A second mortgage is also sometimes referred to as a home equity loan. There is no difference between a home equity loan and a second mortgage. These are just two different terms for the same subject.
A second mortgage can either be a fixed-rate loan or an adjustable-rate credit line. Interest rates and loan program terms will vary from lender to lender so it is important to shop around and compare before committing to any one offer.
Loan proceeds from a second mortgage loan can be used for just about anything. Many consumers take out 2nd mortgage loans to consolidate debt, do home improvements or pay for their kids college education. Whatever you decide to do with your loan proceeds it is important to remember that if you default on your payment you can lose your home so you will want to make sure that you are taking the loan out for a worthwhile purpose.
Another plus of a second mortgage loan is that the interest you pay back on the loan may be tax deductible. Consult your tax advisor regarding your personal situation but in most cases the interest is 100% fully deductible as long as the combined loan to value of your 1st and 2nd mortgage do not exceed the value of your home.