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Home Equity HELOCs

Can I Use a HELOC to Pay Off My Mortgage?

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is an open-ended product that allows you to tap into your home’s equity as needed. You can use HELOC funds for any purpose, including paying off a mortgage.

When you pay off your mortgage with a HELOC, your HELOC replaces your mortgage as the first lien on the property. But is swapping one home-secured debt with another the right decision? It might be. Keep reading to find out.

How to use a HELOC to pay off a mortgage faster

Replacing your mortgage with a HELOC is a multi-step process. It’s not difficult, but it requires forethought and planning. You’ll gather details about your mortgage, apply for a HELOC, and then withdraw from the HELOC to pay off your mortgage

Here’s how it works in more detail:

  1. Contact your mortgage lender for a payoff quote. You won’t know what size HELOC you need without knowing what you owe on your mortgage. 
  2. Estimate your home’s value. Use real estate listing sites like Zillow to get a rough idea of your home’s worth. This will help you calculate your home equity and determine how much you can borrow.
  3. Apply for a HELOC. Check your rates with the best HELOC lenders, then submit a full application when you find a loan offer you like.
  4. Get an appraisal. Before closing your HELOC, your new lender will order an appraisal. This official property assessment will help finalize your HELOC amount—and tell you exactly how much cash you’ll have at your disposal for a mortgage payoff.
  5. Review and accept your HELOC. After the appraisal, your HELOC lender will send you a HELOC disclosure agreement. Take note of the draw and repayment periods, and sign your documents to accept the HELOC.
  6. Withdraw from your HELOC. Once your HELOC is funded, withdraw the funds you need to cover your mortgage.
  7. Pay off your mortgage. Follow the mortgage payment steps you take every month. This time, however, you’ll pay off your home loan in full.

Getting a HELOC can take six weeks, so don’t wait until just before your mortgage is due to look for a line of credit. 

As you start applying for HELOCs, it may be helpful to understand how HELOCs work and how lenders determine your borrowing limit.

For example, say you have 15 years remaining on your mortgage. You owe $190,000 on the loan, an interest rate of 7.75% APR, and your home is worth $450,000. That means you have $260,000 in equity.

An image showing the calculation of home equity by subtracting mortgage balance from home value

Many lenders will allow you to borrow a maximum combined loan-to-value ratio (CLTV) of 70% to 90%. In other words, your combined home-related debt—including your existing mortgage—can’t exceed 70% to 90% of your home’s value.

For this example, let’s say you choose a lender with a maximum CLTV of 85%. The largest HELOC you can get with this lender is $192,500.

An image showing the maximum allowable debt on a home subtracted by mortgage balance to estimate a maximum HELOC.

Imagine getting approved for a HELOC with an interest rate of 5.25%. In this case, you could take out the entire $192,500 line of credit and use the funds to pay off your remaining $190,000 mortgage balance, closing out your original mortgage loan with its 7.75% APR.

You would then have two options for repaying the HELOC:

  • Make interest-only payments on your HELOC for the rest of its draw period (often 10 years). If your mortgage payment was $1,850 monthly, and your interest-only HELOC payment is $400, you now have $1,450 each month for other financial goals.
  • Keep making your old monthly payment toward your HELOC. After all, you’re already budgeting for that payment, so it may be easy to maintain. The benefit is paying off your HELOC ahead of schedule. Since the HELOC has a lower interest rate than your mortgage loan, you can pay your principal balance more quickly. 

The lower the interest rate on your balance, the less you’ll pay in interest over the same repayment period. But be aware that many HELOCs have variable, rather than fixed, interest rates. This could help or hurt you, depending on whether your HELOC rate goes up or down.

Pros and cons of using a HELOC to pay off a mortgage


  • Pay less interest

    If your HELOC comes with a lower interest rate than your mortgage, you could save hundreds or thousands by using your HELOC to eliminate your mortgage.

  • Lower monthly payments

    You’re only required to pay interest during your HELOC’s draw period. There’s a good chance these interest-only payments are less than your monthly mortgage payments, freeing up cash to cover other expenses.

  • Access to additional funds

    Mortgage payoffs are just one of many HELOC uses. As you pay back your HELOC (or if you didn’t max it out to pay off your mortgage), you’ll be able to withdraw more money for other purchases.


  • Replacing debt, not reducing it

    Paying off one form of debt with another can save you money in the long run, but it doesn’t reduce your debt obligation.

  • Switching to a variable interest rate

    If you’re paying off a fixed-rate mortgage with a variable-rate HELOC, prepare for fluctuating payments. HELOC rates can change monthly, so while your payments may be lower during your draw period, they won’t be consistent.

  • HELOC rate could be higher

    Because of your HELOC’s variable rate, there may be times when your new interest rate is higher than your mortgage rate. There’s no real way to predict that ahead of time; it’s simply a risk you take when you open a HELOC.

  • Might miss out on tax deductions

    Mortgage interest is tax-deductible, but that’s not always the case for HELOC interest. Whether you qualify for a tax deduction for your HELOC interest depends on when you opened the HELOC and how you used the funds.

The relative benefits and drawbacks of using your HELOC to pay off your mortgage depend almost entirely on your HELOC rate and repayment habits. These strategies can help you combat any potential volatility:

  • Pick a HELOC with a fixed rate: Not all have variable interest rates. If you want to hedge your bets against a possible rate increase, choose a lender (like Figure) that offers fixed-rate HELOCs. Depending on the overall interest rate environment, your starting rate may be higher than a variable-rate HELOC, but you’ll have peace of mind.
  • Choose a HELOC that allows you to lock in rates: HELOCs with fixed-rate conversion options allow borrowers to “lock” their rate at specific points of the draw period. If you plan to borrow a large chunk to pay off your home mortgage balance, you may be able to secure your rate just after opening the line of credit. 
  • Pay off your HELOC balance as soon as possible: Rather than just paying interest during your draw period, pay as much as possible toward your balance each month. The sooner you pay off your borrowed home equity, the less you’ll pay in interest, and the earlier you’ll get out of debt.

Will I pay off my mortgage faster with a HELOC?

Generally speaking, you can pay off your mortgage faster with a HELOC if your HELOC interest rate is lower and you pay the same amount toward your HELOC as you did your mortgage.

Assume, for example, that you owe $200,000 on your mortgage with a 7.5% APR. You withdraw $200,000 from a HELOC with a 5.5% APR to cover your mortgage balance.

If you pay $1,500 on your mortgage every month, it’ll take roughly 24 more years to pay it off. If you put that same $1,500 toward a lower-interest HELOC, you could own your home free and clear in about 17 years.

Loan typePaymentTime to payoff
Mortgage (7.5% APR)$1,50024 years
HELOC (5.5% APR)$1,50017 years

Remember that this may not happen if your HELOC interest rate increases. Similarly, if you only make the minimum payments on your HELOC, it could take longer to resolve your debt.

Does having a mortgage make it more difficult to be approved for a HELOC?

Having a mortgage won’t necessarily prevent you from getting approved for a HELOC, but it will reduce the size of your HELOC.

Lenders often won’t let you borrow 100% of your home’s equity through a HELOC, instead limiting your HELOC to 70% to 90% of your equity, minus any outstanding debt obligations. 

An image showing that home value multiplied by CLTV threshold is the maximum allowable debt which, when subtracted, indicates your maximum HELOC limit.

In our earlier example, your lender set its CLTV threshold at 85%. That meant you theoretically could’ve borrowed $382,500. But because you still owed $190,000 on your mortgage, you could only borrow the difference between that $382,500 limit and your unpaid mortgage balance:

An image showing the maximum allowable debt on a home subtracted by mortgage balance to estimate a maximum HELOC.

Your CLTV considers all the liens against your property, not just your mortgage. For example, second mortgages and home equity loans will decrease what you can borrow with a HELOC. 

Your income, credit score, and even zip code can further affect your HELOC amount, as well. 

Lenders reserve their maximum CLTV for the most eligible borrowers, so if your credit score or income is lower, your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is higher, or you’re located in certain states, your HELOC limit could be lower.

What fees will I pay to use a HELOC to pay off my mortgage?

Aside from interest, HELOCs can come with additional costs, like closing costs and annual maintenance fees. The most common HELOC fees include:

  • Closing costs: Lenders charge closing costs to offset their administrative expenses. These can include application and origination fees and costs for credit checks. 
  • Appraisal fees: Depending on your lender, your home’s value, and when you purchased the property, you may need a new appraisal before you take out a HELOC. If it’s necessary, your lender will order the appraisal, but it might pass the cost on to you.
  • Annual fees: Many lenders charge annual fees for HELOCs, even if you don’t borrow from the line of credit. Lenders may waive these fees if you meet other requirements, such as maintaining a checking account through the same bank.

Most HELOC lenders let you pay off your balance early without a penalty. That may not be the case if your lender pays your closing costs for you, however. 

If your lender covers your closing costs, you may be required to keep your HELOC open for a minimum length of time (often three years) to avoid additional fees.

Shopping around can help you reduce fees or avoid them altogether, so we recommend comparing several HELOC lenders to see which is best for you.

Alternatives to using a HELOC to pay off my mortgage

Not sure whether a HELOC is the right choice to pay off your mortgage balance? 

Alternatives include the following:

  • Home equity loans: Similar to a HELOC, a home equity loan allows you to borrow against a portion of your home’s available equity in one lump sum. While LTV limits are often similar to HELOC limits, home equity loans have one major benefit: fixed interest rates. In a time of unpredictable rate trends, anticipating your home equity loan payments can offer peace of mind.
  • Mortgage refinance loan: Another option is to replace your current mortgage with a new refinance mortgage loan. Depending on your existing loan, current rates, and your goals, you may be able to reduce your interest rate, adjust your monthly payment obligation, remove a co-borrower, or a blend of the three.