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.
In a cash-out refinance, you get a new loan to replace your mortgage, but instead of borrowing the same amount you currently owe, you borrow more. Let’s say your home is worth $240,000 and you owe $120,000 on your mortgage. If you did a cash-out refinance, you could get a new loan for $192,000. After paying off your $120,000 mortgage, you would have $72,000 to put toward home improvements (or any other purpose, such as sending your child to college).
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.
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.
Loan shopping often starts with mainstream mortgages from banks, credit unions, and brokers. Like all mortgages, they use your home as collateral and the interest on them is deductible. Unlike some, however, these loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Administration (VA), or bought from your lender by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two corporations set up by Congress for that purpose. Referred to as A loans from A lenders, they have the lowest interest. The catch: You need A credit to get them. Because you probably have a mortgage on your home, any home improvement mortgage really is a second mortgage. That might sound ominous, but a second mortgage probably costs less than refinancing if the rate on your existing one is low. Find out by averaging the rates for the first and second mortgages. If the result is lower than current rates, a second mortgage is cheaper. When should you refinance? If your home has appreciated considerably and you can refinance with a lower-interest, 15-year loan. Or, if the rate available on a refinance is less than the average of your first mortgage and a second one. If you're not refinancing, consider these loan types:
A personal line of credit is similar to a personal loan, except that instead of borrowing a lump sum all at once, the borrower can draw upon a line of credit as needed for a certain number of years. A line of credit can help homeowners avoid borrowing more than they need to by letting them access cash only as they need it. But for homeowners who don’t carefully track their borrowing, a line of credit can make it easy to borrow more than intended. Many small draws on the credit line over time can add up to a large total amount borrowed.
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.