How to finance home renovations and improvements

If your home is your castle, but your castle can use a little sprucing up, here’s everything you need to know about paying for home improvements.

Financing home renovations

Home improvement projects abound. Whether you’re turning a dank old basement into a home theater, installing a new pool, or creating a kitchen a chef would be glad to call their own, a home renovation allows you to put your personal stamp on how your castle looks and functions. Wondering how to pay for home renovations? Fortunately, there are plenty of options for financing home renovations.

Ways to finance home renovations

Home remodel financing doesn’t have to be complicated. If paying cash is not in the cards, here are some of the ways you can finance home renovations:

Personal loan
Financing a remodel can be as easy as taking out a personal loan. Available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders, the best personal loans are available for up to $100,000. Highly-qualified borrowers can often snag a low interest rate. Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning your home cannot be repossessed if you fail to make payments. In addition, repaying a personal loan as promised will strengthen your credit score.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
A HELOC often has a lower interest rate than other types of loans because it uses your home as collateral. If you borrow and repay any portion of the money, you are free to withdraw it again later. You can withdraw funds from a HELOC for 10 years, and have 20 years to repay.

If you miss payments, the lender has a legal right to repossess the property to recoup their losses. Paying for home renovations should never put your home at risk. Make sure you understand the terms of your loan — and can make payments on-time — before relying on an HELOC.

Home equity loan
Home equity loans are another way to go about financing a remodel. Unlike a HELOC, home equity loans are distributed in one lump sum, and normally repaid over five to 30 years.

Refinancing your home involves taking out a new mortgage to pay off the old one. Depending on how much equity you have in your home, it is possible to “cash-out” a portion of the equity when you refinance.

For example, let’s say your home is worth $300,000, and you owe $100,000 on your current mortgage. You refinance $150,000. In this scenario, $100,000 pays off the old mortgage, and $50,000 goes towards financing home renovations.

If your new interest rate is much lower than your original interest rate, this method has another benefit. It’s possible that your monthly mortgage payment can drop even if you “cash-out” some of your equity. For some people, paying for home renovations through refinancing is a great way to invest in home improvements.

Credit cards
Small upgrades and repairs can be made using a credit card. However, unless you have an unusually low, fixed interest rate, credit cards are one of the most expensive ways to pay for home renovations. Even if you snag a 0% promotional APR, it will likely expire in 18 months. Credit cards should be saved for emergencies only.

Government loans
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a program called the Section 203(k) Program. It allows you to include renovations in the amount financed for your mortgage, whether you’re purchasing a home or refinancing your current mortgage.

HUD also offers Title 1 Property Improvement Loans that can be used for financing a home remodel. You can use this type of loan to pay for home repairs, alterations, and improvements. It can be used alone or in conjunction with the 203(k) loan.

Save and wait
If the home renovations you dream of are cosmetic, saving until you have enough to pay cash for the project can be wise. In many cases, cash is the best way to pay for home renovations. Here are three benefits of saving:

  • The best design is one you will want to live with for years. Waiting gives you time to decide what you want.
  • Paying cash means not having to worry about repaying a loan.
  • Paying cash may help you stick with a budget. It’ll help you avoid impulsive purchases that could be tacked onto a loan amount.

For these reasons, many homeowners consider cash to be the best way to pay for home improvements.

What should I consider when financing home improvements?

First, decide what you can afford. There’s no reason to go through the trouble of financing a remodel if you’re stressed about making monthly payments. Consider what you want to include in the remodeling project and how much you’re willing to pay for each feature. For example, if you want to duplicate the rain forest shower that you once enjoyed at a resort, look into the price to determine whether it is worth it to you.

If interest rates are on the rise, decide if you can wait to remodel. Finally, rate shop before settling on a lender. The perfect lender for you will offer the lowest interest rate and the best terms. Find the best financing for your home remodel before you start knocking out walls — your wallet will thank you.

When is it a good idea to finance home renovations?

Financing home renovations is a good idea when you have enough money put away in an emergency savings account to cover bills for three to six months. It’s a good idea when you have a secure job, steady income, and are confident that you can easily afford to make the monthly payments.

When is it a bad idea to finance home renovations?

Financing home renovations is a bad idea when you are already cutting your monthly budget close. It’s a bad idea when you’re financing with a partner, but are unsure the relationship will last. It’s also a bad idea if your job is less-than-secure, you tend to spend more money than you earn, or your credit score needs improvement.

Is financing home improvement right for me?

Like all tough questions in life, whether or not you finance home improvements is up to you. The best you can do is to carefully look at your current situation, study your loan options, and when you’re ready, make a decision you can be happy with.

Whether you make improvements all at once or complete them as you can afford to, it’s good to know that you’re moving toward making a house your own.

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