“Home equity” is a term that gets used a lot, but many people don’t really understand what it means and how it can be used as a financial tool. So, we’re providing answers to frequently asked questions to help you decide if it’s an option worth exploring for your financial needs.

What is home equity?

Your home equity is your home’s current market value less your mortgage balance and any existing home equity line or loan balances you may have.

Home Value $500,000
Mortgage Balance -$275,000
Home Equity =$225,000

How much of my home equity can I borrow?

Lenders will calculate your combined loan to value (CLTV) when determining how much of your equity you may be able to borrow against. CLTV compares your total home-related debt to the value of your home. Lenders usually limit CLTV to no more than 70% to 85% of your home’s value.

To estimate how much home equity you may be able to borrow, first multiply your home value by the lender’s maximum allowed CLTV percentage. Then subtract your mortgage balance from that amount. The result is how much equity you may be able to borrow against.

Home Value: $500,000
Current Mortgage Balance: $275,000
Step 1: $500,000 x .85 (CLTV) = $425,000
Step 2: $425,000 - $275,000 = $150,000 = amount of equity you may be able to borrow against

How can I borrow using my home equity?

There are three common ways to leverage home equity as a financing tool. All usually offer lower interest rates than other forms of financing, like credit cards or personal loans.

  • Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC) are revolving lines of credit — meaning you can use funds as you need them (up to your line limit) and, as you pay down your balance, funds become available to use again. HELOCs let you access funds during a draw period (often 10 years), followed by a repayment period (often 20 years) when you can’t withdraw funds and must pay off your balance in full. During the draw period, you may have the option to either make interest-only or prinicipal and interest payments on the funds you withdraw. Most HELOCs have variable interest rates, but may offer the option to lock in a fixed rate on part of your balance.
  • Home Equity Loans provide you with a single lump sum. These loans usually offer the stability of a fixed interest rate and a fixed monthly payment that lets you pay off the full balance within a specific timeframe. M&T does not currently offer a home equity loan option, but leverages a fixed rate lock-in option with our home equity line of credit product.
  • Cash-Out Refinancing replaces your current mortgage with a new one that includes your previous mortgage balance and an additional amount for the home equity you want to borrow. You receive the home equity funds in a lump sum when you close on the new mortgage.

What can I use home equity financing for?

You can use home equity financing for nearly anything, including home improvementsmanaging debt, large or unexpected medical bills, and big-ticket items like a wedding. A line of credit is handy when you have expenses over time, while a loan or cash-out refinance is useful when you need a large sum of money all at once.

What are some home equity financing cautions?

You may want to avoid using your home equity to finance a lifestyle beyond your means or for large purchases that will quickly lose value. If you’re thinking of using home equity financing for a short-term need (e.g., limited to the next 36 months), check if there is a “recapture” fee before closing the account early. With a home equity line of credit, you can leave the account open with a zero balance until it may be needed again.

Home equity financing can be a cost-effective, flexible tool for a range of needs. To learn more or start an application, visit us online or call 1-800-724-2440.

What’s your home dream?

From home improvement projects to leveraging equity for financial goals to buying your next home, we can help with a range of home equity, refinance and purchase mortgage lending solutions.

Explore Your Mortgage or Home Equity Options

This content is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.

This information is being provided for informational purposes only and is neither a loan commitment nor a guarantee of any interest rate. If you choose to apply for a mortgage loan, you will need to complete our standard application. Our consideration for approval of your mortgage loan application will include verification of the information obtained in connection with your request, including but not limited to income, employment, asset, property value and/or credit information. Our loan programs are subject to change or discontinuation at any time without notice. Not all products are available in all states. Refinancing to reduce total monthly payments may lengthen repayment term or increase total interest expense. Interest rates are subject to change without notice.