A personal line of credit is similar to a personal loan, except that instead of borrowing a lump sum all at once, the borrower can draw upon a line of credit as needed for a certain number of years. A line of credit can help homeowners avoid borrowing more than they need to by letting them access cash only as they need it. But for homeowners who don’t carefully track their borrowing, a line of credit can make it easy to borrow more than intended. Many small draws on the credit line over time can add up to a large total amount borrowed.
• Your house payment alone (including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) should be no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. The maximum debt-to-income ratio rises to 42 percent on second mortgages. Some lenders go even higher, though fees and rates get expensive — as will your monthly payment. However, a debt-to-income ratio of 38 percent probably is the highest you should consider carrying.
Interest rates. The less interest you pay, the more loan you can afford. An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is one way to lower that rate, at least temporarily. Because lenders aren't locked into a fixed rate for 30 years, ARMs start off with much lower rates. But the rates can change every 6, 12, or 24 months thereafter. Most have yearly caps on increases and a ceiling on how high the rate climbs. But if rates climb quickly, so will your payments.