twice is a strange way to protect borrowers, but there it is.



***H.E.L.O.C shopping tips


No, shopping for a HELOC is very different from shopping for a standard mortgage. In most respects, it is simpler, if you know what you are doing.

A HELOC is a line of credit, as opposed to a loan for a specified sum, and it is always adjustable rate. The bad news about that, which I discuss in What Is a HELOC, is that HELOCs provide borrowers with much less protection against interest rate increases than standard ARMs.

The good news is that HELOCs are easier to shop for. The major reason is that important features are the same from one lender to another.

*The interest rate on all the HELOCs is tied to the prime rate, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. In contrast, standard ARMs use a number of different indexes (LIBOR, COFI, CODI, and so on) which careful shoppers have to evaluate.

*The interest rate on the HELOCs adjust the first day of the month following a change in the prime rate, which could be just a few days. (Exceptions are those HELOCs with an introductory guaranteed rate, but these hold only for 1 to 6 months). Standard ARMs, in contrast, fix the rate at the beginning for periods ranging from a month to 10 years.

*The HELOCs have no limit on the size of a rate adjustment, and most of them have a maximum rate of 18% except in North Carolina, where it is 16%. Standard ARMs may have different rate adjustment caps and different maximum rates.

The critical feature of a HELOC that is not the same from one lender to another, and which should be the major focus of smart shoppers, is the margin. This is the amount that is added to the prime rate to determine the HELOC rate. Many if not most lenders do not volunteer the margin unless they are asked.

Here is what can happen when you donít ask. Borrower X, who provided me with his history, was offered an introductory rate of 4.5% for 3 months. He was told that after the three months the rate "would be based on the prime rate." At the time the loan closed, the prime rate was 4%. Three months later, the prime rate was still 4%, but the rate on his loan was raised to 9.5%. It turned out that the margin, which the borrower never asked about, was 5.5%!

WARNING: Do not assume that the difference between your HELOC start rate and the prime rate is the margin. It may or may not be. Ask. Bear in mind, as well, that the margin varies with credit score, ratio of total mortgage debt to property value, documentation and other factors. You need the margin on your deal, not the margin they are advertising which is their best deal.

Truth in Lending (TIL) on a HELOC is a travesty. It requires that borrowers be given an APR, which is the same as the interest rate. The borrower described above was given an APR of 4.5% early on, and when his rate jumped to 9.5% he was told that his new APR was 9.5%. TIL does not require disclosure of the margin.

If the HELOC will be used to meet future contingencies rather than to refinance an existing mortgage, the shopper needs to know whether there is a minimum draw at closing, or a minimum average loan balance. Lenders donít make any money unless the HELOC is used, but they are not always forthcoming about this. Borrowers who are uncertain about future usage donít want to be forced to borrow money they wonít need.

Last and least important are the fees. Upfront fees are the same types as on standard mortgages, except that HELOC lenders seldom charge points, and third party fees tend to be small and are often paid by the lender. In addition, there are some uniquely HELOC charges that you should factor in. These include an annual fee, usually $25-$75 and often waived the first year; and a cancellation fee, perhaps $350-$500, which is usually waived if the account stays open for 3 years.

Here is your checklist: make sure the figures you get apply to your deal.

1. Introductory rate and period

2. Margin

3. Minimum draw

4. Required average balance

5. Upfront lender fees

6. Upfront third party fees

7. Annual fee

8. Cancellation fee  


A Short History of Texas Home Equity loans.

We were the last State to be able to do these loans. For 150 years, Texas has banned home equity loans. On November 4, 1997, the voters of Texas overturned this ban on home equity loans by approving a Constitutional Amendment to the Texas Constitution. Beginning January 1, 1998, home equity loans were permitted in Texas.  Texas is the second-most-populous state and Texans have more than $200 billion of equity in their homes. Many home equity lenders are aggressively entering the Texas home equity loan market. Other than banks, savings and loans, savings banks, credit unions and under certain circumstances HUD approved lenders, home equity loans may only be made by mortgage companies licensed in Texas with a Texas Regulated Lending License. Since Texas is the last state in the Union to offer home equity loans, the potential growth for the second mortgage business is enormous.

For more than 160 years, access to the home equity that owners had built up in their residences was largely untapped. As a direct result of the Panic of 1837, Texas prohibited the forced sale of homesteads for all but a very limited number of reasons. When Texas became a state, these protections became part of the state constitution and effectively barred foreclosing on a personís residence for reasons other than non-payment of taxes, the original mortgage or a home improvement loan. These same provisions also effectively barred tapping into home equity for purposes other than home improvement.

But on November 4, 1997, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing more leeway in home equity lending and for reverse mortgages.[3] These loans became available to Texans in 1998, but some technical issues limited the availability of home equity loans for homesteads larger than one acre and from reverse mortgages. Subsequent amendments addressed these legal concerns.[4]

Changes in the Texas Constitution expanded the conditions under which homeowners could obtain a traditional home equity loan. These closed-end loans extend for a specified length of time and generally require repayment of interest and principal in equal monthly installments. Interest rates on these loans are ordinarily fixed for the life of the loan.

 Home Equity Lending in Texas is huge.

Since changing the Texas constitution to allow wider use of home equity loans, Texans have steadily increased their reliance on these loans. According to American Housing Survey (AHS) data on nine Texas metropolitan areas that cover 68 percent of Texasí owner-occupied homes, only 2.5 percent of Texas homeowners had any form of home equity loan in 1997, substantially less than the 14.5 percent for all U.S. homeowners outside of Texas that same year.

By 1999, the proportion of Texas homeowners with a home equity loan had risen to 4.5 percent. While this represents nearly a doubling of home equity loan usage in just two years, this was still slightly less than the estimated 5 percent rate for home equity loan usage in the nation and substantially less than the 12.9 percent estimated by the AHS that year for both home equity loans and lines of credit.

By 2001, the proportion of Texas households with home equity loans had reached 6.4 percent. At this level, the usage in Texas actually exceeded the usage rate of fixed-term closed-end loans in the U.S., indicating that Texans may have reached the saturation point with traditional home equity loans. These loans typically are written for a set amount to be repaid in equal installments over a specified time, just like a traditional mortgage.

Based on a survey conducted for the Comptroller of Public Accounts of home equity lenders in Texas, from 1998 to 2000, the amount of the average home equity loan was about $36,750. In 2001 and 2002, the average home equity loan jumped to more than $47,000.[5]

Closing the Gap

Although Texansí reliance on home equity loans has grown substantially since the passage of the constitutional amendment, further gains may be unlikely. Other statesí average usage of 14 percent in 2001 included both traditional home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, financial instruments not now available to Texas homeowners. The possibility that the usage rate of traditional home equity loans in Texas exceeded the usage rate of similar loans in the nation probably indicates that without the home equity line of credit option, more homeowners are opting for the fixed term loansótheir only other choice.

During much of the 1990s, about 8 percent of U.S. homeowners had a home equity line of credit whereas about 5 percent of homeowners had a traditional loan.[6] In 2001, AHS data indicated an estimated 8.4 percent of homeowners had a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and 5.7 percent had traditional home equity loans.

This newer form of home equity lending has become the preferred choice by homeowners in other states. A HELOC is a revolving account that permits borrowing from time to time, at the account holderís discretion, up to a set credit limit. HELOCs also typically have more flexible repayment schedules than traditional home equity loans and have a variable interest rate.

Most consumers think home equity lines of credit are more convenient than traditional home equity loans. While about 40 percent of consumers cited the tax advantages of both types of home equity credit as an important consideration, 43 percent of HELOC users cited convenience of use as an advantage, compared with only 1 percent of those using the traditional home equity loans.[7]

Many of the major lenders in Texas make HELOC loans to homeowners in other states. Their experiences underscore how attractive this option is to consumers. Figure 2 presents the percentage of the amount of home equity loans and lines of credit written in Georgia, Florida and California by three major Texas lenders.[8] About 88 percent of the consumers in these states choose HELOCs compared with about 12 percent choosing traditional home equity loans.



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