Home-equity lines of credit. These mortgages work kind of like credit cards: Lenders give you a ceiling to which you can borrow; then they charge interest on only the amount used. You can draw funds when you need them — a plus if your project spans many months. Some programs have a minimum withdrawal, while others have checkbook or credit-card access with no minimum. There are no closing costs. Interest rates are adjustable, with most tied to the prime rate. Most programs require repayment after 8 to 10 years. Banks, credit unions, brokerage houses, and finance companies all market these loans aggressively. Credit lines, fees, and interest rates vary widely, so shop carefully. Watch out for lenders that suck you in with a low initial rate, then jack it up. Find out how high the rate rises and how it's figured. And be sure to compare the total annual percentage rate (APR) and the closing costs separately. This differs from other mortgages, where costs, such as appraisal, origination, and title fees, are figured into a bottom-line APR for comparison.
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.
**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
For a home equity line of credit, the best place to start is your own bank or credit union. Both usually offer lower rates to depositors. Check other sources to be sure. If you get a second mortgage, refinance, or opt for an FHA 203(k) mortgage, you're better off talking with a mortgage broker. A broker has more loan sources to choose from. When looking for a broker, check with people you know, and check any references you get. Contractors are another source of financing, but be wary: It's hard enough to choose a contractor and a loan when they're separate. And be suspicious of contractors who emphasize the monthly payment instead of the total cost of the job.
• Home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is a revolving line of credit, like a credit card. In the beginning, you're only responsible for paying interest monthly; in the later years, you need to begin to pay back principal. A benefit of this type of debt is that you don't have to take out all the money at once for a project; you can draw gradually, as needed. After that initial "draw period," the HELOC converts to a fixed loan, and you'll have to pay back the principal on a set schedule.
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.