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.


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.
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.
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.)
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.
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Some of that affordability is negated, though, by Prosper’s loan origination fee. This lender charges a fee based on your credit profile, which could cost you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on your credit score and how much you need to borrow. Other lenders offer lower interest rates and don’t charge loan origination fees, so make sure you weigh all the factors if you decide to go with Prosper for your loan.
Home repairs and renovations can be very expensive, but they are often necessary. Urgent projects such as mold remediation and structural repairs cannot be put off and planned for, while updates in finishes may be required if you are trying to sell your home soon. A common way to obtain money for renovations is through a home improvement loan that's secured by the equity you have accumulated in your home.
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.
HELOCs give borrowers the benefit of an extended draw period for using the line of credit. The common draw period is 10 years. During the draw period, you can use as much or as little as your line of credit as you want, similar to a credit card. Your monthly payments are typically interest only. For homeowners planning a variety of home improvement projects with different costs and time frames, a HELOC might work best.

At LightStream, we care about the environment and, more importantly, we try to do something about it. For one, we have created a virtually paperless consumer loan experience at LightStream. By eliminating paper almost entirely from the LightStream loan process, we not only save our natural resources but we save on expenses as well, better enabling us to offer you highly competitive interest rates.
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