What It Is & How It Works

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Second mortgages allow investors to tap into the equity of their existing property holdings. Many investors cash out equity in their rental properties to make other investments. You can use a second mortgage in many ways, including property enhancements, portfolio diversification, or to maximize returns. 

It pays to understand your options about second mortgages because there are other ways to get liquidity, such as cash-out refinancing. Here is what you need to know about second mortgages to consider their suitability for your investment goals. 

What Is a Second Mortgage?

A second mortgage is an additional mortgage loan secured from a property with a primary mortgage. The property serves as collateral for both mortgage loans. Investors who want to access the equity they’ve accrued in a property can use a second mortgage to access funds without liquidating assets. Unlike the initial mortgage used to purchase the property, the proceeds from second mortgage loans aren’t limited to a specific purpose, giving investors greater flexibility for reinvesting the borrowed funds. 

Four Different Types of Second Mortgages   

Second mortgages are available in different types, each with specific features and benefits tailored to investors’ needs and circumstances. Understanding them is essential for investors considering the potential of second mortgages while minimizing risks and maximizing returns. The range of options for a second mortgage includes:

1. Home equity loan

A home equity loan involves borrowing a lump-sum amount against the equity accrued in your property. This type of second mortgage typically comes with a fixed interest rate and a predetermined repayment schedule. 

Home equity loans are attractive to investors for a specific, one-time expense, such as a major renovation project or a significant investment opportunity. The predictability of fixed payments and interest rates with a home equity loan provides stability, so it’s easier to incorporate a home equity loan into your financial planning.

2. Home equity line of credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) can be an excellent choice for real estate investors who prefer flexibility and ongoing access to funds. Like a credit card, a HELOC offers a revolving credit line up to a predetermined credit limit. Home equity lines of credit often have a variable interest rate, so your payments may fluctuate. 

HELOCs are ideal for investors who want a safety net of funds readily available for various investment opportunities or unforeseen expenses. Additionally, interest from a HELOC may be tax-deductible. 

3. Piggyback loans

Piggyback loans, also known as 80-10-10 or 80-15-5 loans, involve taking out a second mortgage alongside your primary mortgage, allowing you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). The primary mortgage covers most of the property’s purchase price (typically 80%), while the second mortgage covers a smaller portion (e.g., 10% or 15%). Investors can reduce their monthly payments and allocate more funds toward their investment goals by avoiding PMI. These loans are valuable for investors looking to optimize their financing structure. 

4. Cash-out refinance

While not strictly a second mortgage, cash-out refinancing (cash-out refi) is an alternative for accessing property equity. Investors refinance their existing mortgage to secure a larger loan than the outstanding balance. Excess funds are then received in cash and directed toward investments. Cash-out refinancing may be a better alternative than an equity loan or HELOC if your property’s value has significantly appreciated since getting the current mortgage.

Related: HELOC vs. Home Equity Loan: Pros & Cons for Investors

How Much Do Second Mortgages Cost? 

Understanding the financial implications of a second mortgage is essential for real estate investors. The cost of a second mortgage includes various factors that can influence the overall cost and affect your bottom line. Here’s a breakdown of these factors:

Interest rates

Interest rates play a fundamental role in determining the overall cost of a second mortgage. Unlike primary mortgages, second mortgage interest rates tend to be slightly higher due to the increased risk of having a subordinate lien on the property. The rate can be fixed or variable, with variable rates subject to potential fluctuations based on market conditions. Careful consideration of the interest rate is crucial, as even minor variations can significantly impact the total interest paid over the life of the loan.

Closing costs

Similar to primary mortgages, second mortgages include closing costs, which cover various fees associated with the loan origination process. These fees may include appraisal fees, credit checks, loan origination fees, title search fees, and more. Closing costs can vary widely based on the lender, the new loan amount, and property location. It’s critical to factor in these costs when assessing the affordability of a second mortgage.

Loan terms and repayment period

Your second mortgage’s cost is impacted by the loan terms and repayment period. Shorter repayment periods may lead to higher monthly payments but lower total interest payments. 

On the other hand, an extended repayment period offers more manageable monthly payments but potentially results in higher total interest costs. Balancing your financial capabilities with investment objectives is critical when determining optimal home loan terms.

Loan amount and LTV ratio

The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio compares the loan amount to a property’s appraised value. A higher LTV ratio indicates a greater risk for the lender, potentially leading to higher interest rates and costs. Mortgage lenders typically have maximum LTV ratios for second mortgages, and these limits can impact the terms and loan costs.

Repayment schedule

Different second mortgage types may come with various repayment schedules. Home equity loans usually have fixed monthly payments, while HELOCs offer more flexibility, allowing you to draw funds as needed and make interest-only payments during the draw period. The choice between a fixed repayment schedule and a flexible one adds to the total cost of a second mortgage. Before moving forward with a second mortgage, get quotes from multiple lenders, compare terms, and use online calculators to estimate your potential monthly payment and costs.

Pros of Second Mortgages

Second mortgages can be a powerful financial tool that unlocks the door to a wide range of strategic advantages for additional investments. Here are the pros of second mortgages for investors:

Access to capital

One of the most important benefits of a second mortgage is access to funds without liquidating existing assets. This capital can be allocated in various ways, such as financing property upgrades, seizing time-sensitive investment opportunities, or diversifying your real estate portfolio. By leveraging home equity, you can tap into resources that can supercharge your investment goals.

Potential tax advantages

Second mortgages offer tax advantages that can contribute to your bottom line. Interest paid on a second mortgage is often tax-deductible, providing potential savings on your annual tax bill. It’s crucial to consult with a tax professional to understand the tax implications based on your specific circumstances.

Home improvement financing

Real estate investment thrives on enhancing property value, and second mortgages provide a way to finance improvements. Whether renovating a fixer-upper or upgrading an existing property to meet market demands, a second mortgage can supply the necessary funds to boost your investment’s potential resale value.

Portfolio diversification

Investment diversification is a cornerstone of risk management. Second mortgages can free up capital that can be reinvested in additional properties or other investment vehicles, spreading risk out. Diversification safeguards against the potential downturn of a single asset and positions you to capitalize on diverse investment opportunities.

Flexibility and versatility

Different second mortgage types offer various levels of flexibility. Home equity loans provide predictable fixed payments, while HELOCs offer an adaptable revolving credit line. This versatility enables you to tailor your financing approach to align with specific investment strategies, providing you with the agility to jump on favorable market conditions or navigate shifting investment priorities.

Enhanced leverage

Leverage is a hallmark of real estate investment that can amplify potential returns. By securing a second mortgage, you’re effectively maximizing your purchasing power, allowing you to acquire additional properties or capitalize on ventures that may be out of reach with your current cash reserves. 

Cons of Second Mortgages

While second mortgages offer a range of advantages for real estate investors, it’s equally important to be aware of potential drawbacks and challenges. As you consider adding a second mortgage to your investment plans, it’s crucial to weigh these cons against the benefits to make an informed decision. Here are some drawbacks of a second mortgage to consider:

Increased debt burden

Getting a second mortgage requires adding debt to your existing primary mortgage. This increased debt burden can impact your financial obligations and strain your monthly cash flow. Carefully assess your financial capabilities to ensure you can manage two mortgage payments.

Risk of foreclosure

Defaulting on a second mortgage can lead to foreclosure, just like a primary mortgage. But the primary mortgage lender can claim the property’s proceeds during foreclosure. If the property sells to cover the debt, the second mortgage lender may receive less or possibly nothing, depending on the available funds. This risk underscores the importance of diligently managing your mortgage payments to avoid foreclosure.

Variable interest rates

Certain types of second mortgages, particularly HELOCs, often have variable interest rates that fluctuate based on market conditions. While initial rates may be low, potential rate hikes could lead to higher monthly payments and increased costs. Understanding your second mortgage’s terms and potential volatility is crucial before committing.

Costs and fees

Second mortgages come with associated costs, including closing costs, origination fees, and potentially higher interest rates than primary mortgages. These expenses can add up and impact the affordability of the loan. Careful consideration of these costs will help determine whether the benefits of the second mortgage outweigh the expense.

Potential diminished equity

The more mortgages you have on a property, the less equity is available. This reduced home equity can impact your financial flexibility and limit your ability to leverage the property for future investments or financing needs. Balance the benefits of a second mortgage with the long-term implications for home equity.

Subordinate lien status

Second mortgages hold a subordinate lien position to the primary mortgage, so in the event of foreclosure, the primary mortgage lender gets paid off before the second mortgage lender receives any proceeds. If property values have declined since receiving the loans, the recoverable amount for the second mortgage lender may be affected.

Overleveraging

While leveraging can boost returns, overleveraging—taking on too much debt—can expose you to financial risk, especially in a market downturn. Striking a balance between leveraging your investment and maintaining a manageable level of debt will protect your financial stability.

Second mortgages offer many benefits for real estate investors but have potential pitfalls. Understanding the pros and cons is critical when incorporating a second mortgage into your investment strategy. 

How to Get a Second Mortgage

As a real estate investor, getting a second mortgage can help you secure the financing you need while minimizing risks and maximizing your investment opportunities. Here are 10 steps to navigating the second mortgage process:

1. Evaluate your financial situation

Before getting a second mortgage, review your current financial status. Check your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and overall financial stability. Mortgage lenders look at these factors to determine your eligibility and interest rates. 

2. Calculate your available equity

Determine how much equity you have in your property. Equity is the difference between your property’s current market value and the outstanding balance on your primary mortgage. The loan amount and terms for your second mortgage are determined in large part by the amount of equity in your home.

3. Gather documentation

Lenders require extensive documentation during the application process. Gather documents such as recent tax returns, proof of income, bank statements, and information about your primary mortgage. Having these materials readily available streamlines the application process.

4. Research lenders and loan types

Explore different lenders that offer second mortgages and compare their offerings. Determine which works best with your investment goals by researching various loan types, including home equity loans and HELOCs. Each type has its benefits and drawbacks, so choose one that best suits your financial needs.

5. Submit your application

Once you’ve selected a lender and a specific loan type, submit your application. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your financial history, credit score, property details, and the purpose of the second mortgage. Accurately completing the application increases your chances that the lender will approve your second loan.

6. Underwriting and appraisal

After submitting your application, the lender starts an underwriting process to assess your creditworthiness and the property’s value. An appraisal will determine the current market value of your property. The results will influence the loan terms and amount you qualify for on the loan agreement.

7. Compare loan offers

Once the underwriting and appraisal processes are complete, you’ll receive loan offers from lenders. Review each offer’s terms, interest rates, fees, and repayment schedules. Compare offers to select the one that aligns with your investment goals.

8. Finalize the loan

Once you’ve chosen a lender and loan offer, you can finalize the second loan. You’ll review the terms, understand your repayment obligations, and sign the loan documents. Make sure you fully understand the terms before signing.

9. Effectively use the funds

Upon receiving funds from your second mortgage, you can strategically allocate your finances based on your investment goals. These may include property improvements, portfolio diversification, or additional investment opportunities.

10. Monitor and manage

After getting a second mortgage, closely monitor your investment progress, and diligently manage your financial obligations. Stay on top of your monthly payments, track your property’s performance, and be prepared to adapt to changing market conditions.

As you move forward, continue to educate yourself and seek advice from financial professionals to make informed decisions that advance your real estate investment goals.

Second Mortgage FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions real estate investors have when considering second mortgages.

Why do people get a second mortgage? 

People get a second mortgage for many reasons, mainly driven by financial goals and investment aspirations. Real estate investors may choose a second mortgage to access funds for property improvements, diversify their portfolio, or seize time-sensitive investment opportunities. A second mortgage can also serve as a home improvement loan, debt consolidation loan, education fund, or to cover unforeseen expenses. Second mortgages offer a way to tap into your home’s equity, providing a valuable resource to fulfill both short- and long-term financial plans.

Is it a good idea to get a second mortgage?

Whether getting a second mortgage is a good idea depends on your specific financial situation, investment goals, and risk tolerance. Second mortgages can provide access to significant funds and potential tax advantages, but they also come with increased debt and the risk of foreclosure if not paid on time. 

First, thoroughly assess your ability to manage additional debt, evaluate potential returns on your investment, and consider alternative financing options. Advice from financial professionals can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your financial strategy.

Are second mortgages risky?

Second mortgages have certain risks. Foreclosure is a significant concern, as defaulting on a second mortgage can lead to the loss of your property. And second mortgages often have variable interest rates that fluctuate over time, potentially increasing monthly payments. Overleveraging can expose investors to financial risk, especially in a market downturn. Reducing these risks requires careful financial planning, disciplined management of mortgage payments, and a clear understanding of the terms and potential implications of the second mortgage.

How can I get equity out of my house without refinancing?

Some alternative options for accessing your home equity without refinancing include getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which provides a revolving credit line based on your property’s equity. HELOCs allow you to draw funds as needed, like a credit card, without refinancing your primary mortgage. Another option is a home equity loan, which provides a lump-sum amount against your property’s equity. 

These alternatives allow you to access funds without refinancing, but each comes with specific terms and considerations. Research and compare to determine the best fit for your financial goals.

Final Considerations

While second mortgages present attractive possibilities for real estate investors, they also have potential pitfalls. Careful consideration, thorough financial planning, and a comprehensive understanding of both the pros and cons are essential when incorporating a second mortgage into your investment strategy. Use this information as a foundation to make strategic decisions that contribute to your investment success. Empower yourself to navigate the second mortgage application process by being well-informed so you can make sound decisions for your financial goals.

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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