The last decade was a tumultuous financial period for Americans.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, economic activity declined rapidly and marked the largest downturn since the Great Depression. It is estimated that Americans lost nearly $16 trillion of net worth during this time. To make matters worse, unemployment rates doubled. The booming U.S. housing market plummeted along with the stock market which caused a chain reaction in exposing significant flaws within the financial ecosystem.
America’s credit crisis was in full-effect; the lending market slowed significantly with stricter credit standards with consumer confidence spiraling quickly downhill.
Based on a recent Experian analysis of U.S. lending trends related specifically to HELOCs, the shift in market conditions from 2005 to 2014 is evident.
I sat down with Experian’s director of Public Education to find out what this all means for consumers and lenders.
What exactly is a HELOC?
H-E-L-O-C stands for Home Equity Line of Credit. That means you are using your house as collateral for a line of credit. You can use that line of credit to make purchases up to the HELOC limit. It is similar to a credit card account with one very important difference. Unlike credit credit cards that are unsecured debt, your house serves as security for a HELOC. That means that if you don’t repay the debt, the lender might be able to claim your house as payment.
What does end of draw mean?
The study revealed that a large portion of HELOC loans were originated between 2005 and 2008. These loans represent $292 billion outstanding, which is significant as this group of loans nears the repayment phase, which is referred to as “end of draw.” At the end of the HELOC terms, the loan terms direct consumers to either enter into a repayment program, which can be structured over time, or to pay the loan off in one lump sum or balloon payment.
Should we be concerned that the outstanding HELOC debt could have a negative impact on the economy?
The aftermath of the great recession is still rippling through the marketplace, so there are concerns about the pre-recession (2005-2008) HELOCs that are now in repayment and how they could negatively impact consumers and the economy as a whole.
The study further evaluated what could happen to these loans as well as other loan products and found that consumers coming to the end of draw on their HELOC are more likely to go delinquent, not just on the HELOC loan, but also on other types of debt as the increase in repayment burden is absorbed by the consumer.
However, financial institutions have reached out to their customers to make sure they understand and are prepared for this change in their payment structure. You should work directly with your lender to develop a plan that will help you manage your financial obligations.
What should consumers in this situation do?
To help borrowers avoid crippling their credit histories, here are five strategies to implement if you are nearing the end of draw period.
- Know your loan terms— It’s been awhile since you’ve reviewed that loan document so it is a good idea to refresh your memory on what you can expect during this repayment period. Understanding the repayment requirements in your contract with the lender is the foundation for your strategy to navigating any payment increase.
- Talk with your lender—Banks want borrowers to remain in good financial standing and will work with you during this repayment period. If you anticipate any difficulty making payments, communicate that with your lender so they can help guide you to resources and information.
- Evaluate and adjust your budget—Developing a budget to manage payments and other financial commitments is crucial to navigating the payment increase. Are there areas in which you can decrease spending? You can easily trim a few dollars each week by packing your own lunch and getting your ‘cup of joe’ fix by making coffee at home in the morning.
- Give your cash flow a boost—Can you generate some extra income from your passion or hobby? Sell your crafts on Etsy or your vintage finds on Ebay? Become an Uber driver or freelancer photographer? Creativity can pay off.
- Don’t be late—I can’t say it enough. Pay all your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on credit scores. Create calendar alerts or set up automatic payments to avoid this serious credit ding.
To learn more about the analysis, please click here.