Interest rates. The less interest you pay, the more loan you can afford. An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is one way to lower that rate, at least temporarily. Because lenders aren't locked into a fixed rate for 30 years, ARMs start off with much lower rates. But the rates can change every 6, 12, or 24 months thereafter. Most have yearly caps on increases and a ceiling on how high the rate climbs. But if rates climb quickly, so will your payments.
HELOCs give borrowers the benefit of an extended draw period for using the line of credit. The common draw period is 10 years. During the draw period, you can use as much or as little as your line of credit as you want, similar to a credit card. Your monthly payments are typically interest only. For homeowners planning a variety of home improvement projects with different costs and time frames, a HELOC might work best.
The best time to apply for a home improvement loan is when you have a large renovation project you want to tackle. That could be adding another bathroom to your home, roofing your house or installing a pool, or any other major home-related project. This type of loan is a good option if you don’t have a lot of equity in your home to draw from but need or want to make home improvements.
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It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which it makes sense to pay 30% interest to make a home improvement. But if you’re desperate, a peer-to-peer loan with a high interest rate can be a better option than charging the expense to a credit card with a high interest rate because you’ll be forced to repay the peer-to-peer loan within a few years, unlike a credit card balance, which you can drag out and pay interest on forever.
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.
Your credit score: It’s smart to know what are your chances of qualifying before you apply for a loan. Get a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You are entitled to one free report a year from each bureau. The most favorable rates go to borrowers with the best credit scores. Every lender you apply with will check your credit score and credit history.
To possibly have the quickest impact on your home's resale value, replace overgrown bushes with low, uncluttered plantings. In the backyard, add a simple patio made of pavers, a fire pit or a fountain fashioned out of rocks or pottery. Choose evergreen, perennial plants as the primary elements in your garden. These are low maintenance, and in the winter your home will show better with full bushes instead of twigs. On the other hand, if you live in a warm climate, build an outdoor living space with gravel, pavers, umbrellas and plush patio furniture.
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.
Bank of America. One of the largest companies in the world, Bank of America has operations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 40 other countries. So there’s a fair chance that you’ll find a branch not far from you. For a HELOC, the bank is currently offering a 12-month introductory rate of 2.990%. The rate rises to 4.430% after the introductory period.
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.
Only you can decide if your home improvement or repair is worth it to you. Some homeowners place a higher personal value on enjoying their living space while they occupy the home; for some, it is important to recover a greater percentage of renovation costs when they sell the home. Remember, a number of factors may determine whether you recover some or all of your expenses.
Home improvement loans are unsecured, meaning they’re approved based on the borrower’s credit history and income and do not require collateral. They are offered by online lenders, banks, or credit unions and work similarly to personal loans. Once approved, you’ll receive funding through direct deposit or paper check, and then be able to pay for your building supplies and contractors.