Many Americans who need cash are taking it out of their homes but at higher interest rates.
Over the past two years, a big chunk of homeowners have refinanced to tap their home equity–cash-out refinancings, as they are known–to free up money to pay down credit-card debt, renovate or invest in a new property.
Nearly 60% of cash-out refinancings in 2018 came with higher interest rates, the biggest share since before the financial crisis, according to Black Knight Inc., a mortgage-data and technology firm. This year, that number fell to around 44% of cash-out deals, but it remains at more than three times its average between 2009 and 2017.
Making sense of the story:
For some homeowners, the trade-off is worth it. While mortgage rates have crept up, they are still lower than what borrowers would pay if they tapped a credit-card or home-equity line of credit.
The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has been under 4% for much of the year. That is low by historical standards, but higher than periods in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 when borrowers last flooded the market.
The use of cash-out refinancings worries some economists because it echoes the pre-crisis era, when homeowners used their homes like ATMs. Consumers who struggle to pay mortgages that have swelled due to a cash-out refinancing risk losing their homes. Credit-card debt, by contrast, is unsecured.