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Most people can’t afford to design and build their own home or pay for major renovations out of pocket, which is why many lenders offer construction loans — shorter-term loans used to finance construction/rehabilitation of or addition to a residence. Here is Bankrate’s guide to some of the best construction loan lenders in 2023.
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C.
Conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, fixed-rate, adjustable-rate; refinancing; construction and renovation loans; flex-term; reverse mortgage
620 for conventional loans; 500 for FHA loans; 700 for adjustable-rate mortgages; 620 for renovation loans
Conventional, jumbo, FHA, VA, USDA, fixed-rate, adjustable-rate; rate-and-term, cash-out and streamline refinancing; home equity line of credit (HELOC), home equity loan; construction and renovation loans; investment property; interest-only
Applying for a construction loan is similar to applying for a mortgage on an existing home, with a few extra steps and likely a longer timeline. Here are the basics:
Shop around for a construction loan lender.
Submit a loan application and your contract with the architect or builder and their plans for the project.
Be prepared to answer any questions your lender might have and provide any additional documentation as needed.
Construction loan requirements
Construction loan lenders have varying requirements, but they are typically based on the amount you borrow. Similar to other types of mortgages, lenders determine your eligibility for a construction loan by evaluating your creditworthiness, income, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio and other factors. Here’s what to expect:
Credit score – Many lenders require a credit score of 680 or higher for a construction loan, but some might work with borrowers with lower credit scores.
DTI ratio – Lenders usually look for your debt obligations to total no more than 45 percent of your monthly income.
Down payment – Be prepared to put down 20 percent or more, unless you’re applying for an FHA or VA construction loan.
Construction plan – Lenders usually require a detailed plan before funding the first phase of the project.
Repayment plan – In addition to the construction loan itself, you must also qualify for permanent mortgage financing. The construction loan covers payments for the project during the building process and then converts to a permanent mortgage upon completion.
Types of construction loans
Construction-to-permanent loan – A loan to pay for construction costs, which then converts to a permanent mortgage once the home’s finished and ready for occupancy
Construction-only loan – A loan to pay for construction costs by disbursing funds in increments as project milestones are met; generally has a repayment period of one year or less
Owner-builder construction loan – A loan that operates like a construction-to-permanent or construction-only loan, but with one key difference: the borrower is also the builder
End loan – The mortgage on the property once construction is complete
How to choose the best construction loan lender
Construction loans can be complex, which is why it’s best to work with a lender who has experience with this type of mortgage. To find the best mortgage lender and get the lowest-cost loan, compare several construction loan lenders and their rates and terms, and also compare your interactions with them. If you’re looking for responsiveness, for example, take note of this in your communications with the loan officer. Ultimately, the best lender for you depends on your goals, preferences and financial situation.
FAQ on construction loans
A construction loan is a short-term loan designed to help with the purchase of a plot of land and the construction of a home or pay for major renovations to an existing home. Renovation loans, on the other hand, pay for home improvements. This funding can come in a variety of forms, such as a personal loan or a government-insured loan, or by taking out equity in your home. Renovation loans aren’t as structured as construction loans; they’re usually unsecured, and borrowers have more options when it comes to accessing funds.
Construction loan interest rates are generally higher than the mortgage rates for standard home purchases, in part because in a build situation, there’s no home (yet) to secure the construction loan against, making it riskier for the lender to offer.
For any type of mortgage, you’ll need to qualify based on the lender’s requirements. In that sense, a construction loan is no harder to get than a traditional mortgage, provided you qualify. The process of applying for a construction loan, however, might be more difficult than your average homebuying mortgage, because you’ll need to provide more paperwork about the build and contractor, as well as follow the lender’s requirements in terms of timeline, inspections and payouts.
To determine the best construction loan lenders, Bankrate evaluated lenders based on several criteria, including affordability (annual percentage rate and fees); expediency (approval and closing times); and experience (including customer service support).