Understanding Home Equity

Understanding Home Equity 

What is Home Equity?

The Basics

You know, I often get asked, "Russ, what exactly is home equity?" Simply put, home equity is the difference between your home's current market value and the amount you owe on your mortgage. Think of it as the portion of your home that you truly "own." It's like having a jar of coins. As you pay off your mortgage and as your home's value increases, the amount of coins in the jar increases - that's your equity!

How It Works

Imagine you bought a home for $250,000 and made a 20% down payment. This means you started with $50,000 in equity. If after a few years, your home's value increased to $300,000 and your mortgage balance is now $180,000, your equity is now $120,000. Pretty cool, right?

Benefits of Building Equity

Financial Stability

Having substantial home equity can act as a financial cushion in tough times. It's like having a financial safety net. If unforeseen expenses pop up, having equity can be a lifesaver.

Potential for Loans

Ever heard of home equity loans or lines of credit? Well, the more equity you have, the more you can borrow using these financial tools. We'll delve deeper into this shortly.

How to Increase Home Equity

Home Improvements

Did you know that certain home improvements can increase your home's value? Remodeling a kitchen, adding a bathroom, or even landscaping can potentially increase your equity. It's like adding more coins to your jar without even making mortgage payments!

Reducing Mortgage Balance

The more you pay towards your principal (the original loan amount), the faster you build equity. Making extra payments or larger ones can help in achieving this. Remember our coin jar? It's like adding a handful of coins all at once.

Ways to Use Home Equity

Home Equity Loans

So, what can you do with all this equity? One option is a home equity loan. It's a second mortgage where you borrow against your home's equity. You receive the loan amount in a lump sum and repay it over a set period.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

This works like a credit card but with your home as collateral. You have a credit limit based on your equity and can borrow as much or as little as you need up to that limit.

Risks Involved


It's tempting to see your home as a goldmine. But remember, borrowing too much against it can put you in a financial strain. What if the housing market crashes? Or what if you can't keep up with the loan payments?

Decreasing Home Value

Home values can decrease due to various reasons like economic downturns or local market conditions. If this happens, your equity can shrink, even if you're diligently paying off your mortgage.


Home equity is a valuable financial tool for homeowners. While it offers numerous benefits, it's also essential to approach it wisely to avoid potential pitfalls. After all, your home is not just an investment; it's where you create memories.


What is home equity?
Home equity is the difference between your home's current market value and the amount you owe on your mortgage.

How can I increase my home equity?
By making regular mortgage payments, making additional payments, or through home improvements that raise your property's value.

Is a home equity loan different from a HELOC?
Yes, a home equity loan gives you a lump sum, whereas a HELOC works like a credit card, letting you borrow up to a certain limit.

Are there risks in using home equity?
Yes, risks include overborrowing and the possibility of your home's value decreasing.

Can I lose my home if I can't repay a home equity loan?
Yes, if you default on a home equity loan or HELOC, the lender could potentially foreclose on your home.