Whether you hire a contractor or take on the work yourself, begin with an accurate estimate of what the project will cost. Lenders will insist on a specific figure before they work with you. If you're hiring a contractor, start with a firm bid, broken down into labor and materials. Then add on 10 percent for surprises. On work you'll do yourself, compile a detailed materials list with quantities, costs, and an accurate total. Include permit fees and equipment rental. Then add a cushion of 20 to 30 percent to be safe. Once you know how much you need to finance your home improvement project, how much will you get? Despite the promises and hype lenders make in their ads and promotional materials, how much you can borrow hinges on your credit rating, the loan-to-value ratio, and your income. These factors also help determine the interest rate, the length of the loan, and whether you'll pay points. Your credit rating. The best rates and terms go to homeowners with an A rating—no late payments in the last 12 months and no maxed-out credit cards. One or two late payments or overdrawn credit cards probably won't knock you out of the game, but you might end up with a higher interest rate and a smaller loan.
A credit card can be a better option for borrowing smaller amounts of money for your home improvements with lower interest rates than a personal loan. Credit cards can offer 0% interest rates for a set period of time on your larger purchases, which might include a new kitchen or bathroom suite. A credit card works best if you can pay it off quickly.
On the flip side, however, interest rates tend to be higher on personal and unsecured loans than they are on home equity or home equity line of credit (HELOC) loans. For example, a $50,000 unsecured personal loan at Wells Fargo has a 7.244% to 9.247% APR, depending on the term of your loan (36 months to 60 months)—which is a great deal more than the 4.06% APR you can get on a home equity loan, according to the latest average posted on Bankrate.

Another good tip is to keep your home improvements simple and neutral whenever possible. While you may be an avid gardener, potential homebuyers may not be, so they won't be enticed by a house with a yard that requires a lot of upkeep. Additionally, if you repaint rooms, choose warm, earth tones. This neutral palette will help homebuyers envision themselves and their furniture in the space. Bright reds, exotic yellows and Caribbean blues may distract potential buyers.
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).
Home equity loans are a second mortgage on your home. They're usually a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan, and you get the money in one lump sum. Terms vary, but many home equity loans have you pay back the principle and interest within 15 years with monthly payment plans. This might be the best option if you need a set amount of money for something important and have enough room in your budget to make the payments, of course.

Disclaimer: Your APR may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount, which is only available when you select AutoPay prior to loan funding. Rates under the invoicing option are 0.50% higher. If your application is approved, your credit profile will determine whether your loan will be unsecured or secured. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment Example: Monthly payment for a $10,000 loan at 9.84% APR with a term of three years would result in 36 monthly payments of $321.92. Please find our Rate Beat disclosures here.


3 LightStream will offer a rate .10 percentage points lower than the rate offered by a competing lender subject to satisfactory evidence being provided that you were actually approved for a lower rate with another lender for the same loan terms offered by LightStream by no later than 2 p.m. Eastern time one business day prior to loan funding. The Rate Beat program excludes secured or collateralized loan offers from any lender and the competitive offer must be generally available to any customer with a similar credit profile. Terms are subject to change at any time.
These FHA-insured loans allow you to simultaneously refinance the first mortgage and combine it with the improvement costs into a new mortgage. They also base the loan on the value of a home after improvements, rather than before. Because your house is worth more, your equity and the amount you can borrow are both greater. And you can hire a contractor or do the work yourself. The downside is that loan limits vary by county and tend to be relatively low. The usual term is 30 years.
Only you can decide if your home improvement or repair is worth it to you. Some homeowners place a higher personal value on enjoying their living space while they occupy the home; for some, it is important to recover a greater percentage of renovation costs when they sell the home. Remember, a number of factors may determine whether you recover some or all of your expenses.
I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger

• Home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is a revolving line of credit, like a credit card. In the beginning, you're only responsible for paying interest monthly; in the later years, you need to begin to pay back principal. A benefit of this type of debt is that you don't have to take out all the money at once for a project; you can draw gradually, as needed. After that initial "draw period," the HELOC converts to a fixed loan, and you'll have to pay back the principal on a set schedule. 
Last year I bought a house that had the stainless steel micro model installed. The house was surrounded by 80’ tall Maples & Birch. TONS OF LEAVES.Yes, it the micro mesh keeps all leaf and seeds out of the gutter 100%. What the manf and dealers won’t tell you is that you must clean the mesh 2x’s a year to get spring pollen, mold, & fall leaf dust off. Otherwise it will eventually keep EVERYTHING out, including WATER. Major ice problems flowing over the gutters. No it was not the result of ice damming. I removed it all & just deal with the leaves 3x’s each fall.Got ranch home with easy access to the gutters - get the micro mesh. Easier to clean that than clean gunk out of the gutter.hire a young buck to climb a ladder. A whole lot cheaper.
There are several types of loans that can be used for house remodeling. Many homeowners take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) for that purpose. The home is collateral for the loan. Because of this, rates are typically lower. One could even use credit cards for home improvements, but the cost likely would be prohibitive. Each loan has advantages and disadvantages.
Finally, compare those fees carefully. When you meet with a lender, up-front costs will start with a credit report running $50 to $80 and possibly an appraisal, which should cost less than $300. Some lenders use your property-tax valuation, others won't. Often, you can reduce lending fees in a competitive market. And if you're asked for a nonrefundable application fee, beware; reputable lenders try to keep up-front fees low.
Services provided by the following affiliates of Truist Financial Corporation: Banking products and services, including loans and deposit accounts, are provided by SunTrust Bank and Branch Banking and Trust Company, both now Truist Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank and Branch Banking and Trust Company, both now Truist Bank, and SunTrust Delaware Trust Company. Securities, brokerage accounts and /or insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. and BB&T Securities, LLC, P.J. Robb Variable Corp., and Precept Advisory Group, LLC, which are SEC registered broker-dealers, members FINRALink opens a new window, SIPCLink opens a new window, and a licensed insurance agency where applicable. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., GFO Advisory Services, LLC, BB&T Securities, LLC, Sterling Capital Management, LLC, and BB&T Institutional Investment Advisors, Inc., each SEC registered investment advisers. BB&T Sterling Advisors, BB&T Investments and BB&T Scott & Stringfellow, are divisions of BB&T Securities, LLC. Mutual fund products are advised by Sterling Capital Management, LLC. Mortgage products and services are offered through SunTrust Mortgage, a tradename for SunTrust Bank now Truist Bank.

If you're looking to sell your home in the near future, you may want to consider re-doing the landscaping, repaving the driveway or repairing cement patios to boost your curb appeal. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a landscaper, a home equity loan can help you cover the costs. After all, investing in the labor, cement, pavers, plants, irrigation, topsoil, mulch and removal of your old landscaping can add up fast.
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