HELOC, short for “home equity line of credit,” is a loan used to help homeowners turn equity into cash for their various financial needs. With equity at its highest levels in America since 2006, many are ready to take advantage.

Unfortunately, what many homeowners find is that identifying the best lender and getting the best rate on a HELOC isn’t as easy as it sounds. In a situation where not maximizing the value of your equity means not having enough money to pay off debt, cover your child’s college tuition, or jump on a savvy investment in a property, you can’t afford to settle for less than the best.

It’s vital that you have a plan for HELOC success when you’re ready to turn your equity into a line of credit.

We want to turn you into a HELOC genius that can track down the best rate, find the best lender, and achieve your financial goals with as little stress as possible. To help you do that, we reached out to financial and real estate experts nationwide and asked them: What’s the ONE tip you’d give a homeowner to help them find the best HELOC rate and lender?

Expert Quotes That Will Turn You Into a HELOC Genius

Rita ChengRita Cheng is a certified financial planner and the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She works to help her clients gain clarity, confidence, and control over their financial lives.

“(1) They can contact their existing lender to inquire about options. I understand that the lender will need to pull credit. Right now, we are just gathering information. Obviously, the homeowner will need to allow a credit inquiry to actually apply for the loan.

(2) Credit union. I always encourage clients to have a relationship with a credit union, whether it’s a savings account, checking account or credit card. Credit unions have competitive rates.

(3) Existing financial institution. This could mean their existing bank. If the homeowner has a banking relationship, it’s worth asking the question.

(4) Independent mortgage professional. It’s important to ask the right questions. Please note there is a difference between a home equity loan and line of credit. Sometimes, clients don’t understand what they are applying for or what they want.

Some institutions only require clients to pay for an appraisal and are willing to cover closing costs provided the client keeps the line of credit open for a specified period of time, say 2 or 3 years.”

Clayton MorrisNatali MorrisClayton Morris and Natali Morris are the authors of “How to Own Your Home Years Sooner & Retire Debt Free” and the founders of the turnkey real estate investment company, Morris Invest. Clayton is also a former FOX News anchor who now hosts a podcast on investing in real estate.

“Shop local. Try to go to a five different local lenders near the property you’re looking to refinance, and find out what rates they have. Typically local banks are able to offer very competitive rates up against the national banks, plus they know the neighborhood and they know the value of your property because they’re local too.”

Bill GassettBill Gassett has been named one of the top RE/MAX Real Estate Agents in Framingham, MA for the past two decades. He’s a 31 year veteran to the real estate industry and has an expertise in technology, marketing, and social media.

“Finding a top HELOC  loan rate should not be taken lightly as the interest rates and other terms you pay can have a significant impact on your finances for the time you hold the loan.

When shopping for the best HELOC rate, it makes sense to not limit your choices when it comes to lending institutions. It is wise to shop not only large well known lenders, but smaller community banks as well. You might even find that a local credit union has an exceptional program as well.

Make sure you take the time to score yourself the best mortgage deal – it will be worth it in the long run!”

Lisa ArcherLisa Archer is the CEO of Live Love Homes and has been featured on HGTV. She was also named one of Inman News 100 Most Influential in Real Estate multiple times, one of Inman News 33 Most Innovative in Real Estate, and she’s part of Gary Keller’s Top Agent Mastermind Group.

“Ask your sphere WHO they have worked with for their most recent mortgage and check them out on social media.”

Paul SianPaul Sian, JD, MBA is a realtor with United Real Estate Home Connections licensed in Ohio and Kentucky. He helps people buy or sell a home, condominium, rental property, or commercial property while making financially responsible decisions.

“In order to find the best HELOC rate and lender, it pays to shop around and not just go with the bank you normally do business with. Many different lenders offer different rates based on your credit score and may even offer reduced rates if you have an account with them already. So check out some websites for rates, call the lenders up and ask them for their rates and HELOC programs before committing to one.”

Debbie DrummondDebbie Drummond is a top real estate agent at The Las Vegas Luxury Home Pro. She’s been a leading expert on the Las Vegas Real Estate Market since 2003 and can offer educated advice to her clients on the best financial options.

“If you’re searching for a Home Equity Line of Credit, you should call several lenders to compare rates. In addition to traditional banks, check with local credit unions. They’re often competitive and may let you join even if you’re not a member.

On top of shopping rates, I recommend opening a line of credit for more than you need. There are several reasons for this. First, it gives you a cushion in case an emergency comes up and you need to dip into your home’s equity. The other reason is how it affects your credit score. A $50K HELOC that’s charged to the limit looks worse on your credit score than a $150K HELOC with only $50K charged against it.”

Marilyn WilsonMarilyn Wilson is a partner at WAV Group, a real estate technology and marketing consulting firm. She’s also the co-founder of RETechnology. Her expertise on the real estate industry helps her provide clear, thorough financial advice for homeowners.

“First, I would suggest that you contact the real estate professional you purchased your home with because they understand HELOCs and help you avoid some of the pitfalls. Second, I would refer to the tips provided in this article from NerdWallet – very Insightful. Third, I would check your credit record to be sure there are no mistakes on it before you try to secure a HELOC.”

Josh HastingsJosh Hastings is the founder of Money Life Wax, a personal finance blog that helps millennials and every day people. His blog is read by thousands of people nationwide looking for weekly updates and personal finance tips.

“When it comes to choosing a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) make sure, before you even apply, you have a plan to use the money effectively. Taking out a line of credit against your home to go on vacation is not what a HELOC is designed for. Consider the following when applying – are the rates variable? What is the length of my HELOC? Consider applying to multiple credit unions to ensure the best rate. To help, having a home appraisal handy can help with securing the best possible rates.”

Glenn StearnsGlenn Stearns is the founder and chairman of Stearns Lending, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the US and the fifth largest privately owned lender in the nation. For 29 years, Glenn has helped customers through the home-buying and refinancing process, making it easier and more secure.

“Understand your product before you look at the rate. It wasn’t that long ago that people fell for the option ARM 1% rate loans. Every loan is different and every borrower has a different set of needs. Find a lender that is responsible and can communicate and help you with your needs. The rates are usually pretty competitive. Your needs are very specific. A good deal is a state of mind. A good lender is a critical asset. Do your research, ask other professionals, and choose a lender that will help you plan for your future.”

Rob KaufmanRob Kaufman is an author, direct marketing expert, and financial blogger. He wrote an expert blog for FICO on the facts to know regarding your HELOC. He’s also written other financial guidance blogs to help one on their journey to financial well-being.

“Intro rates for HELOCs (often known as “teaser” rates) are very attractive and used to entice borrowers into opening and then using their line of credit. Once you’ve narrowed down your choice of lenders based on your criteria, make sure you open a HELOC that can at some point be converted to a fixed-rate loan. If rates undergo a considerable increase, you’ll want to be able to stabilize your rate so that your payment can remain affordable.”

Start Your HELOC Today

We hope the expert advice in this blog post has at least gotten you closer to becoming a HELOC genius. Leave a comment below if you still have questions.

Trusted House Finance is here to help you continue your journey toward using home equity to achieve your financial goals. Visit our getting started with HELOC page to learn more about what a home equity line of credit is and how you can take advantage.