home equity loans are typically a little higher than the rates for mortgages used for a home purchase. Why is this? Is the reason because a home equity loan is basically a second mortgage, so it is riskier than a first mortgage on a property?
Given all other things being equal;
A traditional mortgage, i.e. getting a loan from bank to buy a house is seen as an act of building asset. Thus the perceived risk from lenders point of view is less. An individual is saving to buy a house.
A Home Equity is seen as someone spending money ... i.e. converting an asset into cash. This means he could be spending beyond his/her means as the Home Equity loan can be used for anything, home improvement, vacation, retiring debts with higher interest rates, or gambling. As the reason cannot be established, there is slight higher risk premium.
In case the Home has a mortgage plus a Home Equity; in case of delinquency; depending on the jurisdiction, the institution holding the mortgage has first right to claim full due followed by the institution lending home equity. Even if both institution are same; the risk has slightly gone up. i.e. generally a mortgage is more riskier for financial institution in initial years even through the LTV is capped at 80%. As property price can crash, before the property is liquidated, the loan can accrue interest that exceed the home value.