Is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or a Cash Out Refinance Better?

A cash out refinance refinance can allow you to take cash out of your home with a long-term mortgage. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) allows a homeowner to take money out with a short-term loan. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) gives someone more flexibility on how much money they take out and when they take it out, but the line can have shorter terms and higher rates. I own 16 rental properties and I complete 10-15 fix and flips a year. I have used both a cash-out refinance and a HELOC, and I will detail the advantages and disadvantages of each in this article.

Continue Reading Below

For more information on my rental properties and my investing strategy check out my complete guide to purchasing long-term rentals.

What is a cash out refinance?

A cash out refinance replaces the current loan on your home, and it has a higher dollar amount than your current loan, which allows the home owner to get cash back. Since the balance on the new loan is higher than your old loan, you receive cash at closing. You still have to pay closing costs, which may include an appraisal, loan origination fee, recording fees and more. Those closing costs will decrease the amount of cash that you are getting out of the refinance. Here is an article with much more information on a cash out refinance.

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

A HELOC is a line of credit on a home and much different from a refinance. When you take out a line of credit you do not have to use the money right away or ever. You can use as much of the money as you want and pay it back when you like. You can then borrow the money again after you pay back the line.

A HELOC will have closing costs like a cash out refinance, but many times they will be less. Depending on if you are getting a line on an investment property or a personal residence the terms and fees will differ. The term of the HELOC could be two years, five years or longer, but not 30 years like a refinance could be. Here is an article with much more information on HELOCs.

How have I used a cash out refinance on my rental properties?

I have refinanced two of my rental properties. Rental property number 2 and rental property number 3 were refinanced and I was able to take cash out on both properties. I was hoping to take out more, but I was able to take out over $25,000 on both rental properties.

When I refinanced those properties, my biggest obstacle to buying more rental properties and reaching my goal to buy 100 rentals, was finding the money for down payments. When I refinanced those properties it gave me the money to buy one more rental from each refinance. The refinance did increase my mortgage payments slightly on those rental properties, but interest rates are so low that I was still able to have great cash flow after the refinance. It helps to buy properties below market value to get great cash flow and have enough equity to refinance.

My portfolio lender will refinance 75% of the value of the home based on an appraisal or a desktop valuation on investment properties. They will refinance with a higher loan to value ratio on your personal residence. You may find that conventional lenders are much less likely to offer a cash out refinance option on investment properties.

For more information on financing long-term rental properties, fix and flips or owner occupant homes, check out my E book: How to Finance Multiple Rental Properties. The book explains how to get loans for multiple rentals, for fix and flips or for an owner occupied home. The 99 page book is available at Amazon or in PDF format.

How I have used a HELOC on my rental properties

I recently paid off my first rental property. This was very exciting for me and provided increased cash flow as well as financing opportunities. I was able to get a HELOC on that property about a month ago. Since this was an investment property, my portfolio lender charges me a 1 percent origination fee and had an appraisal done to determine my line of credit.

The appraisal came in at $160,000 and my lender allows a 75% loan to value on investment property lines of credit. On a personal residence they go up to 90% loan to value on a HELOC. I was able to get a line for $120,000, and at the time I had no idea how I would use the line.

How the HELOC helped my fix and flip business

My fix and flip business has taken off lately. I own 8 fix and flips and I am buying a 9th in June. Fix and flips take a lot of money to complete, especially with my financing which is 75% of the purchase price. I have to use my money for down payments and repairs.

On one of the fix and flips I recently bought, I made an offer with cash. I still get a loan on these properties, but have no appraisal or loan conditions and can close in 15 days. Even though getting a loan does not affect the seller at all, the sellers (a REO property) required me to pay cash and lot use a loan at closing. I have never had this happen before, but if I wanted the house I needed to pay cash.

With so many fix and flips going I did not have the cash available to buy that home, but I had my line of credit available. I took out the money from my HELOC and paid cash for the home. I was then able to refinance that fix and flip to free up more money a couple of weeks after closing.

When is a HELOC better than a cash out refinance?

A HELOC has many advantages over a cash out refinance. With a HELOC you do not have to take out the full loan amount like you do with a refinance. This allows you to have the option of taking out the money at some point in the future if you don’t need it now. You can also pay back the money from a HELOC at any time and then take it out again at any time. With a refinance once you pay back part or all the loan, you cannot take that money back out of the loan again without completing another refinance.

If you have a loan in place on a house and have a lot of equity in the home, you can get a line of credit without paying off the loan. The HELOC can be placed in second position and the first loan can stay in first position. When you refinance a home, you usually have to refinance any loans on the home as well.

If you think you may need money in the future for your business or rental properties, but you won’t need the money long-term a HELOC may be perfect. If you need long-term money for financing rental property down payments than a cash out refinance may be the better option.

When is a cash out refinance better than a HELOC?

A cash out refinance is much more long-term than a HELOC.  I used my cash out refinances to fund the down payments for more rental properties. I knew I did not want to pay back this money any time soon so a cash out refinance was perfect for me. If you need long-term money, a cash out refinance may be the better option than a HELOC. You will be paying interest on the money you take out in a cash out refinance so it is smart to put it to use right away.


Both a cash out refinance and HELOC can offer great opportunities to real estate investors. Many times a real estate investor’s biggest challenge is finding enough money to fund deals. Both a HELOC and cash out refinance can help to provide funds and let investors buy more properties and make more money.


  1. Jayne May 17, 2016
    • Mark Ferguson May 19, 2016
  2. annie October 26, 2015
    • Mark Ferguson October 27, 2015
  3. Jack James March 9, 2015
    • Mark Ferguson March 10, 2015
  4. peter November 4, 2014
  5. PrimR October 14, 2014
    • Mark Ferguson October 15, 2014
  6. Ayo July 28, 2014
    • Mark Ferguson July 28, 2014
  7. Vine buys Homes May 31, 2014
    • Mark Ferguson June 2, 2014
  8. Brandon Nappi May 29, 2014
    • Mark Ferguson May 29, 2014
  9. Michelle May 28, 2014
  10. Michelle May 26, 2014
    • Mark Ferguson May 27, 2014

Add Comment