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DANGER! Home Equity Lines & Inflation

DANGER! Home Equity Lines & InflationA borrower reached out to me for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) recently, and I referred her to a local bank that we work with that offers the best service and rates.

She came back to me the next day and said: “my friends say I should consider a cash-out refi instead…”

And – I thought, “ouch, I may be the worst loan advisor ever…” – b/c I should have been as smart as her friends.


This is a quick reminder that ALL HELOCs are adjustable rate loans.

TIED TO PRIME RATE: They are tied to Prime Rate – which has been 3.25% for years and very stable for the last 30 years.

MARGINS: The higher LTV (above 85%) HELOCs also have “margins” that range from 0.5% to 5%, depending on credit score and loan amount. As a reminder, a HELOC borrower’s rate is calculated by adding the margin to Prime Rate.

LIFE CAP: Most HELOCs have very high “Life Caps” (the maximum allowable rate) too – often as high as 18%!

LONG STORY SHORT: Borrowers looking for an equity line may be better off with a cash-out refi, depending on the amount of cash needed, even if they end up with a higher rate. This is b/c significant inflation is on the horizon and inflation almost always pushes up interest rates and Prime Rate in particular (Prime was over 20% in 1981 and well over 8% for most of the 1980s).

Cash-out refis come with 30-year fixed- rates that will remain the same no matter what inflation does.


Borrowers may also want to consider Private Mortgage Insurance instead of 1st/2nd combo (with a HELOC 2nd) financing now too – in an effort to avoid variable rate debt. PMI can be eliminated in a few years in many cases, with only the fixed-rate loan remaining.


Sometimes HELOCs are still necessary to make financing work, and they are not all bad – particularly now while Prime Rate remains at 3.25%*.

But, borrowers should have plans to pay them off as quickly as possible.

A $200,000 HELOC might only have a $667 “interest-only” payment now, but if inflation sets in and rates hit double digits that payment could easily jump to $2,000 per month.


And finally, we just had a borrower lock in a refi with a higher fixed rate b/c he wanted to consolidate his 1st and 2nd ($400,000 HELOC) into one loan – b/c he was so concerned about inflation.

For HELOC borrowers with high balances that they cannot pay off in the near future, a consolidation loan is probably a prudent move – even if the rate is a bit higher.

Jay Voorhees
Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
(855) 855-4491 | DRE# 1197176, NMLS# 310167

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