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Best Home Improvement Loans of July 2024

What is a home improvement loan?

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan that you use to cover the costs of home upgrades or repairs. Lenders provide these loans for up to $100,000. A home improvement loan comes in a lump sum and you repay it in monthly installments, usually over two to 12 years.

How do home improvement loans work?

Unlike home equity financing, home improvement loans do not require collateral. Whether you qualify and the loan’s interest rate are based on information like your credit and income. Once approved, you may receive your loan within one to two days. Missed or late loan payments will negatively impact your credit, but you won’t risk losing your home.

Home improvement loans vs. equity financing

A home improvement loan makes sense if you don’t have enough equity in your home or don’t want to use it as collateral. Equity is your home’s value minus what you owe.

If you have equity, you could get a lower monthly payment with a home equity loan or line of credit. This type of financing typically requires a home appraisal, which means a longer funding time.

Home equity loan

Home equity loans come in lump sums and have fixed interest rates, so monthly payments never change. You repay this loan in monthly installments over a term as long as 30 years.

Compare to personal loans: Home equity loans work similarly to personal loans, but they often have lower rates and longer repayment terms.

Home equity line of credit

A HELOC is an open credit line that you draw on as needed and pay interest only on what you borrow. This variable-rate option works best if you don’t know how much the home improvement will cost and are comfortable with a fluctuating monthly payment.

Compare to personal loans: A HELOC lets you borrow at any time for about 10 years, which can be ideal for long-term projects or unexpected expenses. A personal loan offers a one-time cash influx.

Ask NerdWallet: How do I choose the right home improvement financing option?

“Sometimes, the project itself will give one type of financing an edge. When I needed a new roof on my house, I went with a personal loan because that repair wouldn’t wait, and borrowing against my home equity would have taken way too long. But if you’re looking to borrow a larger amount for a major renovation or you want a longer time to pay back the loan, borrowing against your home equity may make more sense.”

Home improvement loan pros and cons

Here are the pros and cons of using personal loans for home improvement projects:

Pros

  • Payments are fixed. Personal loans have fixed monthly payments, so you can reliably budget for them.

  • Funding is fast. Online applications typically take a few minutes, and funds are often available within a day or two, while funds from a HELOC or home equity loan can take a few weeks to become available.

  • No collateral required. Unlike an auto or home loan, unsecured personal loans don’t require collateral, so the lender can’t take your possessions if you don’t make the payments.

Cons

  • They can have high rates. Because the loan is unsecured, the interest rate may be higher than on a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, which typically have single-digit rates.

  • No tax benefits. You can’t claim a tax deduction on the interest paid on home improvement loans as you might be able to do with mortgage interest.

Pros

  • Payments are fixed.
  • Funding is fast.
  • No collateral required.

Cons

  • They can have high rates.
  • No tax benefits.

How to compare home improvement loans

Pre-qualify and compare offers from multiple lenders to find the right loan for your project. Here are important features to compare among home improvement loans:

  • Annual percentage rate: APRs represent the entire cost of the loan, including fees the lender may charge. If you’re a member of a credit union, that may be the best place to start. The maximum APR at federal credit unions is 18%.

  • Monthly payment: Even if you get a low rate, be sure the monthly payments fit into your budget. Use a home improvement loan calculator to see what loan amount, rate and repayment term you need to get an affordable monthly payment.

  • Loan amount: Some lenders cap amounts at $35,000 or $40,000. If you think your project will cost more than that, look for a lender that offers larger loans.

  • Loan term: A loan with a long repayment term may have low monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over the life of that loan than one with a shorter repayment term.

  • Ability to add a co-signer or co-borrower: Some lenders let you add a co-signer or co-borrower to your application. Adding someone with better credit or higher income to the loan application may reduce your APR or increase the amount you can borrow.

Home improvement loan rates

Home improvement loan annual percentage rates range from about 6% to 36%. Lenders decide your rate on a home improvement loan primarily by evaluating your credit score, credit history and debt-to-income ratio.

Here’s what personal loan rates look like, on average:

Source: Average rates are based on aggregate, anonymized offer data from users who pre-qualified through NerdWallet from May 1, 2024, through May 31, 2024. Rates are estimates only and not specific to any lender. The lowest credit scores — usually below 500 — are unlikely to qualify. Information in this table applies only to lenders with maximum APRs below 36%.

Where to get a personal loan for home improvements

Online lender

Online lenders offer a convenient way to find and compare personal loans from anywhere.

Bank

Some national banks offer personal loans with competitive rates and in-person support.

Credit union

Credit unions may offer lower annual percentage rates and flexible terms for their members.

How to get a home improvement loan

  1. Get a firm cost estimate. Identify the size of your project and get quotes or estimates to determine how much you need to borrow. Knowing the total cost can help you decide which financing option is best.

  2. Compare options. Compare the best home improvement lenders against other financing options, like credit cards and home equity financing. You’re looking for the one that costs the least in total interest, has affordable monthly payments and fits your project cost and timeline.

  3. Check your rate and monthly payments. Many online lenders and some banks let borrowers pre-qualify to see potential personal loan offers before applying. Pre-qualifying involves a soft credit pull that doesn’t impact your score.

  4. Prepare documents. Once you’ve chosen a lender, gather the documents you’ll need to apply. This can include W-2s, pay stubs, proof of address and financial information.

  5. Apply. You may have to apply in person at smaller banks and credit unions, but larger ones and online lenders have online applications. Many lenders can give you a decision the same day you apply. After that, expect to see the funds in your bank account in less than a week.

How to use a home improvement loan

Unsecured loans can cover almost any purchase. How much you need varies based on your location, home size and how extensive your plans are.

Here are some common projects and how much you could pay for each, based on the most recent cost estimates available:

Frequently asked questions

  • Home improvement loan amounts range from $1,000 to $100,000. You receive the loan all at once and repay it with interest over two to 12 years.

  • The best way to finance home improvements depends on factors such as your home equity, how much money you need to borrow and your credit score. Compare home improvement loans with home equity loans, home equity lines of credit, cash-out refinancing and federal programs.

  • Home improvement loan rates typically range from about 6% to 36%. The best personal loan rates typically go to borrowers with high credit scores and credit histories showing consistent on-time payments toward other loans and credit cards.

Other types of home improvement financing

Government assistance

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, or IRA, allows homeowners to get tax credits for energy-efficient updates, like new doors, windows, insulation, heat pumps and air conditioners. The Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit and Residential Clean Energy Credit are listed on the IRS website.

The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center maintains a database that includes state and local incentives for eco-friendly home improvement projects.

When it’s best: Consider applying if your project and finances meet the criteria outlined by these programs. They can help make upgrades more affordable.

Cash-out refinancing

When it’s best: Consider this option if mortgage rates are lower than the one you’re paying now.

Credit card

When it’s best: Use a credit card for projects small enough that you won’t max it out. You should typically aim to pay your full balance every month. You’ll need good or excellent credit (690 credit score or higher) to qualify for a zero-interest or rewards card.

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