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.


If you’re planning to refinance, a remodeling loan may make it more difficult. When you refinance, the lender holding your home improvement loan must agree to "resubordinate" the loan, or “agree to sign off and say they’ll stay second in line,” McBride said. While this is often a formality, he said, if you are in default on your home improvement loan, “the lender may use it as leverage.”

Homeowners with limited equity can get an FHA Title I loan for improvements that make a home more livable and useful, including accessibility improvements and energy conservation improvements. These loans can’t be used for luxury items such as swimming pools or outdoor fireplaces, however. Loans for less than $7,500 are usually unsecured; the most a homeowner can borrow is $25,000 for 20 years to improve a single-family home. The lender determines the interest rate. You’ll need to find an FHA-approved Title I lender to get this type of loan. As with any loan, you’ll need good credit and a demonstrated ability to repay the loan. 

I'd also take into consideration which projects will boost property value; those would probably be the best to finance. First of all, if anything is broken— roof needs replaced, HVAC systems need to be upgraded— that would be first on the list. There are also a million articles on which "upgrades" make the biggest difference in property value and while I'm not a real estate person I tend to think things like bathroom updates, kitchen updates, and finishing unfinished space like bedrooms and attics would be high up on that list. Building major landscaping structures probably isn't, and I wouldn't recommend financing to, say, put in a pool.

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.


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.

A traditional home improvement loan lets homeowners borrow a lump sum to pay for the necessary labor and materials to complete projects such as remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, adding a swimming pool to the backyard or replacing an aging HVAC system. Credit unions, traditional banks and online lenders offer home improvement loans. These are unsecured loans, meaning the homeowner doesn’t provide any collateral for the loan. As a result, the interest rate will be higher than it would be for a secured loan, such as a home equity loan.
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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed may not necessarily reflect those of Citizens Bank. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel, nor does it constitute advertising or a solicitation. You should do your own research and/or contact your own legal or tax advisor for assistance with questions you may have on the information contained herein. 
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