Pamela McArdle's Blog
If you’re a newer homeowner, odds are you don’t really “own” your home outright. Rather, you likely have equity in your home.
In this article, we’re going to talk about what home equity is, how to use it to your advantage, and things you should avoid using your home equity toward.
What is home equity?
Unless you’re one of the lucky few who paid for their homes in cash, you probably took out a mortgage. As you pay off that mortgage you build equity.
Home equity is essentially the value of a property that a homeowner has at their disposal due to paying back part or all of their mortgage.
However, there’s another factor at play in home equity, and that’s market value.
Since the housing market fluctuates, the value of your home does as well, and as a result, your home equity changes with the market value of a house. That might sound worrying, but the good news is that due to something called appreciation.
In the same way that the cost of living tends to rise each year with inflation, so do housing prices. However, appreciation isn’t the only factor at play in the valuation of your house. As your home ages, it will likely need some renovations, which could decrease the home value.
Generally speaking, however, your equity achieves a net gain as you pay your mortgage and the value appreciates.
Now that we know why equity can be so beneficial as an asset, let’s talk about ways to build it.
The best way to build home equity is to repay your home loan. However, more than simply repaying, you’ll want to repay in the fewest number of years to avoid paying more in interest. The longer you take to pay your mortgage, the more interest accrues that could have been used toward other investments.
The second way to increase equity is one we mentioned before--market fluctuation--namely appreciation. To improve the chances of getting a high appraisal of your home, it’s important to keep up with maintenance and make smart renovation choices that will have a high return on investment.
Using home equity
The best use of home equity is to leave it be and increase its value over time. However, that isn’t always possible for all of us. Since many of us need to move before repaying our full mortgage, equity allows homebuyers to use their equity toward their next mortgage.
Another option is to take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Ideally, you’ll only use these loans if you’re planning on using the loan money to increase the value of the home via home improvement projects.
Borrowing against your home equity does come with risks. Since you are putting your share of your home on the line, there is a chance of your home being foreclosed on if you don’t repay the home equity loan. However, lenders typically seek other methods of repayment or settlement before foreclosure.