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

**Subject to credit approval. No down payment. Fixed APR of 7.99% for 90 months. Payment Example: Based on each $1,000 financed, 6 months of interest only payments in the amount of $6.66 followed by 84 amortized payments in the amount of $15.58. Payment Example: Based on $3,000 purchase, 6 months of interest only payments in the amount of $19.98 followed by 84 amortized payments in the amount of $46.74. See loan agreement or ask Associate for details. Not valid in Puerto Rico, USVI, and Guam. LICENSES: NMLS #1416362; CT SLC-1416362; NJ MT #1501607 C22
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.
If you have decent credit, you'll run into offers for 0% interest on credit cards (new credit cards or checks you can use with cards you already have). Credit Karma previously advised us that these offers might be best for projects under $15,000—presumably because it's (relatively) easy to pay off the loan within the low interest rate offer timeline (usually 12 to 18 months), it's easy to apply and qualify for, and you don't risk losing your home on this kind of unsecured loan.

A home equity/Line of credit, a closed end 2nd mortgage, an after-value loan or a host of other equity products are the options available for home improvement loans. What are the improvements to be made, the period it will take to complete and the amount of equity available are the important considerations to be made before going for a home improvement loan.

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.
To possibly have the quickest impact on your home's resale value, replace overgrown bushes with low, uncluttered plantings. In the backyard, add a simple patio made of pavers, a fire pit or a fountain fashioned out of rocks or pottery. Choose evergreen, perennial plants as the primary elements in your garden. These are low maintenance, and in the winter your home will show better with full bushes instead of twigs. On the other hand, if you live in a warm climate, build an outdoor living space with gravel, pavers, umbrellas and plush patio furniture.
Because terms and rates differ greatly between these niche loan products, it's also harder to understand just what you're signing up for. Steer clear of shady offers, especially payday loans. You should compare the terms, APR (annual percentage rate), and other costs of each loan to see which one makes the most sense. The Mortgage Professor offers many calculators for that tricky task.
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