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Refinance vs. Home Equity Loan
Real Estate

Refinance vs. Home Equity Loan: Which Is Better

The estimated reading time for this post is 278 seconds

When homeowners need funds for various purposes, such as home improvements, debt consolidation, or covering unexpected expenses, they often consider tapping into their home’s equity. Cash-out refinancing and home equity loans are popular options for accessing this equity. 

This article will delve into these financial tools’ features, benefits, and drawbacks to help you make an informed decision. 

By understanding the differences between a cash-out refinance and a home equity loan, you can determine which option best suits your unique circumstances.

What is a Cash-Out Refinance?

A cash-out refinance involves replacing an existing mortgage with a new one with a higher loan amount, allowing homeowners to borrow against the equity they have built in their homes. 

The difference between the new and old mortgage is paid out to the homeowner in cash. For example, let’s consider John, who has a home worth $300,000 and a remaining mortgage balance of $200,000. 

If he chooses to do a cash-out refinance for $250,000, he will receive $50,000 in cash (the difference between the new mortgage and the old mortgage).

What is a Home Equity Loan?

On the other hand, a home equity loan is a second mortgage that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their property while keeping their existing mortgage intact. 

The loan amount is based on the value of the home and the amount of equity available. For instance, if Sarah has a home worth $400,000 and an existing mortgage balance of $250,000, she might qualify for a home equity loan of $100,000, which she can use as she sees fit.

Cash-Out Refinance vs. Home Equity Loan: Which is Right for You?

To determine which option suits your needs, it’s important to consider various factors.


One advantage of a cash-out refinance is its flexibility. Since it replaces your existing mortgage, you can secure a lower interest rate and potentially reduce your monthly payments. 

Additionally, you can choose the new mortgage term, allowing for increased control over your finances. On the other hand, a home equity loan allows you to keep your current mortgage intact, which can be beneficial if you have a favorable interest rate or if refinancing is not a viable option due to credit constraints.


Both cash-out refinancing and home equity loans come with associated costs. When refinancing, you may incur closing costs, appraisal fees, and other charges similar to those of a regular mortgage.

In contrast, home equity loans generally have lower closing costs. However, comparing both options’ interest rates, fees, and terms is crucial to assess the overall cost over the loan term.

Risk and Loan Structure

With a cash-out refinance, you are replacing your existing mortgage with a new loan. This means you will have a single mortgage payment, but the entire property serves as collateral. 

On the other hand, a home equity loan adds a second lien to your property, creating two separate payments (the primary mortgage and the home equity loan). 

In the event of financial difficulties, failing to make payments on either loan could result in foreclosure. It’s essential to understand the risks associated with each option and evaluate your ability to manage multiple loan payments if you choose a home equity loan.

Alternative Solutions and Perspectives

While cash-out refinancing and home equity loans are popular ways to access home equity, there are alternative solutions to consider:

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that allows homeowners to borrow against their equity when needed, similar to a credit card. This option provides flexibility, as borrowers can access funds as required and only pay interest on the amount used. 

However, it’s crucial to be mindful of potential interest rate fluctuations and the possibility of higher interest rates than other loan options.

Personal Loans:

For smaller funding needs, homeowners may consider a personal loan instead of leveraging their home equity. Personal loans often have shorter terms and higher interest rates, but they do not put the home at risk since they are unsecured loans. 

This option may be suitable for those who prefer not to increase their mortgage debt or who have limited equity available.

Pros and Cons

To summarize the pros and cons of each option:

Cash-Out Refinance:


  • Potential for lower interest rates and improved loan terms.
  • Consolidation of debts into a single mortgage payment.
  • Ability to access a larger amount of funds.


  • Potential for higher closing costs.
  • Resetting the loan term could result in paying more interest over time.
  • Risk of losing the property if unable to meet mortgage payments.

Home Equity Loan:


  • Ability to keep the existing mortgage intact.
  • Lower closing costs compared to a cash-out refinance.
  • Flexibility in using funds as needed.


  • Additional monthly payment and potential for higher interest rates.
  • Risk of foreclosure if unable to meet payments on both loans.
  • Limited access to funds based on available equity.


Whether a cash-out refinance or a home equity loan is better depends on your financial situation, goals, and preferences. 

A cash-out refinance may be more suitable if you’re looking for flexibility and potential cost savings. However, a home equity loan might be better if you prefer to maintain your existing mortgage or have limited equity available. 

It is essential to thoroughly research and compare each option’s costs, terms, and risks before making a decision. Exploring alternative solutions like HELOCs or personal loans can provide additional perspectives. 

Ultimately, consulting with a qualified mortgage professional can help you navigate the intricacies of each option and make an informed choice tailored to your needs.

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