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- A home improvement loan can provide quick funding and flexible repayment options to homeowners.
- Home improvement loans may come with higher rates and fees for borrowers with bad credit.
- It's important to consider alternatives before applying for a home improvement loan.
Home improvement loans are a type of personal loan that allows you to use your borrowed funds to finance various home improvement projects — from small renovations to full room remodels.
However, like all loans, home improvement loans do have some downsides. For example, if you don’t have stellar credit, it’s likely that you’ll be offered high interest rates and fees if approved. Before applying for one, weigh the pros against the cons to determine if they’re the right fit for you and consider alternatives.
Home improvement loan benefits
Home improvement loans are an important tool for homeowners who need to make essential or cosmetic changes to their space. Because they come with fixed interest rates and let you borrow a large lump sum at once, they are a useful way to make the payments more manageable.
Helps build credit
On-time payments will always be a great way to build up your credit score and can make future borrowing less expensive. In addition, you can build your credit by expanding the types of credit accounts you have. If you only have a few installment loans, a home improvement loan can diversify your credit profile, which is a major player in your credit score.
Finance a large project
There are lenders that offer up to $100,000 in personal loan funds. However, this isn’t a common maximum amount and not everyone will be able to qualify for such a large loan. But if you have a big project and the income to afford large monthly payments, opting for an unsecured home improvement loan won’t have you running the risk of losing your home if you default, like with a secured home equity loan.
Add value to your home
A home improvement loan can help you increase the value of your home through tackling a larger project than you could otherwise save for. What’s more, if you plan to sell your home, you can recoup some of what you spent — and make your home stand out more on the market.
Home improvement loans are fixed-rate installment loans, which means that you’ll be on the hook for a predetermined payment amount every month. Installment loans can be the better financing solution for smaller, short-term projects, while longer, more expensive renovations may be better funded with a HELOC.
Home improvement loan drawbacks
Home improvement loans aren’t for everyone. Factors like fees, high rates and hard credit pulls can delineate from the overall value of the loan and cause financial stress down the road.
Potentially high fees
Not every lender charges the same fees. There may be an origination fee on your loan that either deducts from the total amount you receive or increases the amount you borrow. Some lenders may also charge late fees and prepayment penalties. While both of these technically can be avoided, a prepayment penalty makes it much more difficult to save money if you’re able to make payments ahead of schedule.
The interest rate and fees make up your annual percentage rate (APR). If you have poor or fair credit, you’ll likely be given a high APR that can range up to 36 percent.
Some loans are secured
Most personal loans are unsecured, which means they don’t require collateral. However, some may be secured either by your home’s equity or by another asset, like a savings or investment account. If you’re unable to pay your loan for a set amount of time and enter into default, the lender could seize your collateral to satisfy the delinquent balance. Even if a secured loan comes with lower rates, the risk potential is much higher and that’s a key factor to consider before signing on the dotted line.
Negative impact on credit
Applying for a home improvement loan will result in a small hit to your credit when the lender does a hard pull and if you miss any payments, it’s likely that you’ll see that negatively impact your score as well. Even if you make every payment on time, your credit could still be negatively impacted if the loan substantially raises your debt-to-income ratio (DTI).
When to get a home improvement loan
Taking out a personal loan for home improvements may make sense in the following scenarios.
- You need money fast to cover emergency home repairs. Home improvement loans generally have fast fundings speeds, which might make them a better funding option than some alternatives, like home equity loans.
- You’re paying for a one-time home improvement project. If you need to borrow a lump sum of money to cover a project, a personal loan may be a good idea. For ongoing projects, consider a credit card or line of credit.
- You prefer not to risk losing collateral. A home improvement loan is typically unsecured, so you won’t risk losing an asset, such as your home.
Here’s a breakdown of key differences between a home improvement loan and a few alternative financing options.
|Credit cards||Home improvement loans||HELOCs||Home equity Loans|
|Loan amount||Varies||Up to $100,000||Varies by lender and the amount of equity you have in your home||Varies by lender and the amount of equity you have in your home|
|Is collateral required?||No||Typically doesn’t require collateral||Yes||Yes|
|Average interest rate||Around 20%||Around 11%||Around 9%||Around 8.50%|
|Repayment terms||Generally has a 30-day billing cycle||Typically 2 to 7 years||Up to 30 years||Up to 30 years|
The rate you receive, if approved, may be higher or lower than the average rate, depending on your credit score and various other factors.
Alternatives to a home improvement loan
Using your home’s equity, a credit card or your savings will be the most accessible alternatives to a home improvement loan.
- Home equity loan. A home equity loan allows you to tap the equity you have in your property. These tend to have lower rates than home improvement loans because they are secured. And just like a personal loan, they have fixed monthly payments and long repayment terms.
- HELOC. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) also uses your equity as collateral. But it functions more like a credit card — you draw from your line of credit when you need to make a purchase. When that money is repaid, you will be able to draw from it again.
- Credit card. Credit cards are best for smaller projects. Even if you have a low credit limit, you may be able to purchase materials or pay for labor. Because minimum payments can cause interest to pile up, be sure you can pay all or most of the amount by the end of the month.
- Savings. The option that costs you the least will be to build up your savings. This is the best alternative to a home improvement loan because you won’t pay any interest — in fact, you may be able to earn interest if you have your money in a high-yield savings or CD account.
Home improvement loans should be used carefully
Home improvement loans are an important tool for many people who may not be able to build up their savings. But even if you can score low rates, they may still be risky if you struggle to keep up with payments or borrow too much.
Carefully consider the potential impact that taking on more debt will have on your financial health. Even before comparing lenders and looking into the details, conduct a financial audit to make sure your credit utilization ratio and debt-to-income ratio can handle more debt.