Home Improvement Loan vs. Mortgage Loans: Which is The Way To Go When Renovating?

When seeking to renovate their homes, unless they’re paying cash, most homeowners choose between two types of loans: a home improvement loan vs. mortgage loans. While home improvement loans are unsecured loans with shorter payback periods, mortgage loans (also referred to as home equity loans or second mortgages) are secured by the property being improved.

Let’s look at each in greater detail so you can decide which type of loan better meets your needs when you’re ready to remodel or expand your home.

What is a home improvement loan?

A home improvement loan is a broad term used to describe a loan taken out for financing a home improvement project, whether it be adding a swimming pool, putting up a new fence, adding a bedroom, or any other modification that would improve your property.

The most common type of home improvement loan is a personal loan. While personal loans can be used for any purpose, home improvements and debt consolidation are two of the most common uses.

A personal loan is an unsecured debt, meaning it isn’t tied to any kind of collateral, including your home. This is beneficial if you become unable to repay the loan because the lender can’t foreclose on you or take any other collateral you may have put up (although this will damage or ruin your credit for up to seven years).

The amount you can borrow for a home improvement loan is up to the lender. They will typically base that amount on your financial condition, including your bank account balances and credit report. The interest rate you’re charged will be based on your creditworthiness.

What is a mortgage loan?

A mortgage loan (also known as a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), or a second mortgage) is a type of secured loan that can be used for home improvements or any other purpose you’d like to use the money for.

Mortgage loans are secured by your property, meaning you are pledging your home as collateral. While there are some inherent advantages to mortgage loans (discussed below), because it is a secured loan, you risk losing your home if you can’t pay it back.

A mortgage loan is usually based on the amount of equity you have in your home and is generally capped at 85% of that amount. For example, if you have $100,000 equity in your home, the maximum amount you could borrow would be $85,000. The lender has the final say in how much you can borrow, which is typically tied to your mortgage payment history and credit score.

Home improvement loans vs. mortgage loans – the pros and cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of loans.

Home improvement loan:

Pros Cons
  • They are unsecured loans, meaning you won’t lose your home or any other collateral if you can’t repay them.
  • They have a fast turnaround time. Because the lender will base the loan primarily on your employment status and credit history, you can be approved for a home improvement loan in as quick as 2-3 days.
  • Home improvement loans are available from many lenders, online and at brick-and-mortar locations.
  • Because they are unsecured loans, you will pay a higher interest rate for a home improvement loan than a mortgage loan.
  • Home improvement loans are only provided to the borrower in a lump sum, which can be problematic if the money is only needed in stages.

Mortgage loan:

Pros Cons
  • Mortgage loans have a much lower rate than home improvement loans because they are secured and safer for the lender.
  • You can usually borrow more with a mortgage loan, especially if you have substantial equity in your home.
  • You can lose your home to foreclosure with a secured mortgage loan if you fail to repay the loan per the contractual terms.
  • If you are a relatively new homeowner without much equity in your home, the amount you’ll be able to borrow will be small compared to a home improvement loan.
  • The upfront fees are higher for mortgage loans than for home improvement loans.

Conclusion

While many homeowners seek to improve their property at some point, the question of how they’ll pay for those improvements is a reassuring one. The most popular options are either taking out a home improvement loan or getting a mortgage. Since both types of loans have their pros and cons and everyone’s financial situation is different, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which type of loan is better. You should consider your personal situation and may want to consult with a tax or financial advisor to assist you with evaluating which kind of loan works best for you.

Bob Phillips Bob Phillips Last update:
Having spent over fifteen years helping people plan their lives financially, Bob has a vast amount of knowledge concerning personal finance. During his career, Bob mastered many different financial products to help people achieve their financial goals, including life insurance, disability insurance, mutual funds, and stocks and bonds. He earned the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation and held numerous securities licenses. Bob is an internationally published poet and is now a freelance writer living in North Texas with his wife and Doberman puppy.