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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.
Bank of America. One of the largest companies in the world, Bank of America has operations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 40 other countries. So there’s a fair chance that you’ll find a branch not far from you. For a HELOC, the bank is currently offering a 12-month introductory rate of 2.990%. The rate rises to 4.430% after the introductory period.
Homeowners with limited equity can get an FHA Title I loan for improvements that make a home more livable and useful, including accessibility improvements and energy conservation improvements. These loans can’t be used for luxury items such as swimming pools or outdoor fireplaces, however. Loans for less than $7,500 are usually unsecured; the most a homeowner can borrow is $25,000 for 20 years to improve a single-family home. The lender determines the interest rate. You’ll need to find an FHA-approved Title I lender to get this type of loan. As with any loan, you’ll need good credit and a demonstrated ability to repay the loan.
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.
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
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.
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.
Refinancing costs: Because you’re getting a brand new home loan, closing costs can make refinancing expensive. Also, you’re extending the life of your loan, so the new monthly payments will mostly go toward interest payments instead of reducing your loan balance. But, if you have sufficient funds on hand, you can always pay extra and eliminate your debt early.
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.