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Borrowers unaware of home equity loan potential

Accenture report highlights digital opportunity for lenders

Many Americans don’t understand the basic features and benefits of home equity loan products, according to a new report by Accenture, a company that provides a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations.

The report, entitled Unlocking home equity lending through a digitally empowered consumer, showed that 59% of Americans didn’t know home equity loans can be used to refinance debt, and 46% didn’t know they can be used for non-home purposes.

Another 79% of those surveyed didn’t know the loans can be accessed via credit card, and 59% didn’t know they can be access online.

About 39% of Americans didn’t know they can borrow to the limit of the loan, while 28% didn’t expect to pay closing costs, according to the report.

The lack of awareness is especially significant when considering the equity homeowners are seeing as homes appreciate, which is growing for homeowners at a rate not seen since the credit crisis almost 10 years ago, according to the report.

Americans now have more than $13 trillion in equity in their homes, more than double the amount in 2011, according to the Federal Reserve. Of this, an estimated $4.5 trillion can be accessed.

And it’s no wonder, as home prices continue to rise.

In the first quarter of 2016, home equity installment loans increased 23.5% annually, an 8-year high, and home equity lines of credit were up 10%, according to Equifax.

The survey also found that borrowers increasingly view home equity loans as a means of making home improvements, less so as a potential source of cash for unseen challenges.

Of Americans who anticipate applying for a home equity loan in the next two years , 61% expect to use the funds for home improvements, 24% to pay off consumer debt and 22% to invest.

In comparison, of respondents who actually applied for home equity loans in the past two years, 43% used the funds for home improvements, 31% for paying off consumer debt and 18% to invest.

Accenture’s report also found that 60% of customers who applied for a home equity loan in the past two years did so at their bank branch. However, the use of digital channels is becoming increasingly important. About 26% of borrowers applied online, and 93% of those who used a digital capability during the home equity loan process were highly satisfied.

Additionally, 81% of home equity borrowers conducted research via digital and peer-to-peer sites, representing an opportunity for lenders that become digital leaders.

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