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.
The best time to apply for a home improvement loan is when you have a large renovation project you want to tackle. That could be adding another bathroom to your home, roofing your house or installing a pool, or any other major home-related project. This type of loan is a good option if you don’t have a lot of equity in your home to draw from but need or want to make home improvements.
There are many ways to pay for home improvements, from traditional home improvement loans to personal loans to home equity lines of credit to government programs to credit cards. Regardless of which type of loan you’re considering and what type of lender you want to work with, shopping around will help you make sure that you’re getting the best rate and terms on your home improvement loan. If you apply with several lenders within a short period, the impact on your credit score will be minimal. (For more, see The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Credit, An Introduction to the FHA 203(k) Loan and Applying for an FHA 203(k) Loan.)