Home-equity loans harder to come by

Lenders tighten rules as home values fall

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DEAR BENNY: My wife and I bought our first home in November of last year. We paid $600,000 for the house and put 20 percent down so the mortgage is for $480,000. I’ve heard that opening a line of credit on the house is a good idea in case of an emergency. Obviously our house hasn’t really appreciated since then, and I think we’ve put less than $1,000 towards the principal. Can we take out a line of credit based on the down payment because it’s technically equity? Or will the mortgage company laugh in our face? Thanks! –Chris