Here we go again. Banks are starting to offer home equity loans and lines of credit – some of the very products that got so many Americans into financial trouble during the housing bust.
These products allow you to tap any equity you've built up in your mortgage –that is if you have any in this lousy market - as a loan or a line of credit. Associated Bank in the Midwest has tripled its home equity business over last year, while underwriting is up at Atlanta-based SunTrust and Citizens Bank in the Northeast.
No doubt you'll start seeing ads plastered all over your newspaper for these products as bankers tout the attractions of low interest rates and well, a cheap loan.
The problem is the interest rates on these products aren't all that cheap. According to SmartMoney.com, the average rate on home equity loans is 7.15 % and 5.22 % for lines of credit.
At the end of the day, I want you to have access to every financial product you will ever need. But, you need to understand how they work and make sure that you can afford to pay these loans back.
Because if you fail to pay your home equity they take your house—it’s not like a credit card.
These loans are appropriate for people who are cash-short and facing short-term, unexpected expenses like a big medical bill. But if you simply want to renovate your bathroom - hey, take a few months and save up the dough.
You'll be much more proud of the upgrade and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that when it's done - you won't face a bill the next day.
Gerri Willis is the host of "The Willis Report" (5PM/ET), a primetime program that covers the leading financial and political stories of the day and their impact on consumers. Click here to see more from Gerri Willis.