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.
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.
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).
Most HELOCs come with a variable interest rate, which means your monthly payment can go up or down. The amount of interest you pay is determined by a number of factors, including interest rate levels set by the Federal Reserve, investor demand for Treasury notes and bonds, and the movement of benchmark rates used by the banking industry. Each factor can affect your interest rate.
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.

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.
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.
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