December 4, 2023

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) Calculator: How to Calculate HELOC & What it Means

Explore the differences between home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), home equity loans, and cash-out refinances, highlighting how each option impacts borrowing against home equity. Gain insights into their interest rates, repayment terms, and overall financial implications for homeowners.


As a savvy real estate investor, are you fully capitalizing on the equity in your rental properties?

With a home equity line of credit, property owners like you can access the value built up in your properties, providing a stream of capital for further investment or property enhancements.

Envision the possibilities: expanding your property portfolio, upgrading existing units for higher rental yields, or securing better loan terms. This line of credit offers a strategic way to manage your investments, offering the agility to adapt to market demands and opportunities.

Explore this guide to understand the integration of this credit facility in your investment strategy. Learn how it works, its relevance to property investments, and how to assess your borrowing potential. Whether acquiring new properties or enhancing current ones, understanding this financing option is key to a more effective investment strategy.

What is a home equity line of credit?

A home equity line of credit, commonly called a HELOC, is a flexible, revolving loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home. Essentially, it functions like a credit card secured by your property, providing a source of funds that can be drawn upon as needed.

With a HELOC, the homeowner is approved for a specific credit limit, which usually depends on various factors like the home's value, the amount of equity in the home, and the borrower's creditworthiness. One of the key features of a HELOC is its draw period, typically spanning several years, during which the borrower can access funds up to the credit limit, repay them, and borrow the credit line again.

The versatility of a HELOC makes it a popular choice for financing significant expenses such as home renovations, college tuition, or consolidating high-interest debts. It’s particularly useful for projects or needs with fluctuating costs, since you only borrow what you need, up to your limit.

However, it's crucial to consider the risks. Since a HELOC is secured by your home, failure to repay can put your property at risk. Also, the interest rates on HELOCs are usually variable, which means your payments can increase if rates from mortgage lenders go up.

Understanding products like HELOCs is essential for property owners exploring options to manage their real estate finances. 

Remember, whether it's leveraging the equity in your home or managing rental properties, it's vital to understand your financial options and tools clearly.

HELOC, home equity loans, and cash-out refinance: Understanding the distinctions

When considering financial options against your home's equity, it's essential to differentiate between home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), home equity loans, and cash-out refinances. Each offers unique benefits and suits different financial needs.

HELOC vs. home equity loans

HELOCs and home equity loans are categorized as second mortgages and secured using your property as collateral, independent of your primary mortgage.

  • HELOC: This option provides a credit line, offering flexibility in how much you borrow. You can draw funds as required, and you're only charged interest on the amount you've used, not the entire credit limit. Typically, HELOCs come with variable interest rates, meaning the rates can fluctuate over time.
  • Home equity loan: Unlike a HELOC, a home equity loan involves receiving a fixed lump sum. You pay interest on the entire amount from the start. These loans usually have fixed interest rates, leading to predictable monthly payments. However, they lack the flexibility of a HELOC since you receive the entire loan amount upfront, regardless of your later needs.

HELOC vs. cash-out refinance

While both a HELOC and a cash-out refinance can tap into your home equity, they operate differently in terms of their impact on your existing mortgage and interest rates.

  • Cash-out refinance: This option involves replacing your current mortgage with a new one for a higher amount than what you currently owe, with the difference paid out in cash. It's an appealing choice when interest rates are lower than your current rate, potentially offering both a cash infusion and a reduction in interest rates. However, if rates are higher, it might result in a larger loan at a higher rate.
  • HELOC: As a second mortgage, a HELOC doesn't alter your primary mortgage rate. It typically comes with lower closing costs compared to a cash-out refinance. While both loan types involve closing costs ranging from 2% to 5% of the borrowed amount, the overall sum for a cash-out refinance can be considerably higher due to the larger loan amount involved.

How do HELOCs work?

Relating home equity lines of credit to real estate investments and landlords involves understanding the strategic use of HELOCs in property investment and management. Here are several ways HELOCs are relevant and beneficial in these areas:

  • Capital for property investments: Landlords and real estate investors can use HELOCs as a source of capital for purchasing additional properties. By tapping into the equity of one property, they can raise funds for down payments or entire purchases, expanding their real estate portfolio.
  • Funding renovations and improvements: Property owners often need funds for renovating and improving their rental properties to attract tenants or increase rental income. A HELOC provides a flexible way to finance these improvements, potentially increasing the property's value and rental appeal.
  • Refinancing existing mortgages: Investors can use HELOCs to refinance existing mortgages under more favorable terms. This strategy can lower interest rates or monthly payments on current investment properties, improving cash flow.
  • Managing cash flow fluctuations: Landlords may face periods of reduced income, especially when rental properties are vacant or undergoing repairs. A HELOC can provide a temporary cash flow solution during these times, helping to cover expenses until the property is rented out again.
  • Emergency fund for unexpected expenses: Real estate investments can come with unforeseen costs, like emergency repairs or legal issues. A HELOC serves as a ready reserve of funds that can be accessed quickly in such situations.
  • Portfolio diversification: By using a HELOC to invest in different types of properties or different geographical areas, landlords can diversify their investment portfolio, reducing risk.

In the context of property management, while HELOCs offer financial flexibility, effective management of rental properties is also key.

Calculating how much you may be eligible to borrow

The calculator above uses home value, outstanding balance, loan-to-value ratio, and credit score to estimate the amount of credit available through a HELOC.

The formula for estimating the amount of credit eligible to borrow, given an LTV of 80% at most and a credit score greater than 620, is:

Eligible to Borrow = Home Value * 80% - Outstanding Balance

The maximum amount that a borrower can borrow through a HELOC is dependent on several factors, including but not limited to:

  • The lender's policies.
  • Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio: Lenders look for an LTV of around 85% of the home's appraised value, minus the outstanding mortgage balance.
  • Credit score: Generally, a score of 640 or higher is recommended for approval. However, a credit score of 700 or higher is typically preferred to get the best interest rates and terms.
  • Borrower's income.
  • Employment history.
  • Debt-to-income ratio.

Is a HELOC the right option for you?

While a HELOC calculator can be helpful, several factors must be considered when deciding whether a HELOC is the right financial product for your situation.

Advantages of HELOCs:

  • Lower interest rates: HELOCs typically have lower interest rates than other types of loans, such as credit cards or personal loans.
  • Flexibility: HELOCs offer flexibility regarding how much money you can borrow and when. Borrowers have access to a line of credit, which means they can draw on the funds as needed and only pay interest on the amount borrowed.
  • Tax benefits: In many cases, the interest paid on a HELOC is tax-deductible, which can provide significant savings for borrowers.
  • Home improvement: HELOCs are often used to finance home improvement projects, increasing the home's value and potentially providing a return on investment.

Disadvantages of HELOCs:

  • Risk of foreclosure: Since a HELOC is secured by the borrower's property, there is a risk of foreclosure if payments are not made on time.
  • Fluctuating interest rates: HELOCs typically have variable interest rates, which means the interest rate and the borrower's monthly payment can fluctuate over time.
  • Fees: HELOCs often come with fees, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and annual fees, which can add up over time.
  • The temptation to overspend: Since HELOCs offer flexibility and access to a large amount of credit, some borrowers may be tempted to overspend and accumulate debt.

Calculate HELOC with confidence

As we've explored, a home equity line of credit can be invaluable for real estate investors and landlords. By strategically tapping into the equity of your properties, you open up a world of possibilities for expansion and the improvement of your real estate portfolio.

Whether you're looking to acquire new properties, undertake renovations, or optimize your financial strategy, this financing option offers flexibility and control.

However, it’s crucial to approach this with a well-informed strategy. Understanding the nuances of how this line of credit works, its variable interest rates, and its repayment structure is key to making it a successful component of your investment plan.

Remember, while leveraging HELOC offers growth opportunities, it also requires prudent financial management to ensure your investments remain secure and profitable.

HELOC calculator FAQs

What is the monthly payment on a $50,000 HELOC?

The monthly payment on a $50,000 home equity line of credit (HELOC) depends on various factors, including the interest rate and the repayment terms. HELOCs often have variable interest rates so that the rate can change over time. During the draw period, you may only be required to pay interest.

For example, if you have an interest rate of 5% annually, the monthly interest-only payment would be approximately $208.33 ($50,000×0.05)/12($50,000*0.05)/12. However, this payment amount can change if the interest rate changes or once you enter the repayment period, where you also begin paying back the principal.

How do I calculate my HELOC?

To calculate the amount you can borrow with a HELOC, you typically use the following formula:

Maximum HELOC = (Home Value * Loan-to-Value Ratio) − Outstanding Mortgage Balance

The loan-to-value ratio (LTV) is the percentage of your home's appraised value that the lender allows you to borrow. Lenders usually allow an LTV of up to 80%-85%.

For example, if your home is valued at $300,000, your outstanding mortgage balance is $100,000, and the lender allows an 80% LTV, the maximum HELOC you could potentially qualify for would be $140,000($300,000×0.80)−$100,000($300,000×0.80)−$100,000.

What is the payment on a $100,000 home equity loan?

The payment on a $100,000 home equity loan depends on the interest rate and the loan term. Unlike a HELOC, home equity loans usually have fixed interest rates and a set repayment schedule.

For example, if you have a $100,000 loan with a 6% annual interest rate and a 15-year term, the monthly payment would be approximately $843.86. This calculation is based on a fixed-rate amortization formula. Remember that the actual payment may vary based on the specific terms of your loan.

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