One advantage of these loans is that borrowers can get them very quickly—within a few days or even the same day—less time than it typically takes for a bank to approve a home-equity-based loan or line of credit, says Steve Allocca, LendingClub's president. What's more, you're not putting your home at risk when you borrow this way because it's not used as collateral against the loan.
If you tend to have trouble getting out of debt, keeping your finances organized or meeting deadlines, this isn’t a good option for you. Borrowers who are disciplined, detail oriented and spend within their means could find this to be the least expensive option. However, it may not be possible to borrow as much with a credit card as you could with a home equity loan or cash out refinance, depending on how much equity you have and how good your credit is.
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 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.
Difficulty getting a loan if you have bad credit or you’re self-employed: you might find it difficult to get approval for an unsecured home improvement loan if you have bad credit. This may also apply if you’re self-employed because you may not have the guarantee of fixed income to meet the monthly repayments. If you are approved, you may then find that you aren’t able to borrow as much as you wanted
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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.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which it makes sense to pay 30% interest to make a home improvement. But if you’re desperate, a peer-to-peer loan with a high interest rate can be a better option than charging the expense to a credit card with a high interest rate because you’ll be forced to repay the peer-to-peer loan within a few years, unlike a credit card balance, which you can drag out and pay interest on forever.
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.
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).
Your home improvement ideas are as unique as you are and our range of financing options can help you realize those ideas in the way that makes the most sense for you. Narrow down your options using the information below and remember our financing representatives are available to answer any questions. Be sure to consider the costs associated with each option, including interest rate, when choosing a product.
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.
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.
You may be able to arrange an interest-free loan through your contractor as well. However, if you're unable to pay off an interest-free loan before the term expires, you’ll probably owe interest backdated to the day you signed the agreement. In this arrangement, make sure you don’t lose the right to withhold payments if the contractor's work isn't done to your satisfaction, if that was a term of your contract.
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.
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.
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.