Q&A: HELOC situation improves

Dear Liz: Your recommendation that a retired couple consider a home equity line of credit to pay for home repairs astonished me. According to news reports, HELOCs are becoming harder and harder to find. Banks that still offer them have gotten stricter. And to suggest a reverse mortgage for a couple who only need $10,000, I think, is not the best option for them.

Answer: Lenders did tighten their requirements for HELOCs after the pandemic began, and some stopped offering them entirely. But the situation is starting to ease, thanks to rising levels of home equity and a generally strong economy.

The original letter writer’s spouse had proposed using a low-rate credit card to pay for a new furnace and water heater. Using a low-rate card isn’t a bad option if the balance can be paid off quickly, but could become expensive otherwise. Low rates are typically teaser rates that expire after a certain period. The couple then could try to roll the balance onto another low-rate card, but there’s no guarantee they would be approved for such a balance transfer or that they would get a large enough credit limit.

You’re quite right that a reverse mortgage wouldn’t be a great solution if the couple needed only $10,000, but the letter writer indicated they had little in savings. A reverse mortgage or line of credit could provide an ongoing source of funds for those with few other options.

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