Many people turn to home improvement loans even though saving up and paying cash for home improvements is often the least expensive option. After all, when you pay cash, you don’t have to pay interest. However, sometimes home improvements come in the form of emergency repairs, and paying interest on a loan is less costly than saving up to pay cash while your roof leaks for months and causes mold, rot and damaged ceilings that will cost even more to repair later.

Many people turn to home improvement loans even though saving up and paying cash for home improvements is often the least expensive option. After all, when you pay cash, you don’t have to pay interest. However, sometimes home improvements come in the form of emergency repairs, and paying interest on a loan is less costly than saving up to pay cash while your roof leaks for months and causes mold, rot and damaged ceilings that will cost even more to repair later.
Specialized lenders. Some finance companies focus on particular types of home improvement projects, and it may make sense to use those sources. For example, loans for energy-efficient upgrades might be available through local Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, or your contractor may have funding options available. Remember to compare these loans to alternatives—just because they're specialized doesn't mean they have the best rates.
Before applying, be sure to check your credit history for inaccuracies, and if you find any, dispute them. You’ll want to make sure your credit is in tip top shape so you can get the best rate from lenders. If your credit score is subprime, consider a bad credit loan instead. It’s also important to get a few estimates prior to applying for a loan so you have an idea of how much money you need to get the job done.
Another good tip is to keep your home improvements simple and neutral whenever possible. While you may be an avid gardener, potential homebuyers may not be, so they won't be enticed by a house with a yard that requires a lot of upkeep. Additionally, if you repaint rooms, choose warm, earth tones. This neutral palette will help homebuyers envision themselves and their furniture in the space. Bright reds, exotic yellows and Caribbean blues may distract potential buyers.
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.)
Interest rates: While the shorter timeline will help, personal loans often come with higher interest rates than home loans, so you’ll need to evaluate your options carefully. If you have great credit and sufficient income to repay, you might expect a rate well below 10%. Credit cards are also a form of personal loan. Rates on credit cards range from 0% promotions to more than 20% APR for borrowers with bad credit.
Interest rates: While the shorter timeline will help, personal loans often come with higher interest rates than home loans, so you’ll need to evaluate your options carefully. If you have great credit and sufficient income to repay, you might expect a rate well below 10%. Credit cards are also a form of personal loan. Rates on credit cards range from 0% promotions to more than 20% APR for borrowers with bad credit.
In this scenario, you're replacing your current mortgage with a new one and at the same time taking cash out for your home improvements. This can help you take advantage of today's lower mortgage rates and fund big projects at the same time. Because of the long (30 years, usually) payout plan, you also get lots of time to pay back the loan, and your monthly payments will be lower than if you got a home equity loan or line of credit.
If you have decent credit, you'll run into offers for 0% interest on credit cards (new credit cards or checks you can use with cards you already have). Credit Karma previously advised us that these offers might be best for projects under $15,000—presumably because it's (relatively) easy to pay off the loan within the low interest rate offer timeline (usually 12 to 18 months), it's easy to apply and qualify for, and you don't risk losing your home on this kind of unsecured loan.
You could also do a combination of cash and one of the financing options below to reduce the amount you pay in interest. Also note that by "cash" we mean you pay for the project outright rather than get a loan for it that you pay off slowly. That could mean charging the project to your credit card so you get the rewards for it but then paying your credit card in full when it's due, avoiding the interest.

On the flip side, however, interest rates tend to be higher on personal and unsecured loans than they are on home equity or home equity line of credit (HELOC) loans. For example, a $50,000 unsecured personal loan at Wells Fargo has a 7.244% to 9.247% APR, depending on the term of your loan (36 months to 60 months)—which is a great deal more than the 4.06% APR you can get on a home equity loan, according to the latest average posted on Bankrate.
There are many ways to pay for home improvements, from traditional home improvement loans to personal loans to home equity lines of credit to government programs to credit cards. Regardless of which type of loan you’re considering and what type of lender you want to work with, shopping around will help you make sure that you’re getting the best rate and terms on your home improvement loan. If you apply with several lenders within a short period, the impact on your credit score will be minimal. (For more, see The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Credit, An Introduction to the FHA 203(k) Loan and Applying for an FHA 203(k) Loan.)
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.

*Credit scores are based on information collected by credit bureaus and information reported each month by your creditors about the balances you owe and the timing of your payments. A credit score is a compilation of all this information converted into a number that helps a lender to determine the likelihood that you will repay the loan on schedule. The credit score is calculated by the credit bureau, not by the lender. Credit scores are calculated by comparing your credit history with millions of other consumers. 


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.
• Home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is a revolving line of credit, like a credit card. In the beginning, you're only responsible for paying interest monthly; in the later years, you need to begin to pay back principal. A benefit of this type of debt is that you don't have to take out all the money at once for a project; you can draw gradually, as needed. After that initial "draw period," the HELOC converts to a fixed loan, and you'll have to pay back the principal on a set schedule. 
St. Paul, Minn. – Subject to income limits, homeowners can get a loan of $2,000 to $50,000 at 4% interest for a room addition or a new garage, a new furnace or an air-conditioning installation, a roof replacement and a few other items. Another option is a loan of $1,000 to $25,000 with deferred payment for basic and necessary improvements that directly affect the home’s safety, habitability, energy efficiency or accessibility. These loans aren’t due until the borrower sells, transfers title or moves, and they may be forgiven after 30 years of continued ownership and occupancy. 
Home improvement projects—whether you hire a pro or DIY—do cost a pretty penny, so most of us have to take out some sort of loan to pay for them. You've probably received "you've been approved for a personal loan!" letters in the mail or have been told you can refinance your mortgage and take money out for whatever you want. As with other major financial decisions, however, it's really worth the time to understand your different choices so you don't screw yourself in the long run. Let's take a look.
Whether you want to spruce up your home, do a total renovation or just fix up that outdated bathroom, you're probably bracing yourself for steep home improvement costs. If you've built equity in your home, however, you can access that equity for those new countertops or landscaping with a home improvement loan. These home renovation loans feature low interest rates and repayment periods that can bring your dream renovations within reach. Put your low home improvement loan rate to work and liven up your living space with these great remodeling tips.
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.
On the flip side, however, interest rates tend to be higher on personal and unsecured loans than they are on home equity or home equity line of credit (HELOC) loans. For example, a $50,000 unsecured personal loan at Wells Fargo has a 7.244% to 9.247% APR, depending on the term of your loan (36 months to 60 months)—which is a great deal more than the 4.06% APR you can get on a home equity loan, according to the latest average posted on Bankrate.
Still, there are several other factors to consider. The first is that Marcus caps home improvement loans at $40,000, so if you need more to fund an extensive project, Marcus may not be the right lender for you. It can also take Marcus five business days to fund your loan, which means you’re in for a longer wait than you will be with lenders like Earnest.
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