There is a catch, however. Unlike other lenders like SoFi or Marcus, LightStream does not offer pre-qualification. This can be problematic if you want to see what your interest rate will be, but don’t want the hard pull to show up on your credit history. That aside, if you have an established credit history, it’s hard to pass up the competitive and flexible terms LightStream offers.
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.
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.
Home remodeling loans offer an influx of cash for homeowners with big remodeling plans but pocketbooks that won't quite stretch far enough for costly home improvements. When you own a home, remodeling loans can make it possible to build on an addition, put in skylights, add a pool or make any change you want.  But you should know what to expect before jumping in and signing on the dotted line of a home improvement loan.
Home equity loans are a second mortgage on your home. They're usually a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan, and you get the money in one lump sum. Terms vary, but many home equity loans have you pay back the principle and interest within 15 years with monthly payment plans. This might be the best option if you need a set amount of money for something important and have enough room in your budget to make the payments, of course.
Whether you hire a contractor or take on the work yourself, begin with an accurate estimate of what the project will cost. Lenders will insist on a specific figure before they work with you. If you're hiring a contractor, start with a firm bid, broken down into labor and materials. Then add on 10 percent for surprises. On work you'll do yourself, compile a detailed materials list with quantities, costs, and an accurate total. Include permit fees and equipment rental. Then add a cushion of 20 to 30 percent to be safe. Once you know how much you need to finance your home improvement project, how much will you get? Despite the promises and hype lenders make in their ads and promotional materials, how much you can borrow hinges on your credit rating, the loan-to-value ratio, and your income. These factors also help determine the interest rate, the length of the loan, and whether you'll pay points. Your credit rating. The best rates and terms go to homeowners with an A rating—no late payments in the last 12 months and no maxed-out credit cards. One or two late payments or overdrawn credit cards probably won't knock you out of the game, but you might end up with a higher interest rate and a smaller loan.
That low interest rate has a price, however. There might be hefty closing costs and more application hoops to jump through because these loans, like applying for a mortgage, put your property up for collateral. You'll also need to have enough equity in your home to qualify. For example, if your home is appraised at $200,000 and your mortgage is currently $150,000, you have $50,000 in equity that could be tapped. To reduce risk, lenders usually limit the amount of loans you can have on your home to about 85 percent of your home's value. So in this example, 85% of $200,000 is $170,000; after subtracting the current mortgage amount of $150,000, you're left with $20,000 you could qualify for.
• Your house payment alone (including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) should be no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. The maximum debt-to-income ratio rises to 42 percent on second mortgages. Some lenders go even higher, though fees and rates get expensive — as will your monthly payment. However, a debt-to-income ratio of 38 percent probably is the highest you should consider carrying.
Home remodeling loans offer an influx of cash for homeowners with big remodeling plans but pocketbooks that won't quite stretch far enough for costly home improvements. When you own a home, remodeling loans can make it possible to build on an addition, put in skylights, add a pool or make any change you want.  But you should know what to expect before jumping in and signing on the dotted line of a home improvement loan.
Home repairs and renovations can be very expensive, but they are often necessary. Urgent projects such as mold remediation and structural repairs cannot be put off and planned for, while updates in finishes may be required if you are trying to sell your home soon. A common way to obtain money for renovations is through a home improvement loan that's secured by the equity you have accumulated in your home.
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.)
**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
Disclaimer: Fixed rates from 5.99% APR to 17.67% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.74% APR to 14.70% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of October 15, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.74% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.05% plus 3.08% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
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