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To determine the loan amount, lenders use the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), which is a percentage of the appraisal value of your home. The usual limit is 80 percent—or $100,000 for a $125,000 home (.805125,000). Lenders subtract the mortgage balance from that amount to arrive at the maximum you can borrow. Assuming your balance is $60,000, the largest loan that you can obtain is $40,000 ($100,000-$60,000=$40,000). If you have a good credit rating, a lender might base your loan on more than 80 percent of the LTV; if you don't, you might get only 65 to 70 percent. While many lenders go to 100 percent of the LTV, interest rates and fees soar at these higher ratios.
Before applying, be sure to check your credit history for inaccuracies, and if you find any, dispute them. You’ll want to make sure your credit is in tip top shape so you can get the best rate from lenders. If your credit score is subprime, consider a bad credit loan instead. It’s also important to get a few estimates prior to applying for a loan so you have an idea of how much money you need to get the job done.
For a home equity line of credit, the best place to start is your own bank or credit union. Both usually offer lower rates to depositors. Check other sources to be sure. If you get a second mortgage, refinance, or opt for an FHA 203(k) mortgage, you're better off talking with a mortgage broker. A broker has more loan sources to choose from. When looking for a broker, check with people you know, and check any references you get. Contractors are another source of financing, but be wary: It's hard enough to choose a contractor and a loan when they're separate. And be suspicious of contractors who emphasize the monthly payment instead of the total cost of the job.
Home remodeling loans offer an influx of cash for homeowners with big remodeling plans but pocketbooks that won't quite stretch far enough for costly home improvements. When you own a home, remodeling loans can make it possible to build on an addition, put in skylights, add a pool or make any change you want. But you should know what to expect before jumping in and signing on the dotted line of a home improvement loan.