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If you tend to have trouble getting out of debt, keeping your finances organized or meeting deadlines, this isn’t a good option for you. Borrowers who are disciplined, detail oriented and spend within their means could find this to be the least expensive option. However, it may not be possible to borrow as much with a credit card as you could with a home equity loan or cash out refinance, depending on how much equity you have and how good your credit is.
HELOCs come with a draw period and repayment period. During the draw period, which often lasts about 10 years, you can spend the money in your credit line. Your monthly payments would cover mostly the interest and a little bit of the principal on any outstanding balance. During the repayment period, which typically lasts around 15 years, your monthly payments would probably be higher because they’d include more principal.
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.
Specialized lenders. Some finance companies focus on particular types of home improvement projects, and it may make sense to use those sources. For example, loans for energy-efficient upgrades might be available through local Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, or your contractor may have funding options available. Remember to compare these loans to alternatives—just because they're specialized doesn't mean they have the best rates.
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.
If you have planned a renovation with a mock budget and know what the end total looks like, a good first step is to evaluate whether it's feasible to fund with cash. Creating this budget will not only help you pinpoint your expenses, but if you end up going with a loan, it will be an integral step in showing lenders that you’re prepared for the renovations.
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.
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A home equity loan is another way to tap your equity without refinancing. Instead of getting a line of credit, as you would with a HELOC, you’d receive a lump sum of money. A home equity loan could make sense if you don’t want to refinance your first mortgage — if it has a very low interest rate, for example. But the interest rate would probably be higher with a second mortgage like a home equity loan than with a cash-out refinance.
Energy-efficient mortgages (EEMs). Suppose your home's R-value is the envy of your block. An EEM from Fannie Mae or elsewhere could boost your debt-to-income ratio by up to 2 percent. Utility bills are lower in energy-efficient homes, so the homeowner can afford a bigger loan. EEMs have been used for new construction; lenders are now pushing them for existing homes. An EEM requires a determination that your house meets Fannie Mae's stringent energy-efficiency standards.
The interest rate will also depend on the borrower’s credit score, the loan term and the amount borrowed. For example, SunTrust Bank offers home improvement loans for $5,000 to $9,999 with terms of 24 to 36 months and interest rates of 6.79% to 12.79% (rates include an autopay discount of 0.50%), while a loan of $50,000 to $100,000 for the same amount of time comes with an interest rate of 4.79% to 10.29%.
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.