mortgage

Second mortgage still attainable

It might be a challenge, but it's not impossible to get a second mortgage -- particularly in locations where homes have managed to hold their values despite the real estate market's general downturn.

These days, lenders require that borrowers have at least 20 percent equity in their homes to qualify for a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, or a home equity loan.

It's a big change from the height of the housing boom, when lenders were handing out loans of up to 100 percent or more of the home's value.

But in many of those once-booming locations, homeowners are underwater, owing more on their homes than they are worth. In other cases, they don't meet the 80-20 loan-to-value requirement needed to get a second mortgage.

Big banks have also become more reluctant to hand out home equity loans and HELOCs, but community banks and credit unions may be more likely to lend.

Strong credit

Just having enough equity in your home isn't enough to guarantee success if you're looking for a second mortgage.

It makes a big difference if a homeowner has a strong credit score. Such a borrower will typically pay lower interest rates than someone with a weaker score. If your credit score isn't what you would like it to be, try to pay off credit card debt or correct any errors in your credit report before applying for a loan.

You also need to determine if a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit is the best choice for you. Bankrate's home equity calculator can help you make that determination.

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