Mortgage Refinance or Home Equity Loan – What’s the Difference?

Many people use the terms mortgage refinance and home equity loan interchangeably, but the two are not the same thing. Before you consider one or the other, be sure you know what your lender is referring to.

The reason the two terms are often confused has to do with the fact that you’ll typically be refinancing your existing mortgage when you have some equity established in your home. Equity is simply the difference between the market value of your home and the amount you owe against it. To put it into dollars, a person who owns a home that has a market value of $100,000 and a mortgage on that home of $60,000 has $40,000 in equity.

That’s not to say that all lenders are willing to loan you an additional $40,000. In fact, many lenders have caps on the amount they’ll loan. It might be that a particular lender will only loan up to 90 percent of the market value of the home. In that case, the loan value of the home would only be $90,000. Though the amount of equity technically remains the same, the amount of loan available depends on the lender’s guidelines.

If you have $40,000 in equity in your home, you may want to cash in on at least some of that money. But how do you go about getting it? The two main options are to take out a mortgage refinance loan or a home equity loan. A mortgage refinance is exactly what the name implies – your original mortgage will be figured into a new loan, giving you a mortgage refinance loan. But a home equity loan leaves the existing loan as it stands. You’ll have a second payment on top of the original mortgage.
So which is better? It actually depends on several factors. Did you get great terms and rates when you financed the original loan? If so, you may want to consider a home equity loan so that you keep those great rates and terms on your original mortgage.

Can you afford to make the “double” payments required? Remember, if you take out a home equity loan you’ll still be making the original mortgage payments and your home equity loan will be tacked on top of that. Some people find that the budget simply won’t stretch to make those necessary payments.

There’s plenty to consider before you decide whether it’s time for a mortgage refinance or you should take out a home equity loan.