After the kitchen, you may want to think about remodeling your existing bathroom. If your house is older, you may be sporting pink, blue or avocado tile or outdated fixtures. Even if your home is newer, styles can change. Invest in neutral-colored tile and give the room some personality with a fresh coat of paint, wall hangings and a new shower curtain. Update lighting fixtures and install a low-flow toilet to save on the water bill. You may even want to add a new vanity and matching mirror.
With a low home improvement loan rate available, now's the perfect time to get started on those remodeling projects you've been putting off. However, while you're renovating your home, be careful not to add things that would price your home out of the range of your neighborhood. For example, if you own a bungalow in a neighborhood where sale prices don't top $125,000, reconsider adding a master suite fit for a mansion. You may not recoup that investment when buyers can get very similar homes on the same street for less. Even in a neighborhood where homes sell for $1 million, adding exotic hardwood floors or marble drives and walkways could still push your home's price higher than the average, making it harder for you to sell someday.
There is a catch, however. Unlike other lenders like SoFi or Marcus, LightStream does not offer pre-qualification. This can be problematic if you want to see what your interest rate will be, but don’t want the hard pull to show up on your credit history. That aside, if you have an established credit history, it’s hard to pass up the competitive and flexible terms LightStream offers.
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If you have planned a renovation with a mock budget and know what the end total looks like, a good first step is to evaluate whether it's feasible to fund with cash. Creating this budget will not only help you pinpoint your expenses, but if you end up going with a loan, it will be an integral step in showing lenders that you’re prepared for the renovations.
Almost all credit lines have variable interest rates, and if the rate is raised, it can be applied to your existing balance — something credit card companies are not allowed to do. So be sure to check the lender’s offer to see how often, and by how much, it can raise your rate. If you’re not careful, a once-affordable loan balance could become hard to repay.
That low interest rate has a price, however. There might be hefty closing costs and more application hoops to jump through because these loans, like applying for a mortgage, put your property up for collateral. You'll also need to have enough equity in your home to qualify. For example, if your home is appraised at $200,000 and your mortgage is currently $150,000, you have $50,000 in equity that could be tapped. To reduce risk, lenders usually limit the amount of loans you can have on your home to about 85 percent of your home's value. So in this example, 85% of $200,000 is $170,000; after subtracting the current mortgage amount of $150,000, you're left with $20,000 you could qualify for.
In a cash-out refinance, you get a new loan to replace your mortgage, but instead of borrowing the same amount you currently owe, you borrow more. Let’s say your home is worth $240,000 and you owe $120,000 on your mortgage. If you did a cash-out refinance, you could get a new loan for $192,000. After paying off your $120,000 mortgage, you would have $72,000 to put toward home improvements (or any other purpose, such as sending your child to college).
Familiarize yourself with your credit history. Your credit reports carry the most weight for lenders making a loan decision. In the U.S., you are entitled to one free credit report each year, which can be accessed through https://annualcreditreport.com. Credit reports can also be paid for through the three credit bureaus or through a third party business.