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This article first appeared on the Credible blog.
Home equity loans let you turn your equity into cash, which you can use to pay for home improvements, unexpected medical expenses, or any other bills you might be facing.
Generally, lenders require at least a 620 credit score to qualify for a home equity loan. If your score isn’t quite there yet, though, you still have options.
If you’re considering a cash-out refinance as a way to tap home equity, Credible makes it easy to compare mortgage refinance rates from multiple lenders.
1. Check your credit and try to improve it
To start, head to AnnualCreditReport.com and pull your credit. You get one free report from all three credit bureaus per year.
Once you have your credit report, check it for errors and evidence of identity theft, such as accounts you don’t recognize and credit cards that aren’t yours. Reporting these to the credit bureau can help improve your score. So can taking these steps:
Pay all your bills on time: Payment history — or your track record of payments — accounts for 35% of your score, so make it a point to pay all of your bills on time, every time.
Pay down your debts: Lenders want to see a credit utilization rate of 30% or less — meaning your balances account for 30% or less than your total available credit.
Keep credit cards open: How long your accounts have been open impacts 15% of your credit score, so avoid closing accounts — even once you’ve paid them off.
Avoid applying for new cards: This will result in hard credit inquiries, which can hurt your score.
2. Find out your debt-to-income ratio
Lenders will also consider your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) when you apply for a home equity loan. This indicates how much of your monthly income goes toward paying off debt.
How to calculate DTI: Add up your monthly bills and loan/credit card payments, and divide the total by your monthly income. Multiply that amount by 100. For example, if you have $2,000 in debt payments and make $6,000 per month, your DTI would be 33% ($2,000 / $6,000 x 100).
Most lenders want a DTI of 43% or lower. A low DTI can help improve your chances of getting a loan, especially if you have a lower credit score, since it indicates less risk for the borrower.
3. Find out how much equity you have
How much equity you have in your home, as well as your loan-to-value ratio, will determine whether you qualify for a home equity loan — and how much you can borrow. To find out yours, you’ll need to get an appraisal, which is a professional evaluation of your home’s value. The national average cost of a home appraisal is $400, according to home remodeling site Fixr.
Once the appraisal is finished, you can calculate your loan-to-value ratio by dividing your outstanding mortgage loan balance by your home’s value.
For example: If you have $100,000 remaining on your home, and the appraisal determines it’s worth $200,000, then you have an LTV of 50% ($100,000 / $200,000). This also means you have 50% equity in the home. Most lenders will only allow you to have a combined LTV of 85% — meaning your existing loan, plus your new home equity loan can’t equal more than 85% of your home’s value. In this example, you’d be able to borrow $170,000 (85% of $200,000) across both your initial mortgage loan and your new home equity loan. Since your existing loan still has $100,000 on it, that’d mean you could take out a home equity loan of up to $70,000.
4. Think about bringing on a cosigner
Bringing in a family member or friend with excellent credit to cosign your bad credit loan can help your case, too. If you do go this route, make sure they understand what it means for their finances. Though you may not intend for them to make payments, they’re just as responsible for the loan as you.
Tip: If you fail to repay the loan as agreed, it could hurt your cosigner’s credit score or result in collections against both of you. Make sure you’re upfront and transparent about what cosigning your loan may mean for them.
5. Shop around for the best rates
A lower credit score will typically mean a higher interest rate, so it’s incredibly important you shop around and compare your options before moving forward. Get rate quotes from at least three to five lenders, and make sure to compare each loan estimate line by line, as fees and closing costs can vary, too.
Credible makes comparing rates easy. While Credible doesn’t offer rates for home equity loans, you can get quotes for a cash-out refinance — another strategy for tapping your home equity. Get prequalified in just three minutes.
6. Consider alternatives to bad credit home equity loans
A bad credit score can make it hard to get a home equity loan — especially one with a low interest rate. If you’re finding it difficult to qualify for an affordable one, you might consider one of these alternatives:
Cash-out refinances replace your existing mortgage loan with a new, higher balance one. You then get the difference between the two balances in cash.
Personal loans offer fast funding, and you don’t need collateral either. Rates can be a bit higher than on home equity loans and refinances, though, so it’s even more important to shop around. A tool like Credible can help here.
Compare multiple lenders
If you have bad credit, there are still ways to tap your home equity or borrow cash if you need it. Head to Credible to see what personal loan options and mortgage refinance rates you might qualify for. With Credible, you can easily compare prequalified rates from all of our partner lenders without leaving our platform.
About the author: Aly J. Yale is a personal finance journalist with work featured in Forbes, Fox Business, The Motley Fool, Bankrate, The Balance, and more.