Cash out refinancing, where you borrow above what you owe on your existing mortgage, is many times a better way to go than getting an equity line. Equity lines are usually adjustable rate mortgages based on Prime Rate, which is currently very low. But:
-Prime Rate can spike with a lot of volatility.
-Equity lines based on Prime Rate are “interest only”, so you are not paying down the principal. You may as well put your new kitchen or bathroom on a credit card, and never pay it off.
Alternative to an equity line
So if I can, I prefer to counsel people to do a cash out refinance of their entire mortgage.
However, the problem is that loan-to-value’s have gotten stricter (i.e. lower), so a cash out refinance has gotten harder to get these days with appraisals seemingly flat to dropping (depending on the area).
The current loan-to-values (LTV) are:
-Conforming Loans, which go up to $417,000, you can still go to 80% LTV, but will get a little better rate at 75% LTV and lower.
-Conforming-Jumbo loans, which go from $417,001 to $729,750 (in high cost areas) are limited to 60% LTV. This new category of loan was created by Congress to stimulate the purchase of homes, so the cashing out of homes has a very restrictive (i.e. low) LTV.
-Jumbo loans, over $729,750, are usually limited to 75%, or less.
-And on FHA loans you can borrow up to 85% LTV.
-And to compare, most equity lines cap out at 80% LTV.
Here is an example:
Your house is worth $500,000 and you owe $300,000 on the current mortgage. On a new cash out refinance mortgage you can get up to 80% LTV since this would be a Conforming loan, or up to a $400,000 new loan amount, which yields you $100,000 cash out (less after you subtract closing costs). Or, you can leave the existing $300,000 loan in tact, and you can get a $100,000 equity line.
So you can see how you really need a lot of equity before you can pull some equity out in a cash out refinance.