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Always Be Very Careful With Your Debt

Spring is the time of year when many people borrow against the equity in their homes. It is the season to plan and start home improvements and many families seek loans inbetween April and June for these remodeling projects and repairs.

People use home equity funds for many purposes: consolidating and minimizing smaller debts and loans, automobile financing, school tuition, vacations and weddings. Before you decide to go down this particular financial path, determine what you need the money for, and is it a valid reason. Then decide just how much more debt you can handle at this time and in the future.

Three Approaches to Utilizing Your Home's Equity Are:

· Sell your house and buy a cheaper one and keep the difference.
· Refinance your mortgage at a lower rate and borrow more than you currently owe, then keep the difference.
· Get a lump sum home equity loan by putting a second lien on your property.

Always keep in mind that you are using your house to secure this loan, and if you default on a loan, backed by your house, for any reason - be it an accident of circumstance or by neglect - you can lose the house.

Note: Even if you declare bankruptcy and default on credit card debt, you can have all or part of the debt forgiven, not so with your house.

Before being tempted by the tax deductions offered by this type of borrowing make sure you can follow through and maintain the payments. You do not want to lose your home for a short-term gain.

Alternatives to Borrowing Against Your Debts Do Exist; You Need to Examine These Options as Well. Can you sell unnecessary items? Do you own a boat or an extra vehicle, maybe a jet ski that is languishing in your backyard? Do you have a 401(k) plan that you can tap into? All of these can be a source of funds if you so choose.

First, always shop around for an equity loan or line of credit and do a comparison of the interest rates, fees and rate caps offered by different lenders. If you have difficulty understanding the terminology and concepts that are being discussed ask for some clarification or bring along a knowledgeable person.

Second, what is the worst-case scenario should your earning or repayment abilities be adversely affected? You need to project into the future and consider what will happen to your ability to satisfy the loan agreement should someone lose their job, have an accident or become ill for a protracted period of time. Do you have insurance that can help in these bad times?

People can get into debt trouble because they borrow more than they can comfortably pay back, not because they chose to spend on the wrong things. Using home equity to pay off credit card debts is always a big temptation, and once that has been done, too many people start the cycle over by using their fresh line of credit on the cards. They then end up much deeper in debt than they were before. Not getting into this type of bad situation depends on self-discipline and financial know how.

Should You Stay Away From High Loan-to-Value Programs?

There is a lot of debate on the subject of borrowing up to the value of your home or more than the value of your property itself. Some lenders will allow up to 125%.

For most people this is not recommended. If you are not sure of your job stability, or have no contingency plans should something unforeseen happen to you, its best that you do not over-borrow, no matter how tempting that may be. There are people, however, that do have excellent credit and enough income and are better situated to take out higher percentages based on their higher LTV. Equity loans and lines of credit can actually keep some people out of bankruptcy. Some homeowners get equity lines of credit while they still have jobs. Then they will be able to make use of their credit lines if they do lose their jobs or have an interruption in their income because of illness or other personal problems. If they do not secure the line of credit before the problem arises they will not qualify for it after the problem becomes an issue, and the funds will beyond their reach.

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