Home equity loans and HELOC loans provide you with cash using the equity you have built up in your home.

Whether you want to consolidate debt or make renovations to your house, these refinance programs are a great option.

In this article, we will cover home equity loans and HELOC loans. What they are, who qualifies, and alternative options.

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What Is a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan is a loan that uses the borrower’s home equity as collateral. It does not replace the first lien mortgage, and instead, it takes a second position.

Generally, you can only borrow up to 75 to 80% of the loan-to-value ratio in your home.

This means that if your current first lien mortgage is at 80 percent of the home value, you may not qualify. However, if you only owe 60 percent of your home’s value on your current first lien. You may be able to borrow another 20 percent of the cost through a home equity loan.

Home Equity Loan Requirements

2020 Home Equity Loan Requirements

• 680 minimum credit score

• No late payments in the last 12 months

• Loan-to-value ratio must be 70% or lower

• Maximum 45% debt-to-income ratio

• Borrow up to 80% of the home's market value

What is a HELOC?

A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, works like a credit card where you have an account where you can withdraw funds from an account on an as-needed basis.

One of the benefits of HELOC over a home-equity loan is that you are only charged interest on the money you borrow.

Whereas a home equity loan, you are given a lump sum of money and charged interest on all of it. You cannot borrow more than the credit limit and will have to repay the loan in monthly installments.

Pros and Cons of Home Equity Loans

The Benefits

In some cases, a lender is more lenient on your credit rating when you have collateral that you can tie to the loan, and home equity is an exceptional asset to use as collateral. This means that even if you do not qualify for an unsecured installment loan at your bank, you may be eligible for a home equity loan with bad credit.

The Disadvantages

As beneficial as a home equity loan is for those who need extra money and have less-than-perfect credit, there are some disadvantages to consider.

There is considerable risk of turning your home equity into debt to pay off credit cards. You will be turning unsecured credit card debt into debt secured by your house. If you ever default on the payments, you risk losing your home.



  • Pay interest only on the amount borrowed

  • Low interest rates

  • Get cash to make renovations or repairs

  • Pay off and borrow at any time

  • No fees to take out cash

  • Increase the value of your property

  • Reduces your equity each time you use it

  • Has a variable rate

  • Could face foreclosure if you're unable to make payments

  • Closing costs between 2% - 5% of the credit line

Home Equity Loans vs. HELOC

Home Equity Loan


Interest rate


Variable interest rate 


One-time lump sum

Line of credit to borrow from as needed

Closing costs

2% - 5% of the loan amount

2% - 5% of the line of credit


Principle & interest

Interest-only option

How Much Home Equity You Need

Most lenders will allow you to borrow up to 80% of the loan-to-value ratio or LTV. You should have at least a 30% equity stake in your home to qualify.

For example: If you bought your home for $200,000 and your FHA home loan has a balance of $100,000.

You would be able to get a home equity loan for $60,000. $160,000 is the new total loan amount on the $200,000 property or loan-to-value ratio of 80%.

There is a minimum loan amount for home equity loans. Typically you will need at least a 30% equity stake in your property, receiving 10% of the original loan amount.

What to Expect When Applying for a Home Equity Loan

Applying for a home equity loan is very similar to applying for a first lien mortgage loan.

If you remember when you applied for your home mortgage when you purchased your home or last refinanced your mortgage, you may remember that this was a long process that required a significant amount of paperwork. Tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, and other documents will be required.

Your lender will likely require you to purchase a new home appraisal up-front if you do not have a recent one available.

You will need to provide the property survey, proof of insurance, and title policy for the property. The underwriting process for a home equity loan is similar to that of a first lien mortgage, so you may not receive loan approval and funding for your home equity loan for a month or longer in many cases.

People with bad credit may have a hard time qualifying for a home equity loan because most lenders require a 660-680 credit score.

You may have an easier time qualifying for a home equity loan with your credit union vs. online lenders. Credit unions are usually based on relationships and are focused on improving their community. If you’ve held an account with a credit union for a long time, you’re more likely to get approved.

Home Equity Loan Alternatives for Bad Credit

Home equity loans and HELCO loans are great, but if you don’t have a good credit history, you may not qualify. However, there are some alternative options for borrowers with poor FICO scores.

These options can lower your interest rate, monthly payments, and put money in your pocket.

Cash-out Refinance

A cash-out refinance is the closest thing to a home equity loan. With a cash-out refinance, you can get additional money using the equity in your home.

Unlike a home equity loan, a second loan on the home, a cash-out refinance moves your entire loan balance to a new lender. You can borrow up to 80% LTV.

A cash-out refinance may also be easier to get with a low FICO score than a home-equity loan because the lender retains first lien rights on your property.

Check Cash-Out Refinance Rates

Streamline Refinance

The FHA streamline refinance program is open to everyone with an existing FHA loan. They do not require a credit check, income verification, or an appraisal.

Even if you have bad credit, you can refinance your mortgage and save hundreds of dollars a month on your mortgage payments.


The Home Affordable Refinance Program is for borrowers that have a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae backed loan that was made before May 31st, 2009.

The majority of loans are Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; even if your lender is Chase, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo, there is a good chance it’s a Freddie or Fannie loan. Also, if you are upside down on your mortgage or have little to no equity, you can still qualify.

Improve Your Credit Score Before Applying

A bad credit score will not only possibly prevent you from getting approved for refinancing your loan. If you are approved, it’ll come with a higher interest rate.

Your credit score is directly tied to your credit rating, the higher your FICO score is, the lower your rate will be.

You can do a few simple things to increase your credit score before applying for a loan.

  • Pay down your credit card balances
  • Get added as an authorized user
  • Pay off debts
  • Remove late payments

Paying down your credit card debt

The balance on your credit cards compared to your credit limit is your credit utilization ratio. And your utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO score.

Only your payment history (35%) has a more significant impact on your credit score. Try to get those balances below 10% of the credit limit to maximize your credit score before having a lender run your credit.

Have a friend or family member add you as an authorized user

An authorized user is a second person listed on a credit card account allowed to use the account. When someone adds you as an authorized user on a credit account, the entire account history is reported on your credit report, which will raise your credit rating.

Just make sure the account you’re being added to is in good standing and has been open for at least a few years.

Pay off other debts

If you have bad credit and are trying to refinance, you’ll want to have as many favorable factors on your side.

Paying off debt will help reduce your debt-to-income ratio, making the loan less of a risk to a mortgage lender.

Not only will it make your loan application look more attractive, but it may also help increase your credit score as well.

Remove late payments

There are a few things you can try to get a late payment removed from your credit profile. First, try contacting your creditor and asking them to remove the late payment.

Sometimes a creditor will do this for a long-standing member as an act of goodwill. If that doesn’t work, you should dispute it w the Credit Bureaus. Here and more steps to removing a payment from your credit report.

The Bottom Line

If you have decided to look for a home equity loan with poor credit, it is important that you are aware of your credit scores up-front.

Lenders generally publish their best rates and terms for those who have excellent credit scores, so you can typically assume that the interest rate you receive will be higher than the advertised.

When you speak to a lender, be upfront about your credit situation. Some may tell you immediately that they cannot work with you. Others will provide you with realistic pricing on your loan based on your credit scores.