How do people spend their home equity loans?
As home values skyrocketed into 2021, homeowners in the United States found themselves with much more home equity — and historically low interest rates gave them an added incentive to convert the equity into cash.
To get a sense of how homeowners planned to spend that money — and how those plans varied in major metropolitan areas across the country — the online lending platform rental tree examined data from nearly 2.3 million homeowners who visited the site in 2021 and were offered home equity loans or home equity lines of credit. As part of the application process, these borrowers chose one of five reasons they were applying for the loan: home improvement, debt consolidation, investment, retirement income, or another purpose. Their answers form the basis of this week’s chart.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that home improvement was the most popular motivation for loan applicants in all metro areas included in the study, at about 49 percent overall. Last week, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reported that the annual increase in home remodeling spending rose to 9.5 percent in the fourth quarter from 4.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021, with double-digit growth forecast through 2022. According to LendingTree, the Boston and Philadelphia metro areas, which are prevalent with older housing stock, had the highest proportions of loan applicants planning renovations.
The second most popular home fund plan was debt consolidation. Las Vegas led in the category, with 32 percent of applicants checking that box. Las Vegas also had the largest proportion of homeowners tapping into home equity for retirement income — although it was just 2.5 percent of applicants, making it clear that generating retirement income was the least popular motivation among borrowers. (About 17 percent of all applicants indicated unknown plans or preferred not to disclose them.)
Finally, nearly one in ten applicants across the country said investing is their top goal for taking out a home equity loan. The cities with the largest proportions of investment-oriented borrowers were San Jose, California, Miami, and Austin, Texas.
This week’s chart shows the five metro areas where applicants planned the most for each use.