• 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.
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.
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These FHA-insured loans allow you to simultaneously refinance the first mortgage and combine it with the improvement costs into a new mortgage. They also base the loan on the value of a home after improvements, rather than before. Because your house is worth more, your equity and the amount you can borrow are both greater. And you can hire a contractor or do the work yourself. The downside is that loan limits vary by county and tend to be relatively low. The usual term is 30 years.
Familiarize yourself with your credit history. Your credit reports carry the most weight for lenders making a loan decision. In the U.S., you are entitled to one free credit report each year, which can be accessed through https://annualcreditreport.com. Credit reports can also be paid for through the three credit bureaus or through a third party business.
For a home equity line of credit, the best place to start is your own bank or credit union. Both usually offer lower rates to depositors. Check other sources to be sure. If you get a second mortgage, refinance, or opt for an FHA 203(k) mortgage, you're better off talking with a mortgage broker. A broker has more loan sources to choose from. When looking for a broker, check with people you know, and check any references you get. Contractors are another source of financing, but be wary: It's hard enough to choose a contractor and a loan when they're separate. And be suspicious of contractors who emphasize the monthly payment instead of the total cost of the job.
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.
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%.