How We Review Home Equity Loan and Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) Lenders

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Here at NextAdvisor, we strive to provide accurate and thorough information to our readers. We want to empower you to make your best financial choices, so our home equity lender reviews and scores seek to measure the accessibility, transparency, and customer experience you deserve from a lender. 

While we may present partner offers on our website, the evaluations for our lender reviews and scoring are made independently by our writers and editors, without any influence from partners or business interests. 

Here’s a deeper look at our home equity lender review process. 

How We Chose Which Home Equity Loan and Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) Lenders to Review

To meet our readers’ interest and present them with our best take on the companies they are seeking information on, it’s NextAdvisor’s philosophy to review as many home equity lenders as possible. We prioritize which lenders to review based on consumer interest. Whether a particular lender is reviewed or unreviewed is not indicative of its quality. 

Our Methodology

The NextAdvisor editorial team developed a framework to evaluate home equity lenders using a weighted average score between 1 and 5 based on the following criteria. A higher weight was given to the criteria we determined to be most important:

  1. Nationwide availability: We rated lenders on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how many states their home equity products were offered in. For lenders that only offered either home equity loans or HELOCs, we looked at how many states offered that specific product. For lenders that offered both home equity loans and HELOCs, we looked at how many states each individual product was offered in, and then took the average. A lender scored a 5 if it offered home equity products in at least 45 states which equates to 90% of U.S. states. Nationwide availability counted for 10% of the composite score.
  2. Online user experience: We rated lenders on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the user experience of their online application process. A 5 was given to lenders who had a clear, easy-to-navigate online application process with no technical issues or confusing instructions. A score of 1 was given to lenders who did not offer an online application at all, instead requiring customers to apply in person at a branch or over the phone. Online user experience counted for 20% of the composite score.
  3. Products offered: We rated lenders on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how many types of home equity products they offered. Product offerings were categorized into the following types: home equity loans; standard variable-rate, interest-and-principal HELOCs, interest-only HELOCs, HELOCs with fixed-rate or rate-lock options, and miscellaneous products that did not fall into any of the previous categories. Lenders who offered at least 4 types of products received a 5. Products offered counted for 20% of the composite score.
  4. Price transparency: We rated lenders on a scale of 1 to 5 based on their price transparency, which we defined as how much information you could get about rates and fees without a hard credit check. Comparing rates and fees from multiple lenders is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the best deal, and we gave high scores to lenders who made it easy to do so. On the other hand, lenders who kept detailed rate and fee information behind a hard credit check — which can slightly lower your credit score and should only be done when you’re serious about moving forward with a particular lender — scored lower. Lenders who provided personalized quotes for rates, fees, and important loan information with only basic information (and no hard credit check) required received a 5. Price transparency counted for 30% of the composite score.
  5. Customer service options: We rated lenders on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how many different customer service options were available to consumers needing help with their loan application or loan servicing. Examples of customer service options we counted included, but were not limited to, online live chat, phone, email, visiting an in-person branch, in-person or virtual appointments with dedicated loan officers, and social media direct messaging. Lenders who had five or more customer service options received a 5. For each option that was available only to existing customers (and thus would not be available to new customers needing help with the application process), we deducted 0.5 from the score. For any lender that had a 24/7 customer service option, regardless of what form that option took, we added 1 to the score. We did not evaluate the quality of the customer service itself, as that can be subjective and highly dependent on the specific customer service representative a borrower is working with. Customer service options counted for 20% of the composite score. 

What We Did Not Evaluate In Our Scoring

When comparing lenders, we did not evaluate factors like pricing (interest rates and fees) and borrower requirements (like minimum credit scores). Home equity rates and fees can change often and are based on each borrower’s specific credit profile. Each lender also has its own unique underwriting requirements and process, which are often not publicly available. Therefore, we don’t believe it’s possible to accurately evaluate rates, fees, and credit score requirements from lender to lender. It’s important to note that lower rates may not actually lower the total cost of borrowing if they’re offset by higher fees.  

If a company offered both home equity loans and HELOCs, we evaluated all its home equity lending offerings as a whole rather than any specific product. 

To find the best deal, get personalized rate and fee quotes from multiple lenders, then use NextAdvisor’s loan calculator to calculate the total cost of borrowing and monthly payment to accurately compare lenders.