Skip to content
SuperMoney logo
SuperMoney logo

Home Equity: What It Is and How to Leverage It

Last updated 05/30/2024 by

Silas Bamigbola

Edited by

Fact checked by

Home equity refers to the value of ownership that homeowners accumulate in their property over time. It is calculated as the difference between the home’s current market value and the outstanding balance of any loans secured by the property, such as a mortgage. Home equity represents the portion of the property that the homeowner truly owns outright.

Compare Home Equity Lines of Credit

Compare rates from multiple HELOC lenders. Discover your lowest eligible rate.
Compare HELOC Rates

Understanding home equity: A valuable asset for financial growth

Home equity is a crucial financial concept that impacts homeowners’ wealth and financial flexibility. It represents the portion of a property that homeowners truly own, beyond any outstanding mortgage balance. Understanding how home equity works and how it can be leveraged can empower individuals to make informed financial decisions and unlock opportunities for growth and stability.

How home equity works

Home equity is the portion of your home that you truly own, calculated as the difference between its market value and any outstanding mortgage debt. As you make mortgage payments and your property value appreciates, your equity grows.

Building home equity

Your home equity builds in two primary ways:
  • Principal payments: Each mortgage payment reduces your loan balance, increasing your equity.
  • Property appreciation: An increase in your home’s value over time contributes to equity growth.

How to calculate your home equity

To calculate your home equity, use this formula:
Home equity = Market value of home – Mortgage balance
For example, if your home is valued at $400,000 and you owe $250,000 on your mortgage, your home equity would be $150,000.

Examples of home equity

Understanding home equity with practical examples can illustrate its financial impact:

Example 1:

John purchases a home valued at $400,000 with a 20% down payment of $80,000. His initial equity in the home is calculated as the difference between the home’s value and the down payment. Therefore, John’s initial equity is $400,000 – $80,000 = $320,000.

Example 2:

Over five years, Jane’s home appreciates in value from $300,000 to $350,000 due to market conditions and improvements made to the property. During this time, Jane also pays down her mortgage balance by $50,000. To calculate Jane’s equity after five years, we subtract the remaining mortgage balance from the home’s current value. Jane’s equity after five years is $350,000 – $250,000 (remaining mortgage balance) = $100,000.

Example 3:

Sam decides to use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to fund a major home renovation project costing $30,000. After completing the renovation, the appraised value of Sam’s home increases by $50,000 due to the improvements. Sam’s equity post-renovation would then be calculated as the difference between the new appraised value and the remaining mortgage balance, taking into account the outstanding balance on the HELOC.

How to use home equity

Home equity can be used strategically for:
  • Debt consolidation: Paying off high-interest debts to lower overall interest costs.
  • Home improvements: Financing renovations that increase property value.
  • Major expenses: Funding education, weddings, or other significant costs.

How to increase your home equity

Building and maximizing your home equity can be beneficial for your financial health. Here are some strategies to increase your home equity:
  • Make a larger down payment: Putting down a higher initial payment when purchasing a home increases your equity from the start.
  • Choose the right mortgage: Opt for a mortgage that allows you to build equity faster, such as a shorter-term loan or making extra principal payments.
  • Regular mortgage payments: Consistently making mortgage payments, especially if you pay more than the minimum, accelerates equity growth.
  • Property improvements: Enhance your home’s value through renovations or upgrades that increase market worth.
  • Stay in your home: The longer you own and live in your home, the more likely you’ll benefit from property appreciation.
Weigh the risks and benefits
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Lower interest rates compared to credit cards.
  • Tax-deductible interest for certain uses.
  • Flexible borrowing options.
  • Increased debt and potential fees.
  • Restricted use for specific purposes.

Borrowing against home equity

1. Home equity loan

A home equity loan is a type of loan where a homeowner borrows a lump sum of money based on the equity in their home. This loan typically has a fixed interest rate and a predictable repayment schedule, making it ideal for financing large expenses such as home improvements, major renovations, or even debt consolidation. Home equity loans are considered secured loans, meaning they are backed by the borrower’s equity in their home. The loan amount is determined based on the available equity and the lender’s criteria. Borrowers receive the funds in a single disbursement and repay the loan over a specified period, usually with monthly payments of principal and interest.

2. Home equity line of credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home as needed. Unlike a home equity loan, a HELOC typically has an adjustable interest rate, which may fluctuate based on market conditions. HELOCs offer flexibility, allowing borrowers to draw funds as needed up to a predetermined credit limit during a specified “draw period.” Borrowers make interest-only payments during the draw period and then enter a repayment period where they must repay the outstanding balance, including principal and interest.

3. Cash-out refinance

A cash-out refinance involves replacing an existing mortgage with a new mortgage for a larger amount, allowing homeowners to access the equity in their home as cash. The new mortgage pays off the existing mortgage balance, and the borrower receives the difference in cash. This option is beneficial when homeowners want to tap into their home equity to fund significant expenses, consolidate debt, or make investments. Cash-out refinances often come with competitive interest rates, and the borrowed amount can be used for various purposes.

How can I get a home equity loan?

To obtain a home equity loan, follow these steps:
  1. Assess your equity: Determine how much equity you have in your home by subtracting your mortgage balance from its current market value.
  2. Shop around: Compare loan offers from different lenders to find the best terms and interest rates.
  3. Submit an application: Complete the loan application process, which may require documentation of income, credit history, and property value.
  4. Undergo appraisal: Your lender will likely require a professional appraisal of your home to assess its value.
  5. Closing and disbursement: Once approved, you’ll close on the loan and receive the funds in a lump sum.
Keep in mind that eligibility criteria and loan terms can vary between lenders.

Tax considerations for home equity borrowing

When borrowing against home equity, it’s essential to understand potential tax implications:

Interest deductions

One significant tax consideration for homeowners borrowing against home equity is the deductibility of interest payments. In the past, interest on home equity loans used for home improvements was often tax-deductible, subject to IRS rules. However, recent changes in tax laws, specifically the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, have altered the deductibility of interest on home equity borrowing.

Changes in tax laws

Recent tax reforms, such as the TCJA, have impacted the deductibility of interest on home equity borrowing. Under current tax laws, interest deductions on home equity loans or lines of credit may only be available if the funds are used to buy, build, or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan. Consultation with a tax advisor or accountant is highly recommended to understand the specific tax implications based on individual circumstances.

Home equity as a retirement strategy

For retirees, home equity can play a strategic role in financial planning:

Reverse mortgages

Reverse mortgages offer retirees the opportunity to tap into their home equity as a source of supplemental income during retirement. With a reverse mortgage, homeowners aged 62 and older can convert a portion of their home equity into cash without having to sell their home or make monthly mortgage payments. The loan is typically repaid when the homeowner moves out of the home or passes away, and the home is sold.


Downsizing involves selling a larger home and purchasing a smaller, less expensive property. This strategy allows retirees to unlock home equity accumulated in their current home to fund retirement savings or cover lifestyle expenses. By downsizing, retirees can reduce housing-related costs, such as property taxes, maintenance, and utility bills, while potentially freeing up cash for other retirement goals.
Exploring home equity options can provide retirees with additional financial security during their golden years. By leveraging home equity through reverse mortgages or downsizing, retirees can enhance their retirement income, reduce housing expenses, and improve overall financial flexibility.


In conclusion, home equity is a valuable asset that homeowners can leverage for various financial purposes, from funding home improvements to supplementing retirement income. Understanding how home equity works, including its calculation and potential borrowing options like home equity loans and lines of credit, is essential for making informed financial decisions. Additionally, retirees can strategically use home equity to enhance financial security during retirement. It’s crucial to consider tax implications and consult financial advisors to optimize the benefits of utilizing home equity effectively.

Frequently asked questions

What factors affect home equity?

Several factors can influence home equity, including changes in property value, mortgage payments made over time, home improvements that increase property worth, and overall real estate market conditions.

Is home equity the same as a home’s appraised value?

No, home equity is the difference between a home’s current market value and the outstanding mortgage balance. It represents the portion of the property owned outright by the homeowner.

How can I increase my home equity?

To boost home equity, consider making larger down payments, making extra mortgage payments, enhancing property value through renovations, and staying in the home long-term to benefit from market appreciation.

Can I use home equity for any purpose?

Home equity can generally be used for various purposes, such as home improvements, debt consolidation, education expenses, or even funding other investments. However, it’s crucial to understand potential tax implications and consult with financial advisors.

What happens if property values decline?

If property values decrease, it can impact home equity negatively. Homeowners may find themselves with less equity than anticipated, potentially affecting their ability to borrow against the home or sell it without incurring losses.

What are the risks of using home equity?

Using home equity as collateral for loans or lines of credit carries risks, such as increased debt obligations, potential foreclosure if payments are not met, and impact on future financial flexibility.

How do I qualify for a home equity loan or HELOC?

Qualification for a home equity loan or HELOC typically depends on factors such as credit score, debt-to-income ratio, home equity amount, and property value. Lenders may also consider the purpose of the loan and repayment ability.

Should I consider a reverse mortgage for retirement?

Reverse mortgages can be an option for retirees looking to access home equity without selling their home. However, they come with specific eligibility criteria and considerations, including potential impacts on inheritance and long-term financial plans.

Key takeaways

  • Home equity is the difference between your home’s value and mortgage balance.
  • Building equity involves making mortgage payments and benefiting from property appreciation.
  • You can leverage home equity through loans or lines of credit for various financial needs.
  • Consider pros and cons before borrowing against home equity.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

Loading results ...

You might also like