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Man and woman shake hands with contractor on their home remodel project

A home improvement loan typically refers to an unsecured personal loan used to pay for home upgrades—from remodeling or renovations to repairs and new furniture.

Home improvement loans are often a good way to cover the cost of many home-related expenses. Some loans may take longer to get approved. Depending on the lender, some personal loans for home improvement can be funded quickly.

For example, with Discover® Personal Loans, your money can be sent as soon as the next business day after acceptance. That could make a personal loan a smart choice when the roof suddenly leaks or something else goes wrong, and it needs to be fixed and paid for immediately.

Read on to learn how home improvement loans work, and how they compare with other home improvement financing options.

What is a home improvement loan?

Like other personal loans, a home improvement loan is an unsecured installment loan used to pay for home-related costs. That means it doesn’t require collateral (like your home or car).

But that isn’t the only advantage. Installment loans are very predictable, so they’re easy to work into your budget. You’ll have one set regular monthly payment and a defined repayment term.

How much you can borrow will differ from lender to lender. For example, with Discover Personal Loans, you can apply for up to $40,000.

What do home improvement loans cost?

That can depend on the type of loan you apply for. One of the main benefits of a personal loan for home improvements is a fixed-interest rate: You’ll pay the same rate until the loan is paid off. This means you can be sure the payments fit into your budget now and in the future. The rate you get will be determined by your income, debt-to-income ratio, credit history, and other factors.

Interest rates for home improvement loans will also depend on the lender. Some lenders charge origination fees and other costs, which can make the loan more expensive even if the interest rate seems low. Discover Personal Loans doesn’t charge any fees as long as you pay on time.

How to finance home renovations

While a home improvement loan offers a number of benefits, it is just one of many ways to cover the cost of home-related expenses. You will want to weigh your needs against all your potential financing options to decide which one is best for you. Some factors to consider include cost estimates, personal preferences, and your budget.

When a personal loan does not meet your estimated costs, it may makes sense to think about other financing options like a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan, which allow you to borrow against the equity in your home.

Not everyone wants to use their home as collateral. And some homeowners do not have enough equity (the value of the home minus the amount still owed). In those cases, a home improvement loan might still be the best financing option. 

But if you have enough equity in your home and you want to borrow more than a home improvement loan allows, a different type of loan might be better. Read on to learn about other ways to pay for home improvement projects.

Table comparing pros and cons of different home improvement financing options.
There are many ways to finance home improvement projects, each with their own set of pros and cons.

Alternatives to home improvement loans

Home equity financing for home improvements

Home equity loans and HELOCs allow you to borrow against the equity in your home. As a result, they might come with lower interest rates than an unsecured home improvement loan.

With a home equity loan, most lenders will allow you to borrow only up to 90% of your home’s value, minus what you owe on your mortgage. How much you can borrow and the rate you get will depend on your credit history and other factors.

A home equity loan works like a home improvement loan: You apply for the amount you need and, if approved, you get the funds in a lump sum. Then you pay back the full amount over time at a fixed-interest rate, according to your repayment term.

A HELOC works more like a credit card in that it is a revolving line of credit. That means you borrow money throughout your borrowing period—typically 10 years—as you need it. You repay what you borrowed, often with a variable interest rate, and as you pay it back, the credit line remains in place for you to borrow from again, up to the borrowing period. Variable interest rates can make revolving credit tricky to work into a budget. At the end of your HELOC, your credit line may convert  to a fixed rate installment loan if you have remaining payments.

Cash out refinance for home improvements

A cash out refinance can be another way to pay for your home renovation. This option gives you a new, bigger mortgage that you use to pay off your old mortgage. Once you pay off your first mortgage, you keep the difference between those two amounts as part of your new first mortgage. How much you get from a cash out refinance will depend on multiple factors, including the equity in your home and the local market. 

Keep in mind: A cash out refinance can have additional costs, including closing costs and fees. There is also a new repayment term and a new interest rate. But once you do get the money, you can use it for any purpose, including improving the exterior of your home.

How to get a home improvement loan

Getting financing for your home renovation can be simple and fast or a more-involved process, depending on what kind of financing you apply for.

Before you apply for a loan, estimate how much money you’ll need for the project you have in mind. Then assess your financial situation and decide which loan type works best for you. Don’t forget to include unexpected costs; you don’t want to run out of money before you finish your project.

Once you’re ready to apply for the loan, check your eligibility. Many loans will have income, credit, age, and citizenship requirements. Then gather the documents your lender will need to verify your personal information.

Comparing home improvement loans

Before accepting a loan, be sure to compare offers from different lenders since not all offers will be the same. When comparing offers, look at:

  • APR: Lenders will often differ in the APR (annual percentage rate) they offer to you. A lower interest rate may not always save you money if the loan has other fees.
  • Loan amount: Depending on your credit history, a lender may not offer the full loan amount you apply for. The loan amount offered to you can vary by lender.
  • Monthly payments: Compare what each loan will cost you monthly and consider what works with your budget. This will depend on your repayment term and APR.
  • Loan features: Fees, penalties for missing or late payments, and the ability to add a cosigner can vary by lender. Find the features that matter to you, and make sure your lender offers them. 

Once you have the loan in hand, you can start using it to bring your home improvement projects to life.

FAQs about home improvement loans

Is a home improvement loan the same as a mortgage?

A personal loan for home improvements is very different from a mortgage. A mortgage pays for your home, while a home improvement loan pays for home-related expenses like renovations or repairs

How can I use my home improvement loan?

While your personal loan for home improvements is often used for a renovation or remodel, it can also be used for nearly any home-related expense. That includes repairs, replacing appliances, or even buying new furniture. 
You can also use your home improvement loan to bridge costs for DIY projects.

What are the rates on home improvement loans?

Interest rates on home improvement loans vary by lender and by the type of loan you apply for, and so do their fees. In fact, a loan with a lower interest rate can actually be more expensive than one with a higher rate if there are fees attached. Make sure to read the entire offer before accepting a loan.

Still have questions about how a personal loan for home improvement works?Learn More About Home Improvement Loans