Sooner or later, you’ll decide it’s time to make some renovations to your home. Whether you put in the elbow grease and do it yourself or hire a contractor to cover the dirty work, any remodeling venture can be pricey. Finding the best way to finance a home improvement project can be tricky, and the ideal choice varies according to your financial situation.
Home Improvement Loans
The most straightforward way to finance a remodeling project is with a home improvement loan, which can be a conventional loan or an FHA-backed 203(k) loan, which is intended for homeowners who want to spruce up their homes. These loans are packaged separate from your mortgage, and offer different rates and terms than your mortgage. You’ll need to be approved separately, so your credit score and current debt will greatly impact your ability to secure a loan.
Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit
If you’ve owned your home long enough to build up a significant amount of equity in it you may choose to leverage it as a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. The line of credit functions much like a credit card. You can use it to pay off remodeling expenses as you incur them, and you may then pay it down as you can afford to. This option may yield the lowest interest rates available, but you’ll need to plan to pay for closing costs as part of the project.
Refinance and Renovate
You may also consider refinancing your home in order to finance a home improvement project. Many banks offer refinancing and renovation options that allow you to roll home improvement costs into your mortgage, even if you don’t have a lot of equity in your home. By basing the mortgage on the home’s renovated value rather than the current value, you’ll be able to finance everything with one loan. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, however, you’re out of luck: Many banks require you to hire a professional contractor to perform the work as part of a refinancing and renovation package.
Don't Price Yourself Out
Before you start shopping around for a home improvement loan, put your project into perspective. A $55,000 master bathroom makeover might make sense in a neighborhood where home values are high, but installing a Jacuzzi bathtub and a matching Italian marble floor and countertop of your dreams might not make sense if your home and the rest of the neighborhood is valued at $180,000. Pouring money into renovations can add value to your home, but be careful to ensure your modifications don’t make your home difficult to sell in the future.
Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.