Your debt-to-income ratio: You can calculate your DTI by dividing all of your monthly debt payments by your monthly income. Lenders generally consider a DTI of 36 percent or less to be acceptable, but many lenders will consider borrowers with higher ratios, depending on their income. Anything getting close to 50 percent, though, may disqualify you.
The interest rate will also depend on the borrower’s credit score, the loan term and the amount borrowed. For example, SunTrust Bank offers home improvement loans for $5,000 to $9,999 with terms of 24 to 36 months and interest rates of 6.79% to 12.79% (rates include an autopay discount of 0.50%), while a loan of $50,000 to $100,000 for the same amount of time comes with an interest rate of 4.79% to 10.29%. 
• 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.

If you have equity in your home and are planning on projects costing $50,000 or more, the best loans to tap will probably be tied to your property. HELOCs, home equity loans, and cash out refinances offer the best rates (30-year fixed mortgage rates are among the lowest we've seen in decades, at 4.06% . A 15-year fixed home loan is currently 3.12%, according to WSJ.) Also, you might be able to deduct the interest on these loans and any points you pay to reduce the interest rate on your taxes (check with a tax advisor, though).
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.

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.


For example, a three-year $10,000 personal loan with a Prosper Rating of AA would have an interest rate of 5.31% and a 2.41% origination fee for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 6.95% APR. You would receive $9,759 and make 36 scheduled monthly payments of $301.10. A five-year $10,000 personal loan with a Prosper Rating of A would have an interest rate of 8.39% and a 5.00% origination fee with a 10.59% APR. You would receive $9,500 and make 60 scheduled monthly payments of $204.64. Origination fees vary between 2.41%-5%. Personal loan APRs through Prosper range from 6.95% (AA) to 35.99% (HR) for first-time borrowers, with the lowest rates for the most creditworthy borrowers. Eligibility for personal loans up to $40,000 depends on the information provided by the applicant in the application form. Eligibility for personal loans is not guaranteed, and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. Refer to Borrower Registration Agreement for details and all terms and conditions. All personal loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Prosper and WebBank take your privacy seriously. Please see Prosper’s Privacy Policy and WebBank’s Privacy Policyfor more details. Notes offered by Prospectus. Notes investors receive are dependent for payment on unsecured loans made to individual borrowers. Not FDIC-insured; investments may lose value; no Prosper or bank guarantee. Prosper does not verify all information provided by borrowers in listings. Investors should review the prospectus before investing.
A “home improvement loan” is usually an unsecured personal loan that is used to pay for home repairs and improvements. An unsecured loan does not require you to put up an asset, such as your house, as collateral. Home improvement loans can range from $1,000 to $100,000, with interest rates from 5.99 percent to around 36 percent if your credit is bad. Personal loans have a fixed interest rate and a fixed monthly payment and are available at traditional banks, credit unions, online lenders and peer-to-peer lenders.

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.


Home loans using home equity as collateral are the most common and offer the biggest loan amounts, according to Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. However, “Lenders are looking for homeowners to retain a 15% equity stake after the loan,” McBride said, so you’ll need a fairly large amount of equity in your home just to qualify.
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.
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