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Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are popular ways to pay for home improvements because they have long repayment periods, which means the monthly payments are low. They also have low interest rates, as they’re secured by your home, and the interest is tax deductible if you itemize. But there is a small risk of losing your home when you take out this type of loan, because if you default, the lender can foreclose. Also, you take 20 to 30 years to repay your home equity loan or HELOC; it can actually cost you more in interest than a shorter-term loan with a higher interest rate, such as a traditional home improvement loan or a personal loan.
HELOCs have two phases. During the draw period, you use the line of credit all you want, and your minimum payment may cover just the interest due. But eventually (usually after 10 years), the HELOC draw period ends, and your loan enters the repayment phase. At this point, you can no longer draw funds and the loan becomes fully amortized for its remaining years.
What’s more, sometimes making a necessary change to a house to keep it livable makes more sense than moving, even if you have to borrow. And some people just won’t want to wait to make upgrades; they’ll prefer to borrow now for that nice kitchen and pay off the project over time. Whatever the reason, if you’re going to borrow money for home improvements, you should know what your options are and which ones might be best for your situation.
Home equity loans are a second mortgage on your home. They're usually a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan, and you get the money in one lump sum. Terms vary, but many home equity loans have you pay back the principle and interest within 15 years with monthly payment plans. This might be the best option if you need a set amount of money for something important and have enough room in your budget to make the payments, of course.
A home equity loan lets you borrow a lump sum all at once, while a HELOC lets you draw on a line of credit as needed for a certain number of years, called the draw period. During the draw period, you only have to repay interest on the loan, which makes monthly payments quite small but can result in payment shock later when the draw period ends and the borrower has to start repaying principal too. In addition, a HELOC has a variable interest rate, while a home equity loan has a fixed interest rate. A HELOC’s initial rate may be lower than a home equity loan’s, but over time it can become higher if market conditions push interest rates up. (For more, see Choosing a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit.)
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.
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.
Disclaimer: Fixed rates from 5.99% APR to 17.67% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.74% APR to 14.70% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of October 15, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.74% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.05% plus 3.08% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
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.

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.

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.

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%. 
If you have decent credit, you'll run into offers for 0% interest on credit cards (new credit cards or checks you can use with cards you already have). Credit Karma previously advised us that these offers might be best for projects under $15,000—presumably because it's (relatively) easy to pay off the loan within the low interest rate offer timeline (usually 12 to 18 months), it's easy to apply and qualify for, and you don't risk losing your home on this kind of unsecured loan.
4 After receiving your loan from us, if you are not completely satisfied with your experience, please contact us. We will email you a questionnaire so we can improve our services. When we receive your completed questionnaire, we will send you $100. Our guarantee expires 30 days after you receive your loan. We reserve the right to change or discontinue our guarantee at any time. Limited to one $100 payment per funded loan. LightStream and SunTrust teammates do not qualify for the Loan Experience Guarantee.
4 After receiving your loan from us, if you are not completely satisfied with your experience, please contact us. We will email you a questionnaire so we can improve our services. When we receive your completed questionnaire, we will send you $100. Our guarantee expires 30 days after you receive your loan. We reserve the right to change or discontinue our guarantee at any time. Limited to one $100 payment per funded loan. LightStream and SunTrust teammates do not qualify for the Loan Experience Guarantee.
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.
Whether you want to spruce up your home, do a total renovation or just fix up that outdated bathroom, you're probably bracing yourself for steep home improvement costs. If you've built equity in your home, however, you can access that equity for those new countertops or landscaping with a home improvement loan. These home renovation loans feature low interest rates and repayment periods that can bring your dream renovations within reach. Put your low home improvement loan rate to work and liven up your living space with these great remodeling tips.

Thinking about building a new pool, putting solar panels on the roof, or remodeling the kitchen or bath? When you have good credit, our national online lending division, LightStream, offers unsecured, fixed-rate loans from $5,000 to $100,000. You'll have the cash in your account to pay the contractor when you're ready—as soon as the same day you apply2. Enhance your home and your home's value.
The biggest problem or obstacle to getting home improvement projects done? Contractors. Many people research DIY solutions but do so not to perform the work themselves but to have some knowledge when hiring someone else to do it for them.Where are the articles on the realities of dealing with contractors, not the glossed over 1,2,3... steps which are hardly helpful in the experiences of so many?Perhaps TOH can shine a bit of light of what no one really wants to talk about on the side of sites selling ads, displaying links to Home advisor and those types of hyped up services?Maybe TOH could spend a little bit of time advocating better service providers than displaying their ads everywhere?Most people know the usuals, the defined scope, the quotes and so on. How many contractors can easily pass a reference check and then the home owner discovers the work is shoddy, the communication practically non-existent and the contractors think it's their project? It's the homeowners project.
"For those borrowers who do not have equity in their homes for a traditional home equity or second mortgage loan, borrowers can usually access some form of unsecured home improvement loan or revolving credit," says Ron Haynie, senior vice president of mortgage finance policy for the Independent Community Bankers of America, which represents the interests of the community banking industry. "Most banks will make an unsecured home improvement loan."
If you’re interested in applying or would like more information, please review this PDF file, which outlines the various programs that are available to residents. Then complete this pre-application form and send it to Elena Shulman, one of our project managers, at ElenaS@washingtoncountycda.org. She’ll give you a call to to talk about your plans, review the eligibility requirements with you, and make sure that you’re applying for those programs that will be most beneficial for you. Questions? Give Elena a call at 651.202.2823.
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.
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