How to Choose Between a Refinance, a HELOC, and a Second Mortgage

How to Choose Between a Refinance, a HELOC, and a Second Mortgage

Canadian borrowers who want a better loan deal that is affordable should learn how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage.

These are three popular refinancing avenues offered to people who want a home in Canada. Choosing the right approach depends on your desires, plan, and unique circumstances, among others.

Understanding how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage is simple. It would help if you learned about key considerations that will make things easier. For Canadians who seek a cheap and new payment option, then a refinance approach makes sense.

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However, if you prefer a fair interest-only payment structure, you could choose a HELOC. Also, if you want to borrow a small loan to finance your property, you could opt for a second mortgage.

We will analyze how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage. You will learn about how they work and their pros and cons.

How to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage

How you choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage depends on your choice. Also, the loan application to choose from will depend on your time, credit score and other factors.

Second Mortgage, HELOC, and refinance mortgage are all ideal ways to free up your home equity; however, choosing one depends on several factors. They include:

Positive financial situation

If the market rate has risen and you have good credit and a suitable mortgage, you should refinance. Refinancing is more challenging to get than HELOCs and second mortgages. But it’s a cheaper way to turn home equity into a large sum of money.

If you also talk to a reliable lender, you can negotiate better terms and rates.

Bad financial status

For homeowners with a negative or bad financial ratio and status, stay away from refinancing your mortgage. Your best bet if you are seeking a loan-to-value higher than 85 is a second mortgage.

Also, a second mortgage is easier to qualify for than the other two loan types. The application process has no barriers, although interest rates are high. This is an excellent choice if you are down economically but expect things to improve soon.

Home repairs and improvements

If the primary aim of seeking a loan is to repair and renovate your house, a second mortgage could be a great idea. Canadian homeowners consider this option for Investment purposes.

When you invest in home improvements, it increases the value of your property. With this, they can sell the home soon at reasonable rates, paying off all mortgage loans owed.

Uncertain about funds needed

Homeowners who need an idea of how much money they need should consider a HELOC. Both second and refinance mortgages require you to pay a high interest rate on the money you borrow; this isn’t the case for HELOC.

This loan approach allows you to pay a little interest on the amount spent. This method is great for protecting yourself from unplanned expenses.

Irrespective of how you choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage, think about yourself first. If you find the decision complicated, you can contact professional brokers who will determine the ideal loan that will suit your needs.

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What is refinance?

Refinance, sometimes called refinance, is changing the terms and conditions of a credit agreement. This type of financing pertains to personal loans and mortgages.

When a person or business wants to refinance their credit agreement, they will choose one that favours them. The preferred one has to align with their interest and payment schedule.

When mortgage refinancing is approved, the borrower will have a new contract that replaces an existing one.

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How does refinance work?

The knowledge of refinance benefits Canadians thinking about how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a Second mortgage. Homeowners in Canada decide to refinance to get a better borrowing term.

Refinancing is common among people facing harsh economic decisions and needs a better rate. Refinancing aims to lower the mortgage rates and extend the loan duration.

Moreover, borrowers can switch from a fixed-rate mortgage to a favourable adjustable-rate mortgage or vice versa.

Borrowers may also decide to go through this route when they have a good credit profile. When you have an improved credit ratio, your chances of getting a mortgage refinancing are higher.

Types of refinancing

Determining how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage is tricky. However, the different types of refinancing in Canada will help give an insight. They are:

Rate and term refinancing

This is a standard refinancing option offered by many lenders in the country. Refinancing occurs when an existing loan is paid and needs low-interest payments.

Cash out refinance

Cash-out refinancing is common among assets and properties that have improved value. In this type of refinancing, the value or equity of the property is withdrawn and changed for a higher loan amount.

Cash-in refinancing

This refinance allows you to pay some of the loan for a favourable loan-to-value ratio or lower loan payments. This refinance category is perfect for those who prefer instant and small settlements.

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The pros and cons of refinancing

Arriving at the decision on how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a Second mortgage is vital. For you to decide accurately, learn about their benefits and limits.

Pros of refinancing

Here are the benefits of choosing a refinancing approach:

  • Low monthly payment and interest rate
  • Ability to convert your adjustable rate to a better-fixed rate. This helps with savings in the future.
  • This method gives you an influx of funds for your financial needs.
  • Borrowers can set up a shorter loan proof, which allows them to save a lot of money on interest paid.

Cons of refinancing

Some drawbacks of this type of loan include:

  • When you choose the refinancing option, the aggregate interest payment may be higher than what you save.
  • When the interest rate drops, you will only benefit from it if you refinance again.
  • This approach reduces equity on your property.
  • A Shorter loan term will lead to a substantial monthly payment. Also, you will pay closing costs.

What is a HELOC?

A home equity line of credit, commonly called HELOC, is a credit option that helps borrowers secure their property.

During the HELOC application process, the financial institutions will determine how much you can collect. However, with the aid of a HELOC Calculator, you can also know the amount you are due.

Most Canadian lenders allow borrowers to take a mortgage plus HELOC of up to 75%. Therefore, if your house is valued at C$600,000 and your mortgage is C$300,000, your HELOC value could be as high as C$280,000. With HELOC, you must make at least a monthly payment once you owe.

How does a HELOC work in Canada?

Deciding how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage requires intelligence. In Canada, you must apply to a reliable bank to know if you qualify. The equity on your property will be considered before a final decision is made.

 In some instances, home equity loans can increase when you make timely payments on your mortgage. Moreover, a HELOC in Canada can be around 70% of your home’s value. This is true primarily when you use a federally regulated financial institution. The interest rate on HELOC varies as the prime rate isn’t stable.

The  administration fees you are liable for include the following:

  • Appraisal cost
  • Legal deductions
  • Title insurance premiums
  • Title search dues

To make payments for HELOCs in the country, you need a revolving line of credit. Also, to pay off the balance, you must make interest payments monthly plus the principal.

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Qualification criteria for HELOC in Canada

Qualification requirements are an essential factor when choosing between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage. Here are the essential qualification criteria if you want to apply for a HELOC in the country:

  • Home equity must be at least 25%.
  • The credit score should be 740+; any score lower than 700 won’t be allowed.
  • Your debt-to-income ratio must be around 45-50%.
  • Proof of income (pay slips)

Note that the above qualifications vary from one province to another, and lenders also differ.

Pros and cons of using HELOC

It’s necessary to consider the advantages and disadvantages when choosing a loan approach. Your decision on choosing between a refinance, a HELOC, and a Second mortgage will be better made.

Merits of HELOC

If  HELOC is your preferred option, here are some merits that come with it :

Funds are accessible at a low rate

The interest rates offered by HELOC are low when compared to other methods. This loan approach is an excellent choice to avoid high interest rates.

Stay on your property and keep the equity

When you collect a HELOC, you can still stay in your house. This helps you maintain ownership while the value of the assets keeps increasing.

Flexible cash access

When you take out a mortgage, everything stays fixed; however, with a HELOC, you can quickly negotiate your preferred line of credit. You then decide on the limit that is comfortable for you based on your earnings.

Cons of HELOC

Here are certain limitations of a HELOC:

Stringent qualification criteria

In Canada, HELOC suits people with favourable credit and sufficient income. Therefore, if you are a retiree or someone with an irregular income, you may not qualify.

Lenders and banks can reconsider loans taken

The bank can review your application and credit you anytime, irrespective of your present situation. Lenders can tell you to repay your balance as soon as possible if your credit situation doesn’t improve.

Extra fees

For your HELOC application to succeed, you may have to pay extra appraisal, legal, and application fees. These fees aren’t stable and are based on individual, unique situations.

The interest rate is likely to increase

Because the interest rate for this loan isn’t stable, you could risk paying high interest based on the prime rate. This might cause additional hardship for homeowners with low or medium incomes.

Choosing HELOC can be an easy way to get cash for your home; however, it has its strengths and limitations.

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What is a second mortgage?

A second mortgage means borrowing from the equity built on your property. This implies that a second mortgage is the difference between your home value and the balance on your initial mortgage. Homeowners in Canada can access it by getting a home equity loan or HELOC.

Funds obtained from a second mortgage can be used for different reasons. The main reason for this approach is to finance home improvements and consolidate other debts. This is recommended especially for high-interest card balances.

How does a second mortgage work?

The workings of a second mortgage are transparent and straightforward in Canada. This concept increases your understanding of choosing between a refinance, a HELOC, and a Second mortgage.

To get a second mortgage in Canada, you must do similar things as you did when you qualified for your initial mortgage.

These processes include application submission and documentation about your assets, debts, and income. Most reliable mortgage providers in Canada also ask for appraisals to know the present value of your property.

 While equity requirements vary across Canadian provinces, generally, you need to provide at least 15-20% of your home equity. Moreover, you can borrow around 80–85% of the home value.

What you need when applying for a second mortgage in Canada

There are basic requirements borrowers should have when getting a second mortgage in Canada. They are:

  • At least 15–25% home equity
  • Credit score of 650 and above
  • The owner of a property in the country is sacrosanct.

Merits and demerits of getting a second mortgage

Like other methods of home financing, knowing the merits and demerits of having a second mortgage is ideal. This will help you make better decisions when applying for a loan.

Merits of second mortgage

Here are the advantages of using a second mortgage:

Easy access to equity

With this method of home finance, you can have speedy access to equity anytime you want. There are no barriers to how many times you can access the funds.

Fair interest rates

The interest rate on this mortgage type is smaller than that of home loan approaches. A lower interest benefits those with a small and medium income in the country.

Multiple methods of fund withdrawal

There are different ways that you can withdraw funds from this loan avenue. You could use a money order, a bank transfer, or a check.

Tax benefits

There are certain tax benefits attached for people who take out this home loan. If they are used for home repairs, second mortgage interest is tax deductible.

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Demerits of a second mortgage

Here are some drawbacks you will encounter if you choose this loan:

The complicated and expensive application process

The process of applying for a second mortgage can be thorny. It takes weeks and sometimes months for the application to be complicated, and you will incur some closing costs.

Pegs on the loan amount

Lenders in Canada put certain limits on the amount you can borrow for this loan. These limits are set using your property value.

Your property is at risk

When you borrow against your property, you put it at risk. If you can’t make payment at the agreed-upon time, you risk losing it.

A second mortgage is another viable way of seeking funds for a new home. It is popular across Canada but comes with certain drawbacks.


This guide has answered the question of choosing between a refinance, a HELOC, and a Second mortgage. These three approaches remain the top options for homeowners in Canada.

If you seek a seamless loan process, every option has merits and demerits. Your present situation wants, and market forces will depend on which of these approaches you should consider.

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FAQs about how to choose between a refinance, a HELOC, and a second mortgage

Is a Second Mortgage Similar To HELOC?

A second mortgage is a different loan approach than a HELOC. The second mortgage against your property can be a home equity loan of a lump sum with a fixed interest rate and term. A HELOC, however, comes with variable expenses and regular access to funds.

Is There a Better Home Loan Than a HELOC?

Yes, there are better financing options for a HELOC, such as a home equity loan or refinance mortgage. This benefits borrowers who desire one lump sum of cash.

What Distinguishes a Home Equity Loan and a HELOC?

A home equity loan gives loan seekers a considerable sum and offers a fixed high-interest rate. HELOC provides simple access to loans based on immediate needs. However, it comes with fluctuating interest rates.


November 14, 2023
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