An Introduction to Home Equity

by Marsha Bell 12/31/2018

Buying your first home is a big decision; one that involves a lengthy process of saving money, building credit, and planning the next phase of your life. However, owning a home comes with one major payoff: home equity.

Simply put, home equity is the amount of your home that you’ve paid off. However, it does get more complicated when we bring in factors like the market value of your home and how it shifts over the years.

In this article, we’ll discuss home equity and what it means for you as a homeowner. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you finally make that last payment on your home or when you decide to sell.

Home equity and market value

As I mentioned earlier, home equity is more than just the amount you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Like most markets, the housing market shifts over time.

Most homes slowly increase in value over time. In the real estate world, this increase in value is called appreciation.

However, that doesn’t mean that your home is simply going to increase in value indefinitely until you decide to sell. As you will find out (if you haven’t yet already), owning a home can be expensive. Houses age and require upgrades. If you fail to keep up with the maintenance of your home, its value can diminish.

How to build equity

The most important thing you can do to build equity is to make on-time payments to your mortgage. Making extra mortgage payments will help you build equity even faster.

One method of paying extra on your mortgage that many people are adopting is to make bi-weekly payments. Twenty-six bi-weekly payments comes out to 13 full payments per year, the equivalent of making one full extra monthly payment.

The second method of building equity is something that you have less control over: appreciation. However, if you stick to a maintenance schedule for your home and keep it in good repair, you’ll most likely benefit from appreciation over the lifespan of your mortgage.

What can I use home equity for?

The most common way to use home equity is as a down payment or full payment on your next home. First-time buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment saved often buy a starter home and then later upgrade as their family grows and their needs change. In the years that they own their first home, they build enough equity to make a full down payment on their second home, avoiding fees like mortgage insurance.

Many homeowners planning on retiring in the near future use their equity toward their retirement home, often turning a profit in the process. If you plan on downgrading for retirement and have fully paid off your mortgage, you can often use your equity to pay for your next home in cash.

About the Author
Author

Marsha Bell

Real Estate is a relationship business. Although we negotiate and market homes, we are in the business of helping people through transitions in their lives (getting married, having babies, empty nesting, investing for family reasons) and for someone to invite us into that process is an honor and requires trust in us and our skill set.

I have been a resident of Marin for over 35 years. I raised my family, devoted time to volunteering at my children’s schools, kept an eye on local politics as they affected education and the quality of life in the region, and acquired an understanding of the cities and neighborhoods of the county.

I honed my skills as an event manager, through 18 years producing an annual gala raising funds for Okizu, which provides a camp for kids with cancer and their families. Overseeing details too numerous to count, my efforts raised over six million dollars with elaborate and creatively themed events. My real estate clients can be certain I will provide the same creativity and attention to detail on their behalf. My organization skills and sensitivity were also needed while serving as the project manager for the state of CA in a pilot program connecting low-income youth to pathways to jobs in the energy industry. Through my own efforts to downsize as my children left the nest, I can be a great help to others hoping to do the same – assisting them not only in finding a new home, but also with the difficult task of shrinking the volume of their possessions – all accomplished with a sympathetic understanding of the emotional aspect of this change. I also hold an SRES designation, taking this a step further with the needs and concerns of seniors.

Whether you’re looking to buy or sell in the Bay Area, I will assist you with every phase of the process. I listen and focus on what my client’s real estate needs are and make certain I exceed their expectations. I have a passion for my real estate career and I love what I do. My success is because of determination, focus and attention to details.

Authenticity, passion, professionalism — these three things show our humanity and build trust.

I look forward to assisting you through your transitions.