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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.)
To determine the loan amount, lenders use the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), which is a percentage of the appraisal value of your home. The usual limit is 80 percent—or $100,000 for a $125,000 home (.805125,000). Lenders subtract the mortgage balance from that amount to arrive at the maximum you can borrow. Assuming your balance is $60,000, the largest loan that you can obtain is $40,000 ($100,000-$60,000=$40,000). If you have a good credit rating, a lender might base your loan on more than 80 percent of the LTV; if you don't, you might get only 65 to 70 percent. While many lenders go to 100 percent of the LTV, interest rates and fees soar at these higher ratios.
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.
Whether you hire a contractor or take on the work yourself, begin with an accurate estimate of what the project will cost. Lenders will insist on a specific figure before they work with you. If you're hiring a contractor, start with a firm bid, broken down into labor and materials. Then add on 10 percent for surprises. On work you'll do yourself, compile a detailed materials list with quantities, costs, and an accurate total. Include permit fees and equipment rental. Then add a cushion of 20 to 30 percent to be safe. Once you know how much you need to finance your home improvement project, how much will you get? Despite the promises and hype lenders make in their ads and promotional materials, how much you can borrow hinges on your credit rating, the loan-to-value ratio, and your income. These factors also help determine the interest rate, the length of the loan, and whether you'll pay points. Your credit rating. The best rates and terms go to homeowners with an A rating—no late payments in the last 12 months and no maxed-out credit cards. One or two late payments or overdrawn credit cards probably won't knock you out of the game, but you might end up with a higher interest rate and a smaller loan.
It's been a few years since I painted anything in anger, but back when I did, there was a trick I'd use when protecting carpet. Round the edge of the carpet, right up against the baseboard, I'd run a 1 1/2 or 2 painter's tape, and let the tape stick slightly to the board. Then I'd go round with the broadest taping knife I had, and tuck the tape down hard. That left the carpet edge protected and rounded over and the tape was now creating a line along the baseboard *below* the level of the carpet. Then I'd sheet up as usual.That made it super easy to paint the baseboard, the bottom edge didn't need cutting in! Just work the pain in there! If the bottom edge was a little messy and uneven, who cared? Once the paint was thoroughly dry, the tape was lifted (carefully, to not pull the carpet off the gripper) and the carpet would bounce up and hide the bottom edge of the paint. A perfect look, quicker and safer than trying to cut in along a fuzzy carpet edge.

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.


Doing a cash-out refinance means it will take you longer to pay off your home, but it also gives you access to the lowest possible borrowing rates to pay for home improvements. Lenders typically require homeowners to retain some equity after the cash-out refinance, commonly 20%, so you’ll need to have plenty of equity if you want to pursue this option. You’ll also need to be employed, have a good credit score and meet all the usual requirements to get a mortgage. (For more, see When (And When Not) to Refinance Your Mortgage)
A credit card might be a better choice than a loan, for instance, if you don't need to borrow a lot. Experian's 2019 report on consumer credit card debt found that the average credit card limit is about $23,000, but your card limits may be lower or higher. If you're applying for a new card, your credit limit at first may be capped at $5,000 or $10,000.
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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