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Can I use a HELOC to purchase a second home?
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Can I use a HELOC to purchase a second home?

Discover the pros and cons of using a HELOC for a down payment on a second home

Wondering if you can use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a home equity loan to buy a second home? The short answer is yes, there are no legal limitations on how you can use funds from a HELOC or home equity loan. For many, tapping into home equity can be an intelligent choice to finance the purchase of an investment property, but it's essential for homeowners to understand the risks and have a solid plan for managing repayment.  

Key Overview:

  • A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) can be used to finance a down payment on a second home

  • Using a HELOC can help home buyers leverage a larger down payment on their investment and lower interest rates, which can lead to significant long term savings

  • Borrowers should have a solid plan for how they will use HELOC funds, how they will use the second property (an investment versus a second home), and how they will pay off the HELOC

  • Because HELOCs are secured by home equity, they have lower rates of interest but also come with the risk of foreclosure in cases of nonpayment

Can I use a HELOC to buy a second home?

Using a HELOC to buy another house is an attractive option for many homeowners due to the simple process and access to funds. A HELOC allows you to access the equity built up in your primary residence, allowing you to use it for any purpose, including purchasing another house. However, there are potential risks involved when using this approach, including potential foreclosure on your first home if you are unable to pay back the HELOC loan.

This guide will walk you through the process of using a HELOC for a down payment on the purchase of a second home. It's important to understand exactly how this type of loan works, including repayment, and the risks and benefits associated with borrowing against your home equity. 

How does a HELOC work?

A Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC for short, is a type of mortgage or home equity loan. Like traditional home equity loans, it is secured by your home. That is, the amount of your home that you own as opposed to the portion that the bank owns in the form of a primary mortgage. Because a HELOC is a secured loan, lenders can offer lower interest rates than on unsecured loans like credit cards and personal loans. (The flip side of this, is that because it is a secured loan, non-payment can lead to losing the collateral being used to back the loan, your home). 

Where HELOCs and traditional home equity loans differ is in how disbursement, interest charges, and repayment work. Traditional home equity loans provide a one-time lump sum cash disbursement at the start of the loan, followed by regular monthly payments until the loan is paid off. Interest is charged on the outstanding balance. 

In contrast, a HELOC is a credit line, which means that it works more like a credit card. Based on the amount of equity you have in your home, as well as your credit history, and income, you will receive a maximum credit limit from your lender. You are typically able to withdraw funds as needed up to your credit limit and are only charged interest on the outstanding balance. 

A HELOC is usually divided into two, clearly defined periods. It begins with a draw period, during which you can withdraw funds from your credit line. This first period typically lasts from 5-10 years. Most lenders only require that you make payments on interest at this time. Following the draw period is the repayment period. During this period, you will be required to make payments on interest and the outstanding balance until the loan is paid off. 

HELOC interest rates can either be fixed-rate or variable-rate (also called adjustable rate). Fixed interest rate lines have the benefit of predictability. There are no surprises down the line if interest rates go up, and it is easier to plan for repayment. Variable interest rate HELOCs may start out lower, but it is difficult to predict how rates might change over time and how this will impact the size of your monthly payments.

Things to consider when using a HELOC for a down payment

It is essential to have a plan whenever borrowing money. This includes planning for how you will use the financing and how you will pay it back. Consider best and worst-case scenarios to avoid unrealistic expectations. 

Will it be for a second home or an investment property?

Buying a second home and buying an investment property are two different approaches to investing in real estate. Whether you want to purchase a second home or an investment property will largely spurn the type of financing you can qualify for. When it comes to using a HELOC, it’s important to have clear goals and expectations in mind before applying.

When considering purchasing a second home with a HELOC, typically borrowers need larger down payments as well as better credit. In comparison, when looking at investment properties, market analysis is essential in ensuring that any potential returns will be able to pay off your mortgage. Additionally, having an understanding of the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) can be beneficial when calculating how much money can be made from a specific venture. All these calculations and research need to be done prior to deciding whether or not the property is suitable for purchase via a home equity line of credit. 

How will you pay it off?

It is essential to have a repayment strategy when taking out a HELOC. This means being aware of how much you are borrowing, what your interest rate is, and how long it will take to pay off the loan. Knowing your repayment timeframe will help you plan for future expenses and determine whether or not you have enough funds to pay off the loan. Additionally, budgeting can be useful in ensuring that you are able to meet your repayment obligations.

When using a HELOC for a second home, it is important to look at the long-term costs associated with ownership. This includes all expenses such as property taxes, insurance premiums, and maintenance fees. If you decide to rent out the property, factor in rental income as well when planning for repayment.

Keep in mind that there are two basic strategies for paying off a HELOC: The first is making minimum monthly payments during the draw period that only cover the interest and fees. This will allow you to wait until you are receiving income from a rental property to increase the size of payments. However, it will take you longer to pay off the loan, increase the total interest paid over time, and could leave you overwhelmed when larger payments come due. 

The other strategy is to begin making principal payments on the credit line during the draw period. This will reduce overall interest paid during the lifespan of the credit line and will lower the size of monthly payments once you enter the repayment phase of the loan. 

Risks and Benefits 

There are advantages and disadvantages of using a HELOC to assist in the purchase of a second property. Homeowners should consider that using a HELOC for a down payment on a home means they will be adding significantly to their debt load and monthly expenses. There will be new primary mortgage payments, monthly payments on the HELOC, and additional expenses for maintaining the new home. 

This does not necessarily mean using a HELOC for this purpose is a bad idea, but you should plan and prepare for the additional costs. If you plan to use one of the homes as a rental in order to generate income, be prepared for a lag period between when you buy and when you start to generate income. And always be prepared for home maintenance fees and other costs such as taxes and HOA's. 


One of the primary advantages of using home equity to buy an investment property is that it can make the purchase significantly more affordable. Often, when buying a second property as an investment, buyers will need to take out a loan for the funding. Home equity loans and HELOCs tend to have lower interest rates than most traditional loans, helping to reduce monthly payments and overall costs over time. Furthermore, lenders typically require larger down payments on a second property, meaning you will need to secure a minimum of 20-30% in order to finance the purchase. 

Utilizing a HELOC to increase your down payment on a property can be very beneficial. By choosing to put more of that money toward your down payment, you can potentially lower your monthly payments and interest rates, which helps to significantly reduce the cost of owning the property in the long run. With the extra money in hand from this form of loan, it’s up to you how much of it you want to use toward the purchase—but putting as much as possible will yield greater savings over time. Money saved from reduced payments due to a larger down payment can be used for other purposes or invested back into a portfolio.

Another benefit of using home equity financing for an investment property is that it allows buyers to access larger amounts of liquidity than if they were relying solely on savings or other forms of financing. With more money available upfront, buyers are able to use these funds for necessary repairs or renovations before renting out their new home or become investors in rental properties with solid returns without being tied down with restrictive lenders and complex regulatory documents. It also typically eliminates red tape associated with closing costs as well as provides low closing cost “no-fee” options if such features are made available by lenders. 


Ultimately, owning multiple properties can increase your long-term wealth, but using a home equity line of credit towards that goal doesn't come without risks.

Getting a HELOC is one way to turn assets into debt. This involves borrowing money against the equity that you own in your home, essentially securitizing it for the loan. HELOCs can be a viable financial tool in certain scenarios, as you may be able to borrow at more favorable interest rates than other loan types and use the funds without liquidating existing investments or tapping into savings. However, it is important to consider whether taking on an additional loan and increasing your total debt load makes sense for your situation; if not managed carefully, higher debt levels can have serious implications on your finances and even lead to bankruptcy.

When making the decision of trading assets in for debt, it's important to weigh out the pros and cons associated with such a move. It may make sense depending on future cash flow needs or interest rates associated with taking out an additional loan versus liquidating existing assets held outside of the home loan equity. More often than not, it is beneficial to explore all available options and obtain advice from knowledgeable professionals before making this type of financial move.

Owning two properties in the same housing market can leave you vulnerable to shifts in the real estate market. Because all homeowners have potential risk when it comes to these changes, doubling that risk by owning two homes opens you up to a higher degree of monetary loss. Most importantly, any decrease in value for either property can lead to more debt being owed on your mortgage and home equity lines -a situation which may become impossible for one person to manage financially. Unfortunately, if you are unable to pay on these loans, both properties would be held as collateral and could potentially be lost as a result.

HELOC alternatives for funding a down payment

Alternative funding options for a down payment on a second home include cash from savings (or family and friends), dipping into retirement funds, personal loans, and cash-out refinancing. Cash is obviously the best option because it avoids building debt, but is not always the case, especially when lenders are requiring a sizable down payment. 

Dipping into 401(k)s, IRAs, or other retirement savings is another option. First, explore any penalties you will incur as a result of early withdrawal (if you are younger than 62 years of age). Then consider the current return on investment of your retirement savings and weigh if you expect to have a similar return on investment on your real estate investment. If the numbers are similar, it could be a viable option for you. However, oftentimes it is a risky bet for your future to reduce returns on your retirement savings. 

Cash-out refinance is another option. With a cash-out refi mortgage, you receive a new primary mortgage on your home. The new mortgage is used to pay off your existing home loan, with a portion of the accrued equity returned to you in a single, one-time payment.

Personal loans can also be used to fund a down payment on a second property. However, personal loans tend to come with high interest rates since they are not secured. 

The takeaway

Yes, it is possible to use a HELOC to purchase a second home. However, there are several factors that need to be taken into account when making this decision. It's important to understand the risks associated with such an endeavor and weigh whether or not it makes sense in your current financial situation when compared with other available options. Additionally, you should consider if owning two properties in the same housing market is a wise decision. Ultimately, seeking professional guidance from a knowledgeable financial advisor can help you make an informed decision and guide you to the best option for your unique situation.

This article is published for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, or financial advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors prior to entering into any  large transactions. 

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