HELOC

HOME EQUITY LINE OF CREDIT or HELOC

A HELOC is a line of credit secured by the equity in your home. This is different from a loan or mortgage.

What is equity? It’s the appraised value of your home that is not mortgaged. You may have put 20% down when you bought the house, and now you’re looking to tap into that equity along with the principal of the mortgage you’ve paid down. Or perhaps your home value has increased drastically, and you want to utilize the equity.

What is a line of credit? It is a revolving account of credit. This means that when you close on a HELOC, you don’t get a check cut for that amount right then. You need to “draw” on the account, as needed, which is essentially writing checks from that account to either yourself or another entity. As you make principal payments, the amount of principal becomes available again for a future draw, as long as you’re within the draw period of the line of credit.

Do you have to disclose the purpose of the HELOC? There are no parameters on what you can use the money for when you draw it from the HELOC. You may want to pay off a credit card that has a higher interest rate, do home improvements, do other construction projects, medical bills, etc. While you’d want to utilize this for larger purchases, you can draw smaller amounts as long as you draw the minimum required by your terms (e.g., no less than $100). You earn interest from day 1, so this isn’t more beneficial than a credit card that gives you a short-term “loan” for your statement period (you don’t pay interest on a credit card balance that is paid off by the due date).

TYPICAL TERMS

The application process is similar to applying for a mortgage. A bank wants to see your credit report, along with some backup documentation (e.g., tax returns, account statements). We also had to update our homeowners insurance to show the HELOC as a mortgagee.

A HELOC will typically only cover a portion of the equity in your home, depending on the bank’s terms. If your appraisal value is $400,000, and your mortgage balance is $250,000, then the equity in your home is $150,000. While there may be instances where a bank would approve a HELOC for the full amount of $150,000, most are going to approve 80% or 85% of that amount.

There are no closing costs associated with the HELOC. Typically, the bank processing the HELOC will cover the costs associated with the line of credit initiation up front. However, they will require those fees to be paid back to them if the HELOC is closed within a certain period of time (usually 36 months). For our first HELOC, when we closed it within the 36 months, we paid back a prorated amount of the fees (e.g., if the fees were $300, and we closed it after a year, we owed $200). For our current HELOC, if we close it within the 36 months, we’re required to pay back 100% of the fees they covered, not the prorated amount.

A HELOC has a variable interest rate, which may adjust monthly or quarterly based on the lender’s terms. A variable interest rate can adjust up or down. But this is something to be aware of because it’s not like a loan or mortgage that has a fixed rate made known up front. The rate, in our case, is set at the index rate with a margin. However, there’s a floor to the bank’s rate. What does this look like? The index rate is 3.50%. The margin is -1.00%. However, the bank’s floor is 3.00%. Therefore, even though 3.5-1=2.5, the minimum interest rate they’ll lend at is 3.00%. Therefore, our current rate is 3.00%.

There is a “draw period,” which means you can only take funds from the line of credit for a certain period of time (e.g., 10 years). When you do draw from the line of credit, you’re charged interest on the principal balance. During the draw period, you must make the minimum required monthly payments on the account, which is typically the monthly accumulated interest owed, but some banks may require principal payments during this period also. When the draw period is over, it enacts the principal repayment period, meaning you have a certain amount of time (e.g., 10 more years) to repay the principal balance of the HELOC. There is no charge for the HELOC existing though; it can be there and never drawn on.

OUR PROCESS

The most recent HELOC we closed on had a different process than the first. We expressed our interest, and since they already had our documentation on hand from a commercial loan, they didn’t ask for supporting documentation (e.g., account statements). However, for some strange reason, she said she couldn’t use the credit report from our commercial loan, and she had to pull our credit again. At the time we were applying for another mortgage, so the hit on our credit counted as “mortgage shopping,” so we gave up the fight and let it happen.

This company would have given us 100% of the equity available in our home. However, two weeks after initiating the HELOC process, we told them we needed a pre qualification letter for an offer we made on another personal residence. They then told us that since we’re on record as wanting to sell our home, they would only approve 80% of the equity.

The loan officer asked for two references for each of us. There was no information given on what this personal reference had to know about us. We both handed over our people, but they were never contacted, so we won’t know the purpose.

Finally, they asked for our homeowners insurance to show them as a mortgagee on our policy, which I was able to do with one quick phone call to that office.

Typically, the process will include an appraisal. This bank had a valuation system that they used. Based on this woman’s inputs into the system (which were all wrong), she said that she could approve us for $100,000 without paying for a full appraisal. We don’t need more than that, so that was sufficient to us.

We closed the HELOC a month after expressing interest. Our process may have been slower than the typical period it would take because we were fighting the credit pull for a while (not to mention the company we were working with is notoriously slow at responding to inquiries). Mr. ODA expressed our interest in pursuing the HELOC on April 12th. We were cleared to close as of May 11th, but we chose to close on that following Friday. We went to a local bank branch, and a relationship banker went through the documents with us as we signed them.

WHY THE HELOC FOR US?

My general plan was that we’d have a HELOC initiated, so that when we found a new personal residence, we could use the HELOC for the down payment of that house without having to sell our current house first. In the past, we’ve sold our home, went into temporary housing, and then moved into a new home. Granted, all our past home purchases were in a completely different locale than where we were living, but I really didn’t want to manage storage of goods or go into temporary housing with two kids and a dog again.

We initiated the conversation on the HELOC without having any intent to move yet. Not to go into too much detail on this topic, but we need to be residents of this house for two years to avoid paying capital gains. Our 2-year mark isn’t until November, so we weren’t in a rush to move before then. A home with the same floor plan around the block from us sold for $190k more than what we bought this house for less than two years ago, so we expect there to be a hefty chunk going to capital gains if we don’t meet the two year requirement.

I was keeping an eye on the market, but clearly had no plans to move. To me, a regular check on Zillow lets me know what I can get for my money. However, there are some things related to our current personal residence that are concerning, and we had decided that this wouldn’t be a long term location for us. With the market right now, I knew we’d either be paying a higher mortgage than I ever anticipated in life, or I’d be compromising on my wish list. Well, a house that met a lot of our wish list popped up in the area we liked for less than $500k, so we jumped on it. The house needs work, so even though we’ll close on it over the summer, we aren’t in a rush to move into a construction zone.

Once we close on the new house with funds from the HELOC, we’ll start accruing and paying interest on the balance. We’re not required to make principal payments until after the draw period, which is 10 years. When we eventually sell our current home, the proceeds from the sale will pay off the HELOC seamlessly through the closing process.

Moving States: Part I

In March 2020, as we all know, a pandemic hit. Well, our second child came into the world at the end of March, just a week after lock down. My family lives in NY, and Mr. ODA’s family lives in KY. So living in VA left us without family, with limited visits, and only seeing some neighbors while hanging out in yards and the street, but no child care or help.

We had talked about officially moving to KY while we spent the summer of 2019 there for Mr. ODA’s work assignment, but we decided it wasn’t the right time. We loved our neighborhood and town back home, and we just weren’t ready to leave. Mr. ODA was offered a promotion in DC at the same time, and that sealed the deal for us to stay in VA. The cost of living in NY near my family (Long Island), along with the crowded lifestyle, was not something we wished to pursue after experienced a ‘taste’ of the traffic and crowds when we lived by DC, which is why ‘moving near family’ meant KY.

On a walk one night in June 2020, Mr. ODA mentioned moving to KY again. He was working from home indefinitely, so there wasn’t anything holding us to VA (except my Ob and the kids’ pediatrician…. gosh it was hard for me to leave them!). At this point, isolated from most people because of the pandemic, the logic was there to make the move. Additionally, our mortgage was a 5/1 ARM that was coming due in January, so selling our house a few months before that was great timing.

LISTING OUR HOUSE

We built our house and moved in at the beginning of January 2016. For a new house, we had a lot of little projects that had to be completed before we could have people walk through it. When we sold our first house, we put a lot of our things into our neighbor’s basement as storage. This time around, we had to do the same, but without a neighbor’s basement as help.

There were the typical paint touchups, wiping baseboards, and moving of furniture. There were just several small projects that needed attended to (like replacing burnt out light bulbs and buying a comforter that fit our new bed), which took me about two weeks before we could get the pictures done for the listing.

We had one room that was the catch-all for mismatched furniture. We were told to give the room a purpose. I was able to get the exercise bike, desk, bed, and bookshelf to live harmoniously.

For pictures, we chose to keep a full-size bed in one of the bedrooms, but I quickly changed it to our daughter’s crib. We were afraid that if people saw a crib, they’d think the room was too small for a bed. So while, functionally, I needed that crib, I didn’t mind if they saw it during the walk through because they could refer back to the listing photos to see the bed there instead.

SOLD QUICKER THAN PLANNED

It’s hard to manage the expectation of how long the house will be on the market against how long to wait for listing it. We knew our new house wasn’t going to be ready until November. I was too afraid to wait until everyone went back to school, especially with all the uncertainty of what school would look like. I pushed to list mid-August (central VA goes back to school after Labor Day).

We were under contract at the end of the first weekend listed. They asked for a 3 week close, and we denied that. There was no incentive for us to move that quickly. We asked how long they’d be willing to push it, and they agreed to 30 days because they’d be living in a hotel with their family of 5. That was exactly 7 weeks between leaving our house and our new house being ready.

We decided to seize the opportunity and travel with that time. Since Mr. ODA was working remotely anyway, we could explore new places where he could work during the week from our hotel or AirBnB. I had one rule – there had to be two separate sleep areas because our 6 month old required her room to be pitch black for sleep, and messing with a baby’s sleep hurts mama! Our options are also limited because we have a dog.

Here’s how we had to unpack and repack the car each time!

Week 1 – We went to the beach! We grabbed a beautiful little AirBnB in Norfolk, two blocks from a little beach and boardwalk. I took the kids to the zoo one day, and we played at the school playground across the street a bunch.

Week 2 – We went back to our old neighborhood and imposed on some friends. Our daughter had her 6 month pediatrician appointment, and I wasn’t about to give up an opportunity to see our wonderful doctor again. Their family has kids the same age as ours, but their youngest was still sleeping in the parents’ room, which left his crib available to our youngest. As a bonus, they went on vacation for the week! As a form of payment for our time there, I painted their first floor. I love to paint, so I enjoyed having an activity. Our oldest got sick at the beginning of the week and his fever wasn’t breaking, so we ended up at the doctor 3 times with an eventual ear infection diagnosis. Him being sick delayed my progress, but I got it all done.

Week 3 – Bristol VA and TN. Mr. ODA took more time off during this week so that we could go hiking and explore the area more. It’s beautiful down there.

Week 4 to 7 – We went to KY to stay with Mr. ODA’s parents. By the time I got there, I wasn’t leaving until we moved into our new house. It was a lot to pack up the car, unload it all, keep it organized, live with the minimum for the two kids, and then pack it all back up again. I ended up cancelling two of our trips that we had planned. I kept one where we went back to our old neighborhood for Halloween. I wanted our oldest to play with his friend for the holiday, but then we didn’t even really see them. Our youngest had her flu vaccine booster that weekend too.


In hindsight, our quick decision to move was great timing. We knew there were bidding wars happening over real estate (our Realtor fielded 16 offers on a home in Richmond, VA the same weekend we listed!), but we didn’t know it was going to get as bad as it has where inventory is so low and house prices climbed. While we may have been able to get more for our house a month or so later, we wouldn’t have found many options for what we wanted in KY.

House prices in KY are about 8% higher than this time last year, and our area’s housing prices are 11% higher, according to Zillow. Example: Our neighbor was under contract to purchase his house in July. They had a new job offer come in, and they sold their house earlier this month for $55k more than they purchased it. That’s a 14% increase in less than a year.