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.
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.
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.
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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.
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That low interest rate has a price, however. There might be hefty closing costs and more application hoops to jump through because these loans, like applying for a mortgage, put your property up for collateral. You'll also need to have enough equity in your home to qualify. For example, if your home is appraised at $200,000 and your mortgage is currently $150,000, you have $50,000 in equity that could be tapped. To reduce risk, lenders usually limit the amount of loans you can have on your home to about 85 percent of your home's value. So in this example, 85% of $200,000 is $170,000; after subtracting the current mortgage amount of $150,000, you're left with $20,000 you could qualify for.
As with other lenders, your interest rate will be based on your credit score, how much you want to borrow and your repayment period. Because these loans have relatively short repayment periods of three to five years, you’ll get out of debt quickly and won’t be paying interest for years. And you may be able to get a peer-to-peer loan even though you have less-than-stellar credit, though you can expect to pay a high interest rate if you’re approved.
SoFi is known for student loan refinancing, but the online lender also offers personal loans for house remodeling. You can borrow as little as $5,000 or as much as $100,000 and repay it over two to seven years. SoFi loans also come without origination fees and prepayment penalties. They even have an unemployment protection program that can temporarily pause your payments if you lose your job.
If you have planned a renovation with a mock budget and know what the end total looks like, a good first step is to evaluate whether it's feasible to fund with cash. Creating this budget will not only help you pinpoint your expenses, but if you end up going with a loan, it will be an integral step in showing lenders that you’re prepared for the renovations.
Getting personal. Houses aren't the only loan collateral. Stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, a savings account, and even a pension or retirement account can also help you get a viable personal loan from many brokerages and banks. Although the interest isn't tax-deductible, the rate can be low enough to make these loans enticing. You also save the usual title, appraisal, and other closing costs of a mortgage.
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.
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.
The catch is that to keep the 0% rate, you will likely be required to make minimum monthly payments on time every month, even during the 0% introductory period. You need a clear plan for repaying the full amount you borrow before the introductory period ends, or else you will have to pay interest on the remaining balance, usually at a much higher rate.
State and Local Loan Programs. In addition to loan programs run by the federal government, there are thousands of programs operated by the 50 states, as well as counties and municipalities. For example, the state of Connecticut currently lists 11 programs that assist homeowners with everything from financing the purchase of a home in need of repair to helping improve the energy efficiency of their houses.
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.
A credit card can be a better option for borrowing smaller amounts of money for your home improvements with lower interest rates than a personal loan. Credit cards can offer 0% interest rates for a set period of time on your larger purchases, which might include a new kitchen or bathroom suite. A credit card works best if you can pay it off quickly.
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.
If you’re interested in applying or would like more information, please review this PDF file, which outlines the various programs that are available to residents. Then complete this pre-application form and send it to Elena Shulman, one of our project managers, at ElenaS@washingtoncountycda.org. She’ll give you a call to to talk about your plans, review the eligibility requirements with you, and make sure that you’re applying for those programs that will be most beneficial for you. Questions? Give Elena a call at 651.202.2823.
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.