Jim Sheridan | Burlington Real Estate, Billerica Real Estate, Reading Real Estate


No homeowner wants to borrow more money. However, if you’re experiencing hard financial times or looking for a way to fund a home improvement project, there are ways to borrow money with your home as collateral.

In this article, we’re going to talk about home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC). We’ll explain how they differ and break down their benefits and risks.

Before the bubble

Before the financial crisis of 2007-2008, many homeowners were borrowing readily based on the equity of their home. Interest rates were low on home equity loans, encouraging homeowners to leverage their portion of homeownership.

During the recession, however, all of that changed. People owed more money on their mortgages than their homes were worth, and banks became reluctant to lend.

In recent, years, however, house prices have been creeping back up, and banks and homeowners alike have gained confidence in the equity of their home.

As a result, a growing number of homeowners are turning back to home equity loans and lines of credit as a source of low-interest financing.

So, what exactly are these loans and credit lines?

The difference between a home equity loan and a line of credit

A home equity loan is a lump sum of money that you borrow which is secured by the value of your home. Typically, home equity loans are borrowed at a fixed rate. Lenders take into consideration the amount of equity you have in your home, your credit history, and your verifiable income.

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a bit different. Like a credit card, you are able to borrow money as you need it via a credit card or checks. HELOCs often have variable interest rates, which means even if you’re approved for an initial low rate it could be increased. As a result, HELOCs are better suited for borrowers who can withstand a higher leverage of risk and variation each month.

Is now a good time to borrow?

If you’re a homeowner, there’s an understandable temptation to use the equity you’ve built over the years to your advantage. In some cases, home equity loans and HELOCs can earn you better interest rates than other forms of borrowing.

However, as with other loan types, it’s important for homeowners to realize that HELOCs and home equity loans are not the same as having cash in your savings account.

Another danger that borrowers face is the potential for foreclosure if things go badly. While most lenders won’t seek foreclosure after a few missed payments, your home has been put up as collateral for repaying the loan. Most lenders will choose to sell a defaulted loan to a collections company rather than seek foreclosure.

Ultimately, the best course of action is to avoid borrowing unless it will help you out financially in the long term. However, for those with high home equity who may, for one reason or another, need to borrow, a home equity loan or line of credit might be the best choice.


If you want to buy a terrific house at a budget-friendly price, it generally is a good idea to plan ahead as much as you can. In fact, with a homebuying strategy in place, you can boost the likelihood of a fast, seamless homebuying experience.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you craft a successful homebuying strategy.

1. Think About Your Homebuying Goals

Do you want to live in a warm-weather region? Or, would you prefer to buy a house in a city or town where you can experience all four seasons? Regardless of where you want to live, you need to think about your homebuying goals and incorporate them into your homebuying plan.

Make a list of what you want to find in your dream house – you'll be glad you did. With this list, you can narrow your home search.

Also, it often helps to review your future plans as you put together a homebuying strategy. For example, if you intend to return to school, you may want to consider houses located near top colleges and universities. On the other hand, if you plan to settle down and start a family, you may want to pursue houses near parks and other family-friendly attractions.

2. Consider Your Financing Options

Buying a house likely will be impossible without home financing. Fortunately, there is no shortage of home financing options available.

Oftentimes, it is beneficial to meet with a variety of banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach you about myriad mortgage options and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Once you have your home financing settled, you can incorporate a budget into your homebuying strategy. Then, you can check out available houses and avoid the risk of overspending to acquire your ideal residence.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

Developing a homebuying strategy sometimes can be tough, particularly for those who are crafting a homebuying plan for the first time. Lucky for you, real estate agents are available nationwide who can help you complete a successful homebuying journey.

A real estate agent is happy to meet with you and discuss your homebuying goals. He or she also can review your homebuying strategy and offer expert homebuying recommendations.

Let's not forget about the support that a real estate agent can deliver during the homebuying journey, either. A real estate agent will set up home showings, keep you up to date about new houses as they become available and negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will help you minimize stress throughout the homebuying journey and ensure you can purchase your dream home in no time at all.

If you want to get the most out of the homebuying journey, creating a homebuying strategy is a must. Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you can craft a successful homebuying strategy.


Image by Precondo CA from Unsplash

Buying your first home can be stressful enough without worrying about whether or not your mortgage loan pre-approval is going to go through. You may not be prepared for the mountains of paperwork that you'll need to submit before a lender gives you the thumbs' up. That's why it's such a good idea to know the requirements before you narrow down your home search.

Here are the top items your mortgage broker or lender will need in order to pre-approve you for a loan.

1. Proof of Income

W2 employees will need paystubs, IRS 1040 forms, and copies of their W2 form for the last two years.

For self-employed individuals, and small business owners, the burden of proof is higher. In additon to 1099 MISC forms, you may need to submit a letter from your accountant stating that your business is still active and a profit and loss sheet. 

2. Asset Information

In addition to the regular taxable income you are bringing in, the lender will want to see proof of other assets, including savings, investment accounts, and written documentation of a family member's intent to gift you money.

These assets will let the lender know if you can afford a down payment, pay for the closing costs on the loan, and have enough cash reserves to afford the transition into homeownership.

3. Employment Verification

Lenders want to know not just that you are employed but also that you are stably employed. Thus, they request a letter from your employer to verify your employment status and the salary you're earning.

Self-employed individuals will need to submit at least two years of their complete 1040 forms in lieu of this verification process. 

4. Credit Information

Before they will pre-approve a loan, the lender makes a hard inquiry into your credit. You will need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan or a Federal Housing Administration Loan with zero percent down. The government may approve borrowers for an FHA loan with a score between 580 and 620 if they are able to make a sizable down payment.

In order to qualify for the lowest interest rates available — typically the ones you see advertised — you must have a credit score of at least 760. In some cases, it is worthwhile to defer applying for pre-approval until you can raise your credit score. Why? A lower interest rate can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage.

5. Personal Information

Finally, the lender will want to verify your identity by requesting copies of your driver's license, social security number, and signature.


If you’re hunting for a new home and have come across one that fits all of your requirements and more, it can seem like the only thing you can do is make an offer and wait.

However, your first choice could also be another buyer’s dream home. And, if a higher bid isn’t feasible, you have to find other ways to win over the seller. One way this can be achieved is through writing a letter to the owner of the home.

If you’re bidding on your dream home, writing a letter the the owner can be anxiety inducing. Choosing what to reveal and finding the right words can be scary, even for the most seasoned writer.

So, in this article we’re going to walk you through writing a letter to a seller to give you the best possible chance of winning the bid for a new home.

Tell them why you love their home

If you’ve fallen in love with certain aspects of the home, there’s a good chance the sellers did too. Be personal in your explanations. Rather than just say you love the location, mention that it is a perfect distance to walk to the playground with your children or pets. This will help buyers better understand you and your story.

If you have family who lives nearby, or if the home has features that can greatly improve the life of you, your family, or your pets, be sure to mention this in the letter as well.

Don’t press or plead, just be polite

It can seem desperate and off-putting to receive a letter pleading with you to sell your home to someone. So, when you’re writing your letter and you come to the end, simply thank the buyer for their time and for reading, compliment them once more, and wish them luck in their new home.

Revise and review

It can be tempting to send your letter immediately after writing it, especially if writing is you don’t like writing in general. However, it’s always a good idea to revise. I suggest writing your letter one night, then reading it again the next evening to give yourself time and distance from it--this way you’ll be reading it with fresh eyes and will be able to find any wording that sounds strange or confusing.

It’s also a good idea to run your writing through a free proofreader like Grammarly. And, finally, there is no substitute for having an editor. Ask one of your friends or family members to read the letter and give you feedback.

Stand out from the crowd

There are a few things you can include in your letter to set you apart from other potential buyers. Including a family photo will help the sellers put a face to the names you mention in the letter.

It can also be helpful to print and mail the letter, rather than sending it electronically. Since we so rarely receive a physical copy of a letter these days (unless it’s from a bill collector), it can be nice to receive something positive in the mail for a change.


If you find your dream house, there is no need to leave anything to chance. But if you submit a "lowball" homebuying proposal, you risk missing out on the opportunity to acquire your ideal residence.

Putting together a competitive offer to purchase can be easy. Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you craft an aggressive homebuying proposal.

1. Study the Housing Market

The housing market fluctuates constantly. If the real estate market favors buyers today, it may shift into sellers' favor tomorrow, or vice-versa. As such, you should study the housing market, determine whether it favors buyers or sellers and craft a homebuying proposal accordingly.

Oftentimes, it helps to look at the prices of recently sold houses in your area, as well as how long these homes were listed before they sold. With this housing market data in hand, you may be better equipped than ever before to differentiate a buyer's market from a seller's market. And as a result, you can boost the likelihood of submitting a competitive homebuying proposal.

2. Know Your Budget

If you know how much you can spend on a house, you can minimize the risk of submitting an offer to purchase that stretches beyond your financial limits.

To establish a homebuying budget, it generally is a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Banks and credit unions can teach you everything you need to know about different mortgage options and help you select the right mortgage. Plus, if you have any questions as you evaluate your mortgage options, banks and credit unions are happy to respond to your home financing queries.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

If you hire a real estate agent, you can submit a competitive offer to purchase on any house. In fact, a real estate agent can offer in-depth housing market insights to help you put together an aggressive homebuying proposal that may receive an instant "Yes" from a seller.

A real estate agent is a homebuying expert who understands what it takes to purchase a home in any housing market. He or she first will meet with you, learn about you and your homebuying goals and create a personalized property buying strategy. Next, a real estate agent will help you pursue houses in your preferred cities and towns until you find one that matches your expectations. And after you discover your ideal residence, a real estate agent will make it simple for you to submit an offer to purchase that fulfills the needs of all parties involved.

Of course, if your offer to purchase your dream home is accepted, a real estate agent will guide you through the final steps of the homebuying process. Or, if your homebuying proposal is rejected, a real estate agent will help you reenter the housing market.

Avoid the danger of submitting a lowball offer to purchase your dream house – use the aforementioned tips, and you can craft a competitive homebuying proposal and move one step closer to acquiring your ideal home.




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