Cash is usually preferable to accumulating more debt. However, with the average major kitchen remodel costing $54,909 and a bathroom remodel averaging $16,128, it could take decades before you've saved enough to do your projects and actually enjoy the results. For small projects, however, if you're able to save enough in cash, this is probably the best way to go.
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To determine the loan amount, lenders use the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), which is a percentage of the appraisal value of your home. The usual limit is 80 percent—or $100,000 for a $125,000 home (.805125,000). Lenders subtract the mortgage balance from that amount to arrive at the maximum you can borrow. Assuming your balance is $60,000, the largest loan that you can obtain is $40,000 ($100,000-$60,000=$40,000). If you have a good credit rating, a lender might base your loan on more than 80 percent of the LTV; if you don't, you might get only 65 to 70 percent. While many lenders go to 100 percent of the LTV, interest rates and fees soar at these higher ratios.
If you have equity in your home and are planning on projects costing $50,000 or more, the best loans to tap will probably be tied to your property. HELOCs, home equity loans, and cash out refinances offer the best rates (30-year fixed mortgage rates are among the lowest we've seen in decades, at 4.06% . A 15-year fixed home loan is currently 3.12%, according to WSJ.) Also, you might be able to deduct the interest on these loans and any points you pay to reduce the interest rate on your taxes (check with a tax advisor, though).
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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.
Many people turn to home improvement loans even though saving up and paying cash for home improvements is often the least expensive option. After all, when you pay cash, you don’t have to pay interest. However, sometimes home improvements come in the form of emergency repairs, and paying interest on a loan is less costly than saving up to pay cash while your roof leaks for months and causes mold, rot and damaged ceilings that will cost even more to repair later.
At LightStream, we care about the environment and, more importantly, we try to do something about it. For one, we have created a virtually paperless consumer loan experience at LightStream. By eliminating paper almost entirely from the LightStream loan process, we not only save our natural resources but we save on expenses as well, better enabling us to offer you highly competitive interest rates.