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Requirements for a Home Equity Loan or HELOC in 2024

Getting approved for a home equity loan or a HELOC can depend on the lender, but having less debt and a stronger credit score will help.

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Building equity is one of the biggest advantages of owning a home. With a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), you can take advantage of that equity to finance home improvements, consolidate debt or pay for other big expenses

While getting home equity financing is a fairly simple process, it’s important to review the details before applying. Lenders have standard criteria that homeowners must follow to qualify for either loan, as well as their own specific requirements. Make sure to compare different lenders and take a look at the requirements before applying.

Below, we’ll cover the general criteria for home equity loans and HELOCs as well as more on how to choose the right financing option for you.

How do home equity loans and HELOCs work?

Home equity loans and HELOCs are secured loans that act as second mortgages. Both use your property as collateral for the debt. 

With a home equity loan, you get access to a lump sum of cash upfront and pay it back over a period of five to 30 years at a fixed interest rate. 

A HELOC is an ongoing line of credit from which you can withdraw funds as needed. With a HELOC, you have the draw period and the repayment period. During the draw period (typically 10 years), you can borrow money on a revolving basis, up to a limit, and you’ll typically pay interest only on what you’ve borrowed. During the repayment period (often 20 years), you’ll pay back both the principal and interest on the loan. 

Both are good options for homeowners in need of access to cash, but there’s always a risk when you borrow against your home. If you default on your payments, you run the risk of losing your property.

Requirements to borrow home equity

The requirements to qualify for either a home equity loan or HELOC are similar. Although each lender has its own qualifications, the following checklist provides general criteria to help you get started.

1. Have at least 15% to 20% equity in your home

Home equity refers to the ownership stake in your home. Your equity is calculated by the amount of your down payment together with all the mortgage payments you’ve already made. With each mortgage payment you make, the less you owe on your home and the more equity you have. If an appraisal increase the value of the home, that will also yield more equity.

Most lenders require you to have at least 15% to 20% equity in your home to take out a home equity loan or HELOC. If you made a 20% down payment when you purchased your property, you’ll have already met the requirement to borrow against your equity.

2. Your loan-to-value ratio shouldn’t exceed 80%

​​Your loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, is another factor lenders consider when deciding whether to approve you for a home equity loan or HELOC. Your LTV is determined by dividing your current mortgage balance by the home’s appraised value. Having a lower LTV means less risk for mortgage lenders

If your home is worth $300,000 and your loan balance is $200,000, here’s how you’d calculate your LTV: 

$200,000 / $300,000 = 0.67

Your LTV is expressed as a percentage. In this example, your LTV is 67%, meaning you have 33% equity in your home. 

While requirements can vary across lenders, the rule of thumb is that your LTV shouldn’t exceed 80%. Making a higher down payment and paying down your mortgage are two ways to lower your LTV.

3. Have a credit score in the mid-600s or higher 

Most lenders want to see a minimum credit score of 620 in order to qualify for a home equity loan or HELOC.

Lenders use your credit score to determine the likelihood that you’ll repay the loan on time, so a better score will improve your chances of getting approved for a loan with better terms. A higher credit score of 700 or more will make you eligible for a loan at a lower interest rate, which will save you a substantial amount of money over the life of the loan.

4. Your debt level shouldn’t exceed 43%

Your debt level is determined by your debt-to-income ratio, which is your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Your DTI ratio helps lenders determine if you’re capable of paying back your loan on time and of making consistent monthly payments.

To calculate DTI, lenders tally the total monthly payment for the house -- mortgage principal, interest, taxes, homeowners insurance, direct liens and homeowner association dues -- and any other outstanding debt. That total debt is then divided by your monthly gross income to get your DTI ratio.

Some lenders prefer that your monthly debts don’t exceed 36% of your gross monthly income, but many others are willing to go as high as 43%. If your DTI ratio is higher than 43%, consider paying down your debts first to lower your DTI.

5. Have sufficient income

Lenders want to make sure that you can pay back the loan, so they’ll lend only to those who can prove sufficient income. If you don’t have traditional employment or a stable source of income, you may have trouble qualifying for a home equity loan or HELOC.

How much can you borrow with a home equity loan or HELOC?

The more equity you have in your home, the more you’re eligible to borrow. In general, you can borrow around 80% to 85% of the equity in your home, minus your current mortgage balance. 

You can determine how much money you’ll be able to obtain from a home equity loan by starting with the current value of the home. If, for example, your home is worth $300,000 and a bank lender allows you to borrow up to 80% of the value of your home, you simply multiply the two values to get the maximum amount you can borrow, which is $240,000. 

$300,000 x 0.8 = $240,000

But if you have a balance on your mortgage of $200,000, you need to subtract it from the $240,000 maximum the bank will let you borrow.

$240,000 – $200,000 = $40,000 

That means you can borrow $40,000 for a home equity loan or HELOC.

Should you get a home equity loan or a HELOC?

Home equity loans and HELOCs can be used for similar purposes, but they have some important differences. Neither product is better than the other, so consider your own expenses and goals. 

If you need to fund a single project with a set cost, a home equity loan may be the better option, especially if the predictability of a fixed interest rate and monthly payment appeals to you. A HELOC may make more sense if you want flexible access to funds over a long period of time rather than an upfront sum of cash.

You should get a HELOC if: 

You need access to credit for an extended period of time. HELOCs have a draw period that typically last five to 10 years.

You need more time to repay the loan amount. The repayment period for HELOCs ranges from 10 to 20 years.

You aren’t sure how much money you’ll need. HELOCs give you the flexibility to withdraw money in installments and not all at once. During the draw period, you can borrow up to a limit as many times as you like, and only pay interest on what you borrow. This makes HELOCs a good option for managing variable or unpredictable costs.

You should get a home equity loan if:

Your want a predictable monthly repayment schedule. Unlike variable-rate HELOCs, home equity loans have fixed interest rates, making it relatively easy to factor into your monthly budget.

You have a specific expense in mind. You receive 100% of the funds from a home equity loan upfront, which can be useful if you need a set amount of cash to cover a home improvement project, pay off high-interest debt or another need.

Alternatives to home equity loans and HELOCs

A home equity loan or HELOC can be a good way to fund large expenses, but there are other financing options that may be a better fit for your situation. Some alternatives you may want to consider include:

  • A cash-out refinance. With a cash-out refinance, you are cashing out the equity you’ve built in your home over the years. You replace your existing mortgage with a new, larger one and pocket the difference as cash. The money you borrow is rolled into your new mortgage, so you’ll have only one monthly payment. A cash-out refinance is a good option if you can get a better rate than the one on your existing mortgage. 
  • A personal loan. If you need to borrow only a small amount of money, a personal loan might be a better fit than a home equity loan or HELOC. The interest rate will typically be higher and the loan term shorter, but it’s less risky because it’s an unsecured loan. Plus, you won’t have to go through a home appraisal or pay closing costs.
  • A balance transfer credit card. If the main reason you’re looking to take out a loan is to consolidate other high-interest debt, balance transfer credit cards let you combine your debts into one card that has a long 0% APR introductory period. If you can pay off the debt before the 0% introductory period ends, you’ll get rid of your debt faster. Just be sure to plan ahead carefully: If you’re still carrying a balance by the end of the introductory period, you’ll be charged the regular credit card APR, which can be high. 

The bottom line

A home equity loan and HELOC are two ways you can tap into the equity of your home. To qualify for either loan with reasonable terms, you should have at least 15% to 20% equity in your home, a LTV ratio of 80% or lower, a credit score of at least 620 (the higher, the better) and a DTI ratio no higher than 43%. 


Though specific qualifications vary between lenders, make sure you have a reliable payment history and source of income to be eligible for a home equity loan or HELOC.


Some lenders will provide a home equity loan or HELOC if you don’t have a job or are retired, but instead have regular income from a retirement account such as a pension. The income can also come from a spouse or partner’s employer, government assistance or alimony.

Lenders are typically seeking at least 15% to 20% equity in your home in order to qualify for a home equity loan or HELOC. However, some lenders will allow you to borrow with less equity.

Minimum credit scores vary from lender to lender, but most require you to have at least a 620 credit score. You’ll have a better chance of qualifying and getting access to lower interest rates if your credit score is 700 or above.

You can improve your credit score before you apply for a home equity loan by making payments on time, paying down the amount that’s owed on credit cards and avoiding taking out any new loans or making any major purchases.

Ellen Chang is a freelance journalist based in Houston. She has covered personal finance, energy and cybersecurity topics for TheStreet, Forbes Advisor and U.S. News & World Report as well as CBS News, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, USA Today and Fox Business.
Katherine Watt is a CNET Money writer focusing on mortgages, home equity and banking. She previously wrote about personal finance for NextAdvisor. Based in New York, Katherine graduated summa cum laude from Colgate University with a bachelor's degree in English literature.
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