While lenders used to allow primary mortgage and home equity debt to reach as high as 100% of a home's value, Francisco says his bank limits total lending to 85% of a home's value today.

If your monthly budget can handle the increased payment, go ahead and make it. Even if it requires a long, hard look at your household budget to find the extra cash, it's well worth the effort, says Eric Selk, executive director of HOPE NOW, a Washington, D.

C., nonprofit that's helped arrange mortgage workouts for more than 7 million homeowners.

As a result, lenders generally require that the borrower maintain a certain level of equity in the home as a condition of providing a home equity line.

Many mortgages in the United States are non-recourse loans, while mortgages in countries such as Canada are generally recourse loans.

Nonrecourse debt or a nonrecourse loan is a secured loan (debt) that is secured by a pledge of collateral, typically real property, but for which the borrower is not personally liable.

A HELOC may be a recourse loan for which the borrower is personally liable.(Compare the best home equity rates from dozens of lenders in our database.) Once you're approved, you can use money from the new home equity loan to pay off your existing HELOC.Just be aware that underwriting guidelines are more conservative now than they were 10 years ago, says Terry Francisco, senior vice president for Bank of America Home Loans in Charlotte, North Carolina."Putting repayment off indefinitely is just going to create more financial tension in the long run," he says.A Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved home ownership counselor can help you make the hard choices required to start retiring this debt now.Your monthly HELOC bill will list a phone number for your lender.