Friday, July 28, 2006
From The Mortgage Weblog
by Christi Lundquist
Many homeowners around the world are turning to home equity loans, and home equity lines of credit, and even their IRAs and 401(K) funds to decrease or eliminate their credit card debt. Partly fueled by the recent growth in home equity and home values, partially due to lower interest rates on home loans, thousands of people per day are shifting their debt from their cards to their homes. While in some cases this can be beneficial, there are some very real hidden dangers to be aware of when chosing an option that involves taking from your home equity.
One thing that many borrowers are not aware of - or are chosing to ignore - is the definite possibility of homes in your area experiencing a "leveling off" of home values. While over the past few years the equity seemed to grow at an unreasonable rate - without much effort on the part of the borrower, that same equity could essentially disappear just as quickly. In addition to leveling home values, most ARMs are scheduled to begin to reset as early as 2007, and many homeowners will find themselves with a much higher monthly mortgage payment. For those who have a large enough monthly income to compensate for the higher payments, the jump in interest rates may not have as severe of an effect. But most borrowers will experience payment shock - even without adding in the credit card debt, and have a hard time with the monthly payments.
If a borrower has a low monthly payment now, and a higher than normal property value - it can cause a false sense of security, and lead to choices that would not otherwise be made based on the equity in the home. One of the most important thing to remember, is that there are collectors paid to collect on the credit card debt, and by not making the monthly payments on the debt - you could have your cards taken away. When you struggle to pay your monthly mortgage payments, the price is much higher - you could eventually lose your home. Taking the extreme risk of paying off credit card debt may seem like a wise decision due to the difference in interest rates between credit cards and mortgages, but weighing your options as well as the risks may save your home. And the biggest danger of all?? Most Americans who use their home equity to pay off their credit card debt refuse to change their habits and lifestyles, and actually see their zero-balance cards as an invitation to go shopping - perpetuating the cycle. However, in this cycle, there is one detrimental factor - home values will probably not continue to experience the rise, leaving the borrower with very few recovery options for the future.