Homeowners looking for ways to pay for a home improvement have a lot of choices. Taking out a home equity loan, doing a cash-out refi or getting a personal loan are just some of the possibilities depending on your personal financial situation. With NerdWallet’s financing calculator, we help you identify the financing choice that saves you the most money.
You may be able to arrange an interest-free loan through your contractor as well. However, if you're unable to pay off an interest-free loan before the term expires, you’ll probably owe interest backdated to the day you signed the agreement. In this arrangement, make sure you don’t lose the right to withhold payments if the contractor's work isn't done to your satisfaction, if that was a term of your contract.
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.
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.
Doing a cash-out refinance means it will take you longer to pay off your home, but it also gives you access to the lowest possible borrowing rates to pay for home improvements. Lenders typically require homeowners to retain some equity after the cash-out refinance, commonly 20%, so you’ll need to have plenty of equity if you want to pursue this option. You’ll also need to be employed, have a good credit score and meet all the usual requirements to get a mortgage. (For more, see When (And When Not) to Refinance Your Mortgage)
If you have very good to excellent credit, you can probably get approved for a new credit card that will charge you no interest on new purchases for nine to 18 months. Cards that have such an offer as of Dec. 5, 2016, include Chase Slate (0% APR for 15 months, no annual fee) and Capital One QuicksilverOne (0% APR for 9 months, $39 annual fee). Many other offers are available from both credit unions and banks. 
Doing a cash-out refinance means it will take you longer to pay off your home, but it also gives you access to the lowest possible borrowing rates to pay for home improvements. Lenders typically require homeowners to retain some equity after the cash-out refinance, commonly 20%, so you’ll need to have plenty of equity if you want to pursue this option. You’ll also need to be employed, have a good credit score and meet all the usual requirements to get a mortgage. (For more, see When (And When Not) to Refinance Your Mortgage)
Since these projects may involve some demolition and plumbing, you may want to consider a contractor. It is important to obtain several quotes that include the following: project start and completion dates, a guarantee to clean up debris, a warranty on the work, and a payment plan. Then, compare quotes to make sure you get a competitive price without sacrificing quality. Once you've found a contractor you want to work with, check out Citizens Bank's competitive home improvement loan rates to make these major projects a reality.
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.

A home equity loan lets you borrow a lump sum all at once, while a HELOC lets you draw on a line of credit as needed for a certain number of years, called the draw period. During the draw period, you only have to repay interest on the loan, which makes monthly payments quite small but can result in payment shock later when the draw period ends and the borrower has to start repaying principal too. In addition, a HELOC has a variable interest rate, while a home equity loan has a fixed interest rate. A HELOC’s initial rate may be lower than a home equity loan’s, but over time it can become higher if market conditions push interest rates up. (For more, see Choosing a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit.)

Home improvement loans are unsecured, meaning they’re approved based on the borrower’s credit history and income and do not require collateral. They are offered by online lenders, banks, or credit unions and work similarly to personal loans. Once approved, you’ll receive funding through direct deposit or paper check, and then be able to pay for your building supplies and contractors.
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