Lenders are seeing a big increase in home-equity loans Borrowers who wanted to update their kitchens or baths were sometimes disappointed when denied home-equity lines of credit and second mortgage loans. Lenders are now reopening their coffers, which is good news for homeowners who want to begin their projects. Bank of America's home-equity originations increased by more than 75 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014. With a home-equity credit line, borrowers have access to a set credit amount but only pay interest on the amount they borrowed. Interest rates are tied to the prime rate and vary. On a fixed rate loan, the rate is locked in and the borrower pays interest on the full amount. Wells Fargo, the largest home-equity lender, had a sharp increase in equity lending in 2013 and volumes are expected to continue to rise, says Brad Blackwell, executive vice president at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Both Wells Fargo and Bank of America will extend credit up to a maximum 85 percent of home value, which includes both primary and secondary mortgages. But to qualify for that percentage, it takes a credit score in the high 700s. The home improvement market peaked in 2007 but saw steep declines through 2011, according to a report by Remodeling Futures Program at Harvard. The program director says there's pent-up demand. * When considering a line of credit watch for a clause that allows the lender to cut off access if your credit score falls. * Compare more than rates. Bank of America doesn't pass mortgage taxes, closing costs or annual fees to home-equity buyers, but other lenders do. * Arrange to borrow now. Contractors will be busier next year as remodeling activity increases.