Homes No Longer ATMs

During the boom years, when credit flowed like cheap wine, many homeowners used their homes as personal ATMs, borrowing against the inflating value of their homes. Not anymore. Today, fewer people have equity to tap as home values sunk in many parts of the country, and banks are using stricter lending standards for loan origination.

That much is clear from a new report from credit tracker Equifax. New home equity lines of credit -- or HELOCS -- dropped off by a stunning 76 percent, from $21 billion in November 2007 to $4.9 billion in November 2009. You also needed a higher credit score to get one and even with that score would likely qualify for a smaller loan, according to the company's January 2010 survey of new account origination trends, which is not available online.