Societal views have conditioned us to look at buying a home as an investment. Putting money into a mortgage is much better than throwing it away on rent, right? Maybe not so much these days.

The trick to home equity being a viable investment is that the investor is able to get to it when they need it. Since that money belongs to the homeowner, it seems likely and fair that they should be able to access it at will, and there are several loan products on the market today that do just that. You even get to keep the house. The problem with these products is that not everyone qualifies for them, leaving some homeowners’ built-up equity trapped.

Free and easy mortgage qualification requirements led to the mortgage bubble bust, causing the recession in 2008. As a result, lenders tightened their requirements, and that doesn’t just apply to new mortgages.

Terms on HELOCs, reverse mortgages and refis tightened up, too. This resulted in limited access to equity for a good portion of homeowners unless they were willing to sell. This heavy situation led to the advent of products that allow homeowners to access equity by selling their home, then allowing them to lease it back.

Even high equity homeowners may have trouble accessing their equity due to poor credit. They simply don't qualify for the traditional equity-tapping options once financial hardship is realized – one of the most common reasons people turn to what was imagined as a reliable investment available to use at will.

The credit requirements for the vast majority of equity-tapping options don’t take into account the fact that people have plenty in assets. Lenders often rely on FICO score as the end-all-be-all, and low scores are ultimately leaving many homeowners in a lurch.

Expenses are increasing and wages are stagnant, and growing further apart every day for a lot of the U.S. population. As that gap grows, more people are considering tapping their home equity to meet their financial obligations, but it’s not as simple as they’d maybe imagined.

Hopefully, they are aware of the strict requirements of current options and look to pull their equity before financial troubles close the door on more conventional equity-tapping loans.