You may have borrowed money to buy your house, so why not borrow some more to fix it up? After all, taking out an unsecured home improvement loan can be a convenient way to pay for renovations and repairs.
But it’s really just a personal loan option with a fixed purpose, and it’s not the wisest choice for every homeowner. Here’s what you need to know.
How to find an unsecured home improvement loan
An unsecured home improvement loan is much like an unsecured personal loan. You qualify for a borrowing amount, interest rate, and repayment term based on your credit profile. Many banks, online or otherwise, market their personal loans for home improvement.
But no two lenders are exactly alike. Earnest, for example, promises to consider your education and career in addition to your credit when awarding a loan offer.
Different lenders also allow you to borrow varying amounts. Avant home improvement loans, for example, top out at $35,000. LendingClub has an unsecured home improvement loan maximum of $40,000, which could come in handy for bigger house projects such as building a pool.
These differences spring up from lender to lender, so it’s wise to shop around to find the best personal loan companies.
Besides online lenders, consider credit unions and more traditional banks. They could offer longer loan terms if you prefer repaying the funds over, say, 12 years as with SunTrust instead of 12 to 36 months.
Aside from considering offers from different kinds of lenders, score the best rates on home improvement loans by using these practices:
- Improve your credit score, because mere percentage points can affect how much interest you’ll repay.
- Compare the APR of your offers, as it accounts for both your interest rate and origination fees.
- Avoid lenders with prepayment penalties, rigid repayment plans, and variable rates that could spike.
Weigh the downsides of home improvement loans
An unsecured home improvement loan is an attractive way to make a fix around — or outside — your home. You could replace your broken water heater in the dead of winter, for example, so that you don’t have to freeze while you save up.
But before you go all-in on your home improvement purchase, consider the cons of these loan products.
First of all, home improvement loans — and personal loans in general — can carry burdensome interest rates. Some lenders, such as LendingClub, charge their least creditworthy customers with an APR as high as 35.89%.
Say you have fair credit and can manage an APR of 20.00%. That $15,000 you borrow to remodel your kitchen would cost you $8,845 in interest with a five-year repayment plan, for a total of $23,845.
Plug your borrowing scenario into our personal loan calculator. You’ll see how much your home improvement project will really cost. It might be more expensive than you expected.
Aside from relatively higher interest rates, an unsecured home improvement loan can be dangerous if you select a repayment term that’s too short.
Most personal loans allow you to repay your debt in one, three, or five years. If you need more time to repay your loan, consider lenders that’ll grant you a longer term. Just remember the longer your repayment, the more interest you’ll have to repay.
Consider the alternatives to an unsecured home improvement loan
You might be considering a loan because it will significantly increase the value of your home (although not all renovations do). You could also elect to borrow money because your house needs an emergency repair that’s not covered by homeowners insurance.
Be aware that an unsecured home improvement loan isn’t the only way to get this done.
In the scenario that you have a pressing reason to borrow — holes in your roof, for example — consider the alternatives to unsecured home improvement loans. Your options include:
- Home equity loans: This could be a better option if you’ve paid off a significant chunk of your home but don’t have excellent credit. A home equity loan allows you to borrow a large percentage of your home’s equity — that is, the value of your house minus the amount you still owe on your mortgage. The worst-case scenario is that if repayment goes south, your lender could foreclose on your home.
- Title I Home and Property Improvement loans: This might be a better choice if you plan on borrowing a small amount. You won’t need to secure the loan with your mortgage unless you borrow more than $7,500. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development insures the loan, but you’d still negotiate an APR with an approved private lender in your area.
For home improvement projects that don’t have a time-sensitive deadline, you could save up to avoid borrowing money altogether. Reserving part of your paycheck for an extended period could stack up the funds you need without having to go to a lender.
That’s the best alternative to an unsecured home improvement loan if it’s possible in your situation.
Borrow home improvement loans responsibly
If your home improvement project is more of a passion project, you might seek alternatives to taking on debt.
But if you have a much-needed home repair, excellent credit, and a solid plan for repayment, an unsecured home improvement loan could be the perfect solution. To ensure you’ll benefit, learn how a calculator can help your decision.
Interested in a personal loan?Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Rates (APR)||Loan Amount|
|1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank
Upgrade Bank Disclosures
|7.73% - 29.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
|5.83% - 14.74%1||$5,000 - $100,000|
|5.96% - 35.97%*||$1,000 - $50,000||Visit Upgrade|
|8.00% - 25.00%||$5,000 - $35,000|
|4.99% - 29.99%||$10,000 - $35,000||Visit FreedomPlus|
|4.99% - 16.24%2||$5,000 - $50,000||Visit Citizens|
|15.49% - 34.49%||$2,000 - $25,000||Visit LendingPoint|
|5.99% - 35.89%||$1,000 - $40,000||Visit LendingClub|
|5.49% - 18.24%||$5,000 - $75,000||Visit Earnest|
|9.95% - 35.99%||$2,000 - $35,000||Visit Avant|