Home equity lines of credit are back in fashion. Just a few years ago, planners weren't exactly raving about them. Indeed, many were frozen during the housing market bust, recalls Sean Sebold of Sebold Capital Management in Naperville, Ill. - because the combined amount of a HELOC and first mortgage often exceeded a home's value.

"The banks have not been quick to unfreeze these lines," he says, "because the second lien doesn't get paid if the first does not get paid. Although the real estate market has been performing well lately, banks are not eager to add risk ... without compensation."

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