A PERSONAL LOAN FOR HOME IMPROVEMENTS MAY BE THE RIGHT CHOICE
Home improvements can be costly, so many people choose a loan to pay for them. Depending on your needs, a personal loan for home improvements may be a great option.1
What Type of Loan is Best for Home Improvements?
The best loan type for your home improvement situation likely depends on three factors: the speed you need cash, the amount of cash you need, and the equity you have in your home. Let’s review some scenarios where a personal loan for home improvements makes sense.
Situations where you need cash fast. Let’s say your HVAC system conks out in the dead of winter, or your roof has started leaking into your bedroom. In these situations, you need a fast fix. If you are approved for a personal loan, the cash usually arrives in your bank account within a few days, sometimes in as little as 24 hours.2 That can be a huge difference-maker — applying for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or a Home Equity Loan takes a lot longer, and often requires an appraisal.
Situations where you need some money, but not huge amounts. Different home improvement projects require different budgets. Maybe it’s time to update all the appliances in your kitchen. Or, you want to install a hot tub in your backyard and build a patio next to it. You may need $7,000 or $12,000, respectively, for those projects.
A HELOC or a Home Equity Loan will likely offer the best rate, but there is more work (and fees) up front: you will likely have to pay for an appraisal and there may be closing costs. For a small loan like this, it may not be worth it — appraisal fees and closing costs often don’t scale down to the size of your project. Whereas the closing fee for a personal loan can be as low as a few hundred dollars — for example First Midwest Bank charges $150 if the loan closes and nothing for those whose application is not approved.
Depending on your situation, you may even want to borrow a bit more, for example $30,000 for a full kitchen redo, to avoid the hassle of the other options — and to keep your fees low.
When you don’t have much equity in your home. A HELOC and a Home Equity Loan are secured by the value of your home. If you don’t own at least 20% of your home — often you need to own even more — you are unlikely to qualify for those options. But, if you have good credit, a personal loan for home improvements may give you a rate far superior to high interest credit cards. And, you can usually borrow tens of thousands of dollars, which is enough for many projects.
Rates for Home Improvement Loans
The rate you receive depends on a variety of factors, such as your credit score, your overall debt load, how much you want to borrow, the length of your term, and the broader interest rate environment. For example, at First Midwest, as of February 17, 2021, rates on personal loans ranged from 5.16% APR to 16.31% APR.3
Because each situation is different, it makes little sense to speculate on what rate you may get. Instead, get a free rate quote without affecting your FICO® Score, so you know for sure.
The rate you get on a personal loan for home improvement will typically be higher than the rate you would get for a HELOC or home equity loan of the same amount. However, there are advantages to a personal loan. Namely, they are faster to originate, they usually have fewer fees and closing costs, and they are unsecured, meaning that you do not need to use your home as collateral.
Some homeowners, who have worked hard to build up their home equity, prefer not to touch it when they need cash and use personal loans instead. The rate you could get on a personal loan is usually lower than that of a high-interest credit card, a payday loan, or a credit card cash advance.
How Do Home Improvement Loans Work?
A personal loan for home improvement is straightforward. Once you have been approved, the loan amount is placed in your bank account, typically within a day or two. You can spend it as you need for your home improvements.
You will then receive monthly statements. Payments are typically due once a month on the same date, over the life of the loan.
You will know the term (length of your loan) before you agree to it. With fixed APR personal loans (which is what First Midwest offers), the monthly payment will also be specified prior to your closing the loan, and that amount should remain the same throughout the life of the loan. In this scenario, there should be no surprises.
If you are considering an adjustable rate personal loan, or a loan with a balloon payment, or a variable rate personal loan, be sure to review the terms carefully. Your payment amount may change during the life of the loan, so you will want to make sure you understand the details of the agreement.
Can You Get a Home Improvement Loan with Bad Credit?
It depends on your situation. Certainly, it’s possible to get approved for a personal loan with less than perfect credit. Typically, though, the lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate. So, while you may qualify for a home improvement loan with bad credit, the rate you are offered may be unappealing.
In a case like this, you may want to talk with a banker about your options. For example, if you have substantial equity in your home, applying for a HELOC or Home Equity Loan may make more sense. Because these forms of credit are secured by your home, lenders are typically more likely to offer a lower rate.
Is a Personal Loan for Home Improvement Always the Best Choice?
Like any financial product, a home improvement loan may be a great fit for certain situations — and not as great a fit for other situations. For example, as mentioned above, if you have poor credit, you are unlikely to receive an appealing interest rate.
Or, for example, if you are planning on a major long-term renovation that costs $130,000, the up-front hassle of getting a home appraisal and closing on a Home Equity Loan probably makes sense. With that much principal at stake, finding the best overall rate becomes more important, while the upfront fees will be a relatively small portion of the loan, making them less of a factor in your budgeting.
Or, as another example, if you have several non-urgent relatively small updates you want to make over the course of a year or two, you may consider the flexibility a HELOC provides, especially if you find a lender who will waive closing costs, or who will give you a favorable application fee structure.
Is a Personal Loan for Home Improvement Right for You?
It really depends on the rate you could receive, the project you have in mind, the urgency of your project, and the other loan options available to you. A great first step is talking with a banker to learn all your options — and to get a rate quote.