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.
I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger
The advent of online lending portals has made it easy for borrowers without collateral to get an unsecured personal loan from both national and local lenders. The rates for this type of debt are significantly higher than for home equity debt; on Bankrate, average APRs for personal loans range from a low of 10.3 percent for someone with excellent credit—a FICO cedit score of 720 and higher—to 32 percent for someone with poor credit.

Whether you want to give your kitchen a fresh look, build the deck you’ve wanted, or want to make a few bigger home repairs, one of the decisions you’ll face is how to pay for your home improvement. Sure, you could use your credit cards or maybe take advantage of in-store financing, but one of the most convenient ways to pay for larger projects is with a home improvement loan.
The best time to apply for a home improvement loan is when you have a large renovation project you want to tackle. That could be adding another bathroom to your home, roofing your house or installing a pool, or any other major home-related project. This type of loan is a good option if you don’t have a lot of equity in your home to draw from but need or want to make home improvements.

Whether you want to give your kitchen a fresh look, build the deck you’ve wanted, or want to make a few bigger home repairs, one of the decisions you’ll face is how to pay for your home improvement. Sure, you could use your credit cards or maybe take advantage of in-store financing, but one of the most convenient ways to pay for larger projects is with a home improvement loan.


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%. 
Cash is usually preferable to accumulating more debt. However, with the average major kitchen remodel costing $54,909 and a bathroom remodel averaging $16,128, it could take decades before you've saved enough to do your projects and actually enjoy the results. For small projects, however, if you're able to save enough in cash, this is probably the best way to go.
However, a cash-out refinance can be costly in the long run. In addition to possibly high closing costs, you'll pay a higher APR than if you simply refinanced without getting cash out. Also, you'll owe more on your mortgage again, which is not fun at all. If you're 10 years into your 30-year fixed mortgage and refinance into a bigger 30-year loan, the clock restarts. Instead of 20 years left to pay, payments are now stretched over 30 years.
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.
Rate Disclosure – For New York residents, rates range from 6.99% to 24.99% APR. Rates will vary based on many factors, such as your creditworthiness (for example, credit score and credit history) and the length of your loan (for example, rates for 36 month loans are generally lower than rates for 72 month loans). The available loan term may vary based on your creditworthiness (for example, 72-month loan terms will not be available to all applicants). Your maximum loan amount may vary depending on your loan purpose, income and creditworthiness. Your income must support your ability to repay your loan. Your monthly payment amount will vary based on your loan amount, APR and loan term. For example, a $402 monthly payment is based on a $15,000 loan with a 12.99% APR and 48 monthly payments.
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.)
I'd also take into consideration which projects will boost property value; those would probably be the best to finance. First of all, if anything is broken— roof needs replaced, HVAC systems need to be upgraded— that would be first on the list. There are also a million articles on which "upgrades" make the biggest difference in property value and while I'm not a real estate person I tend to think things like bathroom updates, kitchen updates, and finishing unfinished space like bedrooms and attics would be high up on that list. Building major landscaping structures probably isn't, and I wouldn't recommend financing to, say, put in a pool.
Since these projects may involve some demolition and plumbing, you may want to consider a contractor. It is important to obtain several quotes that include the following: project start and completion dates, a guarantee to clean up debris, a warranty on the work, and a payment plan. Then, compare quotes to make sure you get a competitive price without sacrificing quality. Once you've found a contractor you want to work with, check out Citizens Bank's competitive home improvement loan rates to make these major projects a reality.
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.

Whether you want to give your kitchen a fresh look, build the deck you’ve wanted, or want to make a few bigger home repairs, one of the decisions you’ll face is how to pay for your home improvement. Sure, you could use your credit cards or maybe take advantage of in-store financing, but one of the most convenient ways to pay for larger projects is with a home improvement loan.

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