There is a catch, however. Unlike other lenders like SoFi or Marcus, LightStream does not offer pre-qualification. This can be problematic if you want to see what your interest rate will be, but don’t want the hard pull to show up on your credit history. That aside, if you have an established credit history, it’s hard to pass up the competitive and flexible terms LightStream offers.


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The best time to apply for a home improvement loan is when you have a large renovation project you want to tackle. That could be adding another bathroom to your home, roofing your house or installing a pool, or any other major home-related project. This type of loan is a good option if you don’t have a lot of equity in your home to draw from but need or want to make home improvements.


Home-equity lines of credit. These mortgages work kind of like credit cards: Lenders give you a ceiling to which you can borrow; then they charge interest on only the amount used. You can draw funds when you need them — a plus if your project spans many months. Some programs have a minimum withdrawal, while others have checkbook or credit-card access with no minimum. There are no closing costs. Interest rates are adjustable, with most tied to the prime rate. Most programs require repayment after 8 to 10 years. Banks, credit unions, brokerage houses, and finance companies all market these loans aggressively. Credit lines, fees, and interest rates vary widely, so shop carefully. Watch out for lenders that suck you in with a low initial rate, then jack it up. Find out how high the rate rises and how it's figured. And be sure to compare the total annual percentage rate (APR) and the closing costs separately. This differs from other mortgages, where costs, such as appraisal, origination, and title fees, are figured into a bottom-line APR for comparison.
Bank of America. One of the largest companies in the world, Bank of America has operations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 40 other countries. So there’s a fair chance that you’ll find a branch not far from you. For a HELOC, the bank is currently offering a 12-month introductory rate of 2.990%. The rate rises to 4.430% after the introductory period.
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A “home improvement loan” is usually an unsecured personal loan that is used to pay for home repairs and improvements. An unsecured loan does not require you to put up an asset, such as your house, as collateral. Home improvement loans can range from $1,000 to $100,000, with interest rates from 5.99 percent to around 36 percent if your credit is bad. Personal loans have a fixed interest rate and a fixed monthly payment and are available at traditional banks, credit unions, online lenders and peer-to-peer lenders.

Home-equity lines of credit. These mortgages work kind of like credit cards: Lenders give you a ceiling to which you can borrow; then they charge interest on only the amount used. You can draw funds when you need them — a plus if your project spans many months. Some programs have a minimum withdrawal, while others have checkbook or credit-card access with no minimum. There are no closing costs. Interest rates are adjustable, with most tied to the prime rate. Most programs require repayment after 8 to 10 years. Banks, credit unions, brokerage houses, and finance companies all market these loans aggressively. Credit lines, fees, and interest rates vary widely, so shop carefully. Watch out for lenders that suck you in with a low initial rate, then jack it up. Find out how high the rate rises and how it's figured. And be sure to compare the total annual percentage rate (APR) and the closing costs separately. This differs from other mortgages, where costs, such as appraisal, origination, and title fees, are figured into a bottom-line APR for comparison.
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