Staircase Remodel Cost & Ideas

Staircase Remodel Cost & Ideas

Does staring at your outdated stairs make you want to climb the walls? You may be considering a staircase remodel or replacement.

A light staircase remodel could cost less than $1,000, while a total makeover could cost $10,000.

The most involved of stair makeover ideas, removing a staircase and replacing it with a new one, may cost $10,000 or more.

How Do You Remodel Stairs?

That’s the million-dollar question, really (and no, that’s not a budget estimate). Staircases are the sum of their parts, and each part is an opportunity to increase visual appeal, the value of your home, and your home equity.

Staircases are more than just a means to move from one level of a detached house or townhouse to another. They can be a major decorative element in a home.

Your staircase remodel may be fairly minor but pack a punch: painting the vertical spindles, restaining treads or risers, and adding a bold carpet runner.

Replacing the handrails and spindles, or otherwise changing the bones of the staircase, may require finding a contractor.

That’s especially the case if you want your staircase to meet current building codes (important for safety and when you’re selling the house).

Understanding the project scope from the outset can help ensure that the staircase remodeling cost makes sense.

Recommended: Home Renovation Cost Calculator

Staircase Elements and Materials

Being familiar with basic staircase anatomy can help you refine project goals and have productive conversations if estimates for the job are required.

The focus here will be on interior stairs.

Treads

The stair tread is the part of the stairway that is stepped on. Treads are often made of wood, although they may have another layer on top, such as tile or carpet.

Risers

Stair risers are the vertical pieces that connect the treads: the piece of the staircase in front of your toes as you’re walking up. Risers might be made of wood or an engineered wood product.

Spindles, aka Balusters

Spindles, or balusters, provide vertical support for the stair railing. Traditional staircases might have wooden spindles, while a more modern stairway might have metal balusters.

Handrails

Also called a banister, this part is simply the rail where you put your hands. Wood, composite, and metal are all standard, although there is room for creativity.

Newel Posts and Caps

The heftier vertical posts that go in line with the spindles and create endings to the railing are the newel posts, and the cap is the decorative element that tops the newel.

Handrails start and end at the newel posts. Materials mirror those of the spindles.

Guardrails

At open spaces on stairs or landings, guardrails must be installed.

Landing

A landing is a horizontal platform that begins or ends a staircase or serves as a transition between changes in stair direction.

Recommended: Average Cost to Remodel a House

Estimating the Project Scope and Cost

Familiarity with the elements of a staircase is helpful when deciding on the design and organization of the staircase remodel, even if it’s going to be done piecemeal, like refinishing the stair treads now and replacing the spindles and handrail later.

If you’re plotting your stair remodel, you have company. There are several reasons that home renovations are on the rise. The work-from-home trend is one.

Your home should be a comfy haven, but it will also likely turn out to be an investment that can help build generational wealth in your family.

Among these stair makeover ideas, minor ones can be done yourself. Others will require a licensed professional and a loan, such as a personal loan, unless you’re paying cash.

Painting the Stairs

Using paint made to withstand wear and tear is essential for the paint job to last. Look for floor, deck, or heavy-duty paint. Water-based, not oil-based, paints will prevent discoloration, especially on light colors.

Painting stairs requires proper preparation (cleaning and sanding), protecting neighboring surfaces, and possibly priming so the paint will adhere correctly.

Count on an average of $600 to paint all the corners, handrails, and balusters, plus $350 to $450 to paint the stairwell.

If this is a DIY job, a gallon of latex paint will average $20 to $50. Polyurethane to help protect the new paint finish might start at $50 per gallon. Sandpaper, paint rollers or brushes, tape, and drop cloths could add up to $70.

Stairs and age are often not a great pairing. As more people consider an accessory dwelling unit for an aging parent, that might mean an adult child moving into the two-story family home.

A new paint job, perhaps using light and dark colors on different parts of the staircase, will go a long way toward making it more inviting. Painting just the risers a bold hue can add interest, and some people even create a painted runner for their staircase remodel.

Refinishing Stairs

Refinishing stairs is a much more daunting task than painting. This involves stripping the current finish with solvents and sanding, which is easier to do on flat stair treads than turned spindles or vertical risers.

You’ll want to check for lead paint before you start stripping the paint.

You’ll need paint stripper ($50 per gallon and up), a premium heat gun (as low as $30), a power sander and sandpaper ($30 to $100), heavy-duty rubber gloves and a respirator mask ($45), and a scraper (as low as $8) to strip the original finish. Oh, and lots of time and patience.

If you’re getting bids to refinish hardwood stairs, the width and length of every step, along with the rise of each, will factor in. The price to refinish hardwood stairs and railings ranges from $4.50 to $8 per square foot for materials and labor.

Recommended: How Much Is My House Worth?

Replacing Staircase Components

Swapping elements like spindles, newels, caps, and handrails for a different style can dramatically change the overall look of a staircase.

If the staircase has historic elements, getting spindles or other pieces to match other elements in the home might require custom work if replacements can’t be found through architectural reuse or salvage sources.

Replacing carpet-covered treads with wood treads can rectify an outdated look, but realize that you may have to contend with lots of nails and staples under the carpet. Crowbar needed, stat. A contractor might charge $75 to $300 to remove the carpet.

The balusters will have to be replaced if you’re replacing the treads.

Here are some average replacement and installation costs, according to HomeAdvisor:

•   Handrail: $340 to $580

•   Newel post: $35 to $550

•   Balusters: $1,200 to $1,600

•   Treads and risers: $1,800 to $2,500

•   Carpet runner: $500 to $2,000

Expect to pay from $70 to $150 per hour on labor, and factor in any necessary permits, HomeAdvisor says.

Another source puts the cost of replacing the treads and risers at $3,000 to $4,000, including the work of master carpenters. Yes, you’ll see a range of estimates out there. If you’re getting bids, a lot depends on where you live, your choice of materials, and the size of the project.

Total Replacement

Completely replacing a staircase is logistically and financially complex, but a millennial homebuyer, for example, might want floating stairs with open risers rather than a chunkier look.

Consulting a building or remodeling professional, such as a licensed construction engineer or residential architect, about safety and fire codes and potential structural implications for the home is a good step to take.

The cost to install a main staircase averages $2,000 to $5,000, according to Fixr. But the site gives a range of $15,000 to $100,000 to put in a floating staircase, so only bids will narrow the true cost of your staircase install.

Competent staircase installers may cost as much as the staircase itself.

Recommended: Common Uses for Personal Loans

The Takeaway

Stair makeover ideas include the fairly simple and the wow-worthy, and the cost of a staircase remodel ranges from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. Installing a new staircase will typically require several professionals.

If a staircase remodel or new staircase install is on your mind, one way to get quick cash is with a personal loan. SoFi offers fixed-rate personal loans of $5,000 to $100,000 with no fees and no collateral needed.

SoFi offers unsecured, fixed-rate personal loans that offer lower interest rates than you’ll typically find with credit cards. Checking your rate takes just 1 minute.

Fund your home improvement wish list with a SoFi Personal Loan.

FAQ

How much does it cost to redesign a staircase?

An architect and contractor may be required to structurally redesign a staircase. A staircase remodel, if done by the homeowner, could cost less than $1,000.

How do I modernize my stairs?

Consider changing out dated handrails. Paint can take years off.

Add a punch to the risers with eye-catching paint, tile, or even wallpaper. Consider a bold-colored or -patterned stair runner that allows the stair treads to be exposed at the edges.

A dramatic light fixture at the top of the stairway will offer both illumination and arty interest. And stair cladding — covering the treads and risers with wooden floor planks — will create a big transformation.

How do you renovate stairs on a budget?

Making less expensive changes, like adding a coat of fresh paint, replacing spindles, or adding a runner, can completely change the feel of a staircase — and the living space that surrounds it, making a house feel like a home.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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outlet wires

What is the Cost to Rewire a House?

Updating the wiring in a house could cost between $6 and $10 per square foot, but keeping old wiring could have disastrous consequences. Electrical issues are the third most common cause of house fires in the United States.

Modern technology also may demand rewiring a house. Powering multiple electronic devices, having adequate interior and exterior lighting, and heating and cooling a home to today’s standards are difficult if a home’s electrical system is not up to the task.

What Is Rewiring Your Home?

Rewiring a home involves removing the outdated wiring inside a home’s walls and installing new, modern wiring that can safely meet today’s electrical needs.

Rewiring is typically done by a licensed electrician who strips out the old wiring and runs new wiring throughout the entire house, installs a new circuit breaker panel to handle the load of the new wiring system, and ensures that building codes are met.

In the past, families may have needed only one or two outlets per room because there were fewer electric items used. Now, homeowners use outlets for phone chargers, routers, computers, TVs, video game consoles, and speaker systems — not to mention kitchen gadgets that have come into common use over the years.

All of these modern electronics can overload older electrical wiring.

Recommended: How to Find a Contractor for Home Remodeling

When Do You Need to Rewire Your Home?

Flickering lights, outlets making a popping sound, or tripped breakers indicate that a home might need to be rewired. When buying an older home, a home inspection typically reveals if rewiring is recommended or necessary.

Even before a professional inspection, prospective homebuyers may be able to get a good idea of how the home is wired by peeking into the attic, basement, or crawl space.

Vintage charm does not extend to knob and tube wiring, which was common through the mid-1900s. The lack of a ground wire is seen as a significant fire hazard, and most carriers will deny homeowners insurance for a home that has knob and tube electrical wiring.

Another way to check for outdated wiring is to find the electrical panel and see if it has modern breaker switches or round fuses. The fuses indicate that the system is outdated, and rewiring the house might be recommended.

In almost every state, home sellers must disclose defects, but cautious buyers may still want to include the inspection contingency in the purchase contract.

If you’re living in a home with older wiring and notice that your circuit breakers trip often, lights flicker, the light switches feel warm to the touch, or there is a burning smell coming from an outlet, it’s time to schedule an appointment with an electrician.

Cost to Rewire a House Per Square Foot

How Much Does It Cost To Rewire a House?

The cost of rewiring a house depends on square footage and how easy or difficult it is to access the space, but on average it could cost between $6 and $10 a square foot, including labor and materials.

Some sources put the cost at just $2 to $4 per square foot for labor and materials. In any case, ask what a bid includes. Does it include the finishing work, permits, inspections, and new outlets and switches?

Rewiring an older home can cost upward of $30,000 because the wiring might be more difficult to access, the panel and other components may need to be upgraded, and the job just might be more involved overall.

So this is not a small expense. Options to pay the tab are cash or a withdrawal from your emergency fund, if you have one.

Others include a personal loan, a home equity line of credit, and a home equity loan.

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Can You Rewire a House Without Removing Drywall?

If a professional has access to a basement, attic, or crawl space, a house may be able to be rewired without removing much, if any, drywall or plaster. Having access to the blueprint of the house will help.

To rewire without removing drywall, the usual process is to cut openings at the tops or bottoms of the walls for the wiring to be pulled through. Another way is to cut a section of drywall around the perimeter of the room to make it easier to access the studs.

Is It Worth It to Rewire a House?

Although rewiring might seem cost-prohibitive when buying a single-family home, owners of older homes with outdated wiring systems may find that the cost to rewire a house can be money well spent.

Replacing outdated wiring can help prevent a house fire and add value to the property. Plus, insurance may mandate upgrades. Updated, energy-efficient fixtures like recessed lighting are sometimes included in a remodeling job of this scope and can potentially lower utility costs.

Recommended: How Much Is My House Worth?

How Long Does It Take to Rewire a House?

The amount of time it takes to rewire a house can vary based on the electrician’s work schedule, the size of the house, and any problems encountered during the process, but on average it takes three to 10 days to rewire a home.

You may consider staying with family members or a friend or at a hotel as rewiring a home likely will disrupt your living space for that time.

Also, because one or more electricians will be cutting into your walls (and potentially ceilings and floors, too), you may need to budget additional money for patches, paint, and other repair work.

The Takeaway

The cost to rewire a house may seem high, but adequate electrical panels and modern wiring can amp up your home value and prevent fires.

Wondering how to pay for rewiring? A personal loan is one way. SoFi fixed-rate home improvement loans of $5,000 to $100,000 have no fees and require no collateral.

Get fast cash to get your home’s wiring up to speed.

FAQ

How much does it cost to rewire a 1,500-square-foot house?

It could cost from $9,000 to $15,000 to rewire that size house, according to some estimates, but others put the cost much lower. In any case, the age of the home and other factors influence the total cost.

Does a 1950s house need rewiring?

If a 1950s home has the original wiring, it most likely needs to be updated, at least in part.

Having changed out a fuse box to a breaker panel is nearly a must when selling a 1950s house. Cloth-covered wiring and ungrounded outlets also may keep the house from passing an inspection.

What are the signs that a house needs rewiring?

Here are some signs: circuit breakers that trip regularly, slight shocks from switches and outlets, and flickering or dimming lights.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Home Equity Loans vs HELOCs vs Home Improvement Loans

Maybe you’ve spent a serious amount of time watching HGTV and now have visions of turning your kitchen into a chef’s paradise. Or perhaps you have an entire Pinterest board full of super-deep soaking tubs that you’re dreaming about.

Either way, the home improvement bug has bitten you, and you’re hardly alone. In the U.S. $538 billion was spent on home improvement in 2021, and that number is expected to hit $625 billion by 2025. For a bit more context, consider that the average American spent almost $8,500 on home improvement projects in 2022. That’s a lot more than just buying a new bathroom sink.

While your home might be begging for some updates and improvements, not all of us have close to $10,000 stashed away in a savings account. For many people, realizing their home improvement goals means borrowing money. But how exactly?

Read on to learn about some of your options. This guide will cover:

•   What’s the difference between home equity loans, HELOCs, and home improvement loans?

•   In which situations do home equity loans, HELOCs, and home improvement loans work best?

•   Which home improvement loan option is right for you?

What’s the Difference Between Home Equity Loans, HELOCs, and Home Improvement Loans?

If you’ve figured out how much a home renovation will cost and now need to fund the project, the options can sound a bit confusing because they all involve the word “home.”

What’s more, you may hear the term “home equity loan” loosely applied to any funds borrowed to do home improvement work. However, there are actually different kinds of home equity loans to know about, plus one that doesn’t involve home equity at all.

So, before digging into home improvement loans vs. home improvement loans vs. HELOCs, consider the basics for each:

•   A home equity loan is a lump-sum payment that a lender gives you using the equity in your home to secure the loan. These loans often have a higher limit, lower interest rate, and longer repayment term than a home improvement loan.

•   A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit that is backed by your equity in your home. It operates similarly to a credit card in that the amount you access is not set, though you will have a limit on how much you can access.

•   A home improvement loan is a kind of lump-sum personal loan, and it is not backed by the equity you have in your home. It may have a higher interest rate and shorter repayment terms than a home equity loan. What’s more, it may have a lower limit, making it well suited for smaller projects.

Worth noting: If you use your home as collateral to borrow funds, you could lose your property if you don’t make payments on time. That’s a significant risk to your financial security and one to take seriously.

Next, here’s a look at how key loan features line up for these options.

How Much Can I Borrow?

The sky isn’t the limit when borrowing funds. This is how much you will likely be able to access:

•   For a home equity loan, you can typically borrow between 80% and 85% of your home’s value, minus what’s owed on your mortgage. So if your home’s value is $300,000, 80% of that is $240,000. If you have a mortgage for $200,000, then $240,000 minus $200,000 leaves you with a potential loan of $40,000.

•   For a HELOC, you can typically access up to 80% of the equity you have in your home, though some lenders may go even higher. In that case, you are likely to pay a higher interest rate. In the scenario above, with a home valued at $300,000 and a mortgage of $200,000, that means you have $100,000 equity in your home. A loan for 80% of $100,000 would be $80,000. As with other lines of credit, your credit score and employment history will likely factor into the approval decision.

•   For a home improvement loan, the amount you can borrow will depend on a variety of factors, including your credit score, but the typical range is between $3,000 and $50,000 or sometimes even more.

What Can the Funds Be Used for?

Interestingly, some of these funds can be used for purposes other than home improvement costs. Here’s how they stack up:

•   For a home equity loan, you can certainly use the funds for an amazing new kitchen with a professional-grade range, but you can also use the money for, say, debt consolidation or college tuition.

•   For a HELOC, as with a home equity loan, you can use the money as you see fit. Redoing your patio? Sure. But you can also apply the cash to open a business, pay for grad school, or knock out credit card debt.

•   For a home improvement loan, there is often the requirement that you use the funds for, as the name suggests, a home improvement project, such as adding a hot tub to your property. In some cases, you may be able to use the funds for non-home purposes. Your lender can tell you more.

Recommended: How to Find a Contractor for Home Renovations & Remodeling

How Will I Receive the Funds? How Long Will It Take to Get the Money?

Consider the different ways and timing you may encounter when getting money from these loan options:

•   With a home equity loan, you receive a lump sum payment of the funds borrowed. The timeline for getting your funds can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on a variety of factors, including the lender’s pace.

•   With a HELOC, you open a line of credit, similar to a credit card. For what is known as the draw period (typically 10 years), you can withdraw funds via a special credit card or checkbook up to your limit. It typically takes between two and six weeks to get funds, but some lenders may be faster.

•   With a home improvement personal loan, you receive a lump sum of cash. These tend to be the quickest way to get cash: It may only take a day or so after approval to have the funds available.

How Much Interest Will I Pay?

How much you pay to access funds for your project will vary. Take a closer look:

•   For a home equity loan, you typically get a lower interest rate than some other loan types, since you are using your home equity as collateral. These are typically fixed-rate loans, so you’ll know how much you are paying every month. At the start of 2023, the average rate of a fixed, 15-year home equity loan was 5.82%.

•   For a HELOC, the line of credit will typically have a rate that varies with the prime rate, though some lenders offer fixed-rate options. HELOCs may have lower interest rates than personal and home equity loans, but you will need a high credit score to snag the lowest possible rate.

•   For home improvement loans, which are a kind of personal loan, rates vary widely. Currently, you might find anything from 6% to 36% depending on the lender and your qualifications, such as your credit score. These loans are typically fixed rate.

How Long Will I Have to Repay the Funds?

Repayment terms differ among these three options:

•   For home equity loans, you will agree to a term with your lender. Terms typically range from five to 20 years, but 30 years may be available as well.

•   With a HELOC, you usually have a draw period of 10 years, during which you may pay interest only. Then, you may no longer withdraw funds, and move into the principal-plus-interest repayment period, which is often 20 years.

•   With a home improvement personal loan, your repayment terms are typically shorter than with the other options and will vary with the lender. You may find terms of anywhere from one to seven years or possibly longer.

Here’s how these features compare in chart form:

Feature

Home Equity Loan

HELOC

Home Improvement Personal Loan

Type of collateral Secured via your home Secured via your home Unsecured
Borrowing Limit Typically up to 80% – 85% of home value, minus mortgage Typically up to 80% or more of your home equity Typically from $3,000 up to $50,000 or more
How funds can be used For a variety of purposes For a variety of purposes Often strictly for home improvement
How funds are dispersed Lump sum Line of credit Lump sum
How long to receive funds Typically two weeks to two months Typically two to six weeks Often within days
Type of interest rate Typically fixed rate and may be lower than other loans Typically variable but some lenders offer fixed rate; rates vary Typically fixed rate; rates vary widely
Repayment term Typically 20 to 30 years Typically 20 years after the 10-year draw period Typically 1 to 7 years

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Which Home Improvement Loan Option Is Better?

Now that you’ve learned about the features of these loan options, here’s some guidance on which one is likely to be best for your needs.

When Home Equity Loans Make Sense

Here are some scenarios in which a home equity loan may be a good choice:

•   If you have significant home equity and are looking to borrow a large amount, a home equity loan could be the right move to access a lump sum of cash.

•   If you want to have a long repayment period, the possibility of a 30-year term could be a good fit.

•   When you are seeking to keep costs as low as possible. These loans may offer lower interest rates.

•   A home equity loan can be a wise move when you need cash for other purposes, such as debt consolidation or educational expenses.

•   Some interest payments may be tax-deductible, depending on how you use the funds, which could be a benefit of this kind of loan.

When HELOCs Make Sense

A HELOC may be your best bet in the following situations:

•   You aren’t sure how much money you need and like the flexibility of a line of credit.

•   You want to keep your payments as low as possible in the near future. HELOCs can usually be an interest-only loan during the first 10-year draw period of the arrangement.

•   A HELOC can be a good fit for people who are doing a renovation in stages, and want to draw funds as needed versus all upfront.

•   You need cash for something other than just home renovation, such as to pay down credit card debt or fund tuition.

•   Depending on what you put the money towards, interest payments may be tax-deductible to a degree.

When Home Improvement Personal Loans Make Sense

Consider these upsides:

•   These personal loans tend to have a straightforward, fast application process, and often have fewer fees, such as no origination fees.

•   Home improvement loans are usually approved more quickly than other kinds of home loans.

•   These loans can be a good way to borrow a small sum, such as $3,000 or $5,000 for a project you need to complete quickly (say, a bathroom without a functional shower).

•   Home improvement loans can be a good option for new homeowners, who haven’t yet built up much equity in their home but need funds for renovation.

•   For those who are uncomfortable using their home as collateral, this kind of loan can be a smart move.

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The Takeaway

Home improvement is a popular pursuit and can not only make daily life more enjoyable, it can boost the value of what is likely your biggest asset. If you are ready to take on a renovation, you’ll have options in terms of how to access funds; depending on your needs and personal situation, you might prefer a home equity loan, a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or a home improvement personal loan.

SoFi can help with two of these: If you’ve decided that a personal loan could be the right move for you, SoFi’s home improvement loans are fee-free, range from $5K to $100K, and you may be able to get same-day funding.

SoFi also offers a home equity line of credit or HELOC with low interest rates, the flexibility to use the amount you need, and you can borrow up to 95% or $500K of your home’s equity.

Let SoFi help you transform your home into your palace with a flexible and convenient HELOC.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Differences and Similarities Between Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) vs Personal Lines of Credit

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) vs Personal Lines of Credit

If you’re looking for a tool you can use to borrow money when you need it, you may be wondering which is the better choice: a personal line of credit or a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

In this guide we’ll compare these two types of credit lines — both of which function similarly to a credit card but typically have a lower interest rate and a higher credit limit. We’ll also cover some of the pros and cons of using a personal line of credit vs. a HELOC.

What Is a Personal Line of Credit?

A personal line of credit, sometimes shortened to PLOC, is a revolving credit account that allows you to borrow money as you need it, up to a preset limit.

Instead of borrowing a lump sum and making fixed monthly payments on that amount, as you would with a traditional installment loan, a personal line of credit allows you to draw funds as needed during a predetermined draw period. You’re required to make payments based only on your outstanding balance during the draw period.

In that way, a PLOC works like a credit card. Generally, you can pay as much as you want each month toward your balance, as long as you make at least the minimum payment due. The money you repay is added back to your credit limit, so it’s available for you to use again.

You can use a personal line of credit for just about anything you like as long you stay within your limit, which could range from $1,000 to $100,000, and possibly more.

A PLOC is usually unsecured debt, which means you don’t have to use collateral to qualify. The lender will base decisions about the amount you can borrow and the interest rate you’ll pay on your personal creditworthiness.

Can a Personal Line of Credit Be Used to Buy a House?

If you could qualify for a high enough credit limit — or if the property you want to buy is being sold at an extremely low price — you might be able to purchase a house with a personal line of credit. But it may not be the best tool available.

A traditional mortgage — there are different types of mortgage loans — secured by the home that’s being purchased may have lower overall costs than a personal line of credit.

A variable rate, which is typical of personal lines of credit, might not be the best option for a large purchase that could take a long time to pay off. Your payments could go lower, but they also could go higher. If interest rates increase, your loan could become unaffordable.

If you use all or most of your PLOC to make a major purchase like a home, it could have a negative impact on your credit score and future borrowing ability. The amount of revolving credit you’re using vs. how much you have available — your credit utilization ratio — is an important factor that affects your credit score. Lenders typically prefer this number to be less than 30%.

💡 Recommended: Personal Loan vs Personal Line of Credit

What Is a HELOC?

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that is secured by the borrower’s home. It, too, usually has a variable interest rate.

Lenders typically will allow you to use a HELOC to borrow a large percentage of your home’s current value minus the amount you owe. That’s your home equity.

A lender also may review your credit score, credit history, employment history, and debt-to-income ratio (monthly debts / gross monthly income = DTI) when determining your borrowing limit and interest rate.

💡 Recommended: Learn More About How HELOCs Work

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Access up to 95% or $500k of your home’s equity to finance almost anything.


Personal Line of Credit vs HELOC Compared

If you’re comparing a personal line of credit with a HELOC, you’ll find many similarities. But there are important differences to keep in mind as well.

Similarities

Here are some ways in which a personal line of credit and a HELOC are alike:

•   Both are revolving credit accounts. Money can be borrowed, repaid, and borrowed again, up to the credit limit.

•   Both have a draw period and a repayment period. The draw period is typically 10 years, with monthly minimum payments required. The repayment period may be up to 20 years after the draw period ends.

•   Access to funds is convenient. Withdrawals can be made by check or debit card, depending on how the lender sets up the loan.

•   Lenders may charge monthly fees, transaction fees, or late or prepayment fees on either. It’s important to understand potential fees before closing.

•   Both typically have variable interest rates, which can affect the overall cost of the line of credit over time. (Each occasionally comes with a fixed rate. The starting rate of a fixed-rate HELOC is usually higher. The draw period of a fixed-rate personal line of credit could be relatively short.)

•   For both, you’ll usually need at least a “good” FICO® score (670 and up on the scale from 300 to 850). Your credit score also affects the interest rate you’re offered and credit limit.

Differences

The biggest difference between a HELOC and a personal line of credit is that a HELOC is secured. That can affect the borrower in a few ways, including:

•   In exchange for the risk that HELOC borrowers take (they could lose their home if they were to default on payments), they generally qualify for lower interest rates. HELOC borrowers also may qualify for a higher credit limit.

•   With a HELOC, the lender may require a home appraisal, which might slow down the approval process and be an added expense. HELOCs also typically come with other closing costs, but some lenders will reduce or waive them if you keep the loan open for a certain period — usually three years.

•   A borrower assumes the risk of losing their home if they default on a HELOC. A personal line of credit does not come with a risk of that significance.

Personal Line of Credit vs. Home Equity Line of Credit

Personal LOC HELOC
Flexible borrowing and repayment
Convenient access to funds
Annual or monthly maintenance fee Varies by lender Varies by lender
Typicaly a Variable interest rate
Secured with collateral
Approval based on creditworthiness
Favorable interest rates * *
*Rates for secured loans are usually lower than for unsecured loans. Rates for personal lines of credit are generally lower than credit card rates.

💡 Recommended: Credit Cards vs Personal Loans

Pros and Cons of HELOCs

A HELOC and personal line of credit share many of the same pros and cons. An advantage of borrowing with a HELOC, however, is that because it’s secured, the interest rate may be more favorable than that of a personal line of credit.

A HELOC may offer a tax benefit if you itemize and take the mortgage interest deduction. But there are potential downsides, too.

Pros and Cons of HELOCs

Pros Cons
Flexibility in how much you can borrow and when. Your home is at risk if you default.
Interest is charged only on the amount borrowed during the draw period Variable interest rates can make repayment unpredictable and potentially expensive.
Generally lower interest rates than credit cards or unsecured borrowing. Lenders may require a current home appraisal for approval.
Interest paid is tax deductible if HELOC money is spent to “buy, build, or substantially improve” the property on which the line of credit is based. A decline in property value could affect the credit limit or result in termination of the HELOC

Pros and Cons of Personal Lines of Credit

Because you draw just the amount of money you need at any one time, a personal line of credit can be a good way to pay for home renovations, ongoing medical or dental treatments, or other expenses that might be spread out over time.

You pay interest only on the funds you’ve drawn, not the entire line of credit that’s available, which can keep monthly costs down. As you make payments, the line of credit is replenished, so you can borrow repeatedly during the draw period. And you don’t have to come up with collateral.

But there are other factors to be wary of. Here’s a summary.

Pros and Cons of Personal Lines of Credit

Pros Cons
Flexibility in how much you borrow and when. Variable interest rates can make repayment unpredictable and potentially expensive.
Interest charges are based only on what you’ve borrowed. Interest rate may be higher than for a secured loan.
Interest rates are typically lower than credit cards. Qualification can be more difficult than for secured credit.
You aren’t putting your home or another asset at risk if you default. Convenience and minimum monthly payments could lead to overspending.

Alternatives to Lines of Credit

As you consider the pros and cons of a HELOC vs. a personal LOC, you also may wish to evaluate some alternative borrowing strategies, including:

Personal Loan

With a personal loan, a borrower receives a lump sum and makes fixed monthly payments, with interest, until the loan is repaid.

Most personal loans are unsecured, and most come with a fixed interest rate. The rate and other terms are determined by the borrower’s credit score, income, debt level, and other factors.

You’ll owe interest from day one on the full amount that you borrow. But if you’re using the loan to make a large purchase, consolidate debt, or pay off one big bill, it may make sense to borrow a specific amount and budget around the predictable monthly payments.

Personal loan rates and fees can vary significantly by lender and borrower. You can use a loan comparison site to check multiple lenders’ rates and terms, or you can go to individual websites to find a match for your goals.

Auto Loan

If you’re thinking about buying a car with a personal loan, you may want to consider an auto loan, an installment loan that’s secured by the car being purchased. Qualification may be easier than for an unsecured personal loan or personal line of credit.

Most auto loans have a fixed interest rate that’s based on the applicant’s creditworthiness, the loan amount, and the type of vehicle that’s being purchased.

Down the road, if you think you can get a better interest rate, you can look into car refinancing.

Beware no credit check loans. Car title loans have very short repayment periods and sky-high interest rates.

Mortgage

A mortgage is an installment loan that is secured by the real estate you’re purchasing or refinancing.

There are many types of mortgage loans. You’ll likely need a down payment, and borrowers typically pay closing costs of 2% to 5% of the loan amount.

A mortgage may have a fixed or adjustable interest rate. An adjustable-rate mortgage typically starts with a lower interest rate than its fixed-rate counterpart. The most common repayment period, or mortgage term, is 30 years.

Your ability to qualify for the mortgage you want may depend on your creditworthiness, down payment, and value of the home.

Credit Cards

A credit card is a revolving line of credit that may be used for day-to-day purchases like groceries, gas, or online shopping. Well, you know. You likely have more than one. Gen X and baby boomers have an average of more than four credit cards per person, Experian has found.

Convenience can be one of the best and worst things about using credit cards. You can use them almost anywhere to pay for almost anything. But it can be easy to accrue debt you can’t repay.

Because most credit cards are unsecured, interest rates can be higher than for other types of borrowing. Making late payments or using a high percentage of your credit limit can hurt your credit score. And making just the minimum payment can cost you in interest and credit score.

If you manage your cards wisely, however, credit card rewards can add up. And you may be able to qualify for a low- or no-interest introductory offer.

Credit card issuers typically base a consumer’s interest rate and credit limit on their credit score, income, and other financial factors.

Student Loans

Federal student loans typically offer lower interest rates and more borrower protections than private student loans or other lending options.

But if your federal financial aid package doesn’t cover all of your education costs, it could be worth comparing what private lenders offer.

The Takeaway

A HELOC or a personal line of credit can be useful for borrowers whose costs are spread out over time, especially those who don’t want to pay interest from day one on a lump-sum loan that may be more money than they need.

If you’re a homeowner, tap your home equity with a generous HELOC brokered by SoFi. You might find that the rate and terms unlock lots of possibilities.

Check your rate on a SoFi Personal Loan.

FAQ

What is better, a home equity line of credit or a personal line of credit?

If you qualify for both, a HELOC will almost always come with a lower interest rate.

Can I use a HELOC for personal use?

Yes. HELOC withdrawals can be used for almost anything, but the line of credit is best suited for ongoing expenses like home renovations, medical bills, or college expenses. Some people secure a HELOC as a safety net during uncertain times.

How many years do you have to pay off a HELOC?

Most HELOCs have a “draw period” of 10 years, followed by a repayment period.

What happens if you don’t use your home equity line of credit?

Having a HELOC you don’t use could help your credit score by improving your credit utilization ratio.

How high of a credit score is needed for a line of credit?

Personal lines of credit are usually reserved for borrowers with a credit score of 670 or higher. A credit score of at least 680 is typically needed for HELOC approval, but requirements can vary among lenders. Some may be more lenient if an applicant has a good DTI or accepts a lower loan limit.

Does a HELOC increase your mortgage payments?

The HELOC is a separate loan from your mortgage. The two payments are not made together.


Photo credit: iStock/KTStock

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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What Is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

If you own a home, you may be interested in tapping into your available home equity. One popular way to do that is with a home equity line of credit. This is different from a home equity loan, and can help you finance a major renovation or many other expenses.

Homeowners sitting on at least 20% equity — the home’s market value minus what is owed — may be able to secure a HELOC.

Here, you’ll take a closer look at this loan product, including:

•   What is a HELOC loan?

•   How does a HELOC loan work?

•   What are the pros and cons of a HELOC?

•   What are alternatives to a HELOC?

How Does a HELOC Work?

The purpose of a HELOC is to tap your home equity to get some cash to use on a variety of expenses. Home equity lines of credit offer what’s known as a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card, and usually have low or no closing costs. The interest rate is likely to be variable (more on that in a minute), and the amount available is typically 75% to 85% of your home’s value.

Once you secure a HELOC with a lender, you can draw against your approved credit line as needed until your draw period ends, which is usually 10 years. You then repay the balance, typically over 20 years, or refinance to a new loan. Worth noting: Payments may be low during the draw period; you might be paying interest only, and then face steeper monthly payments during the repayment phase. Carefully review the details when applying for a HELOC to understand what kind of debt you will be taking on.

Here’s a look at possible HELOC uses:

•   HELOCs can be used for anything but are commonly used to cover big home expenses, like a home remodeling costs or building an addition. These expenditures have been rising steeply: The number of home-improvement projects grew 17% to almost 135 million and spending ticked up 20% to $624 billion, according to recent American Housing Survey data.

•   Personal spending: If, for example, you are laid off, you could tap your HELOC for cash to pay bills. Or you might dip into the line of credit to pay for a wedding (you only pay interest on the funds you are using, not the approved limit).

•   A HELOC can also be used to consolidate high-interest debt. Whatever homeowners use a home equity line or loan for — investing in a new business, taking a dream vacation, funding a college education — they need to remember that they are using their home as collateral. That means if they can’t keep up with payments, the lender may force the sale of the home to satisfy the debt.

HELOC Options

Most HELOCs offer a variable interest rate, but you may have a choice. Here are the two main options:

•   Fixed Rate With fixed-rate home equity lines of credit, the interest rate is set and does not change. That means your monthly payments won’t vary either.

•   Variable Rate Most HELOCs have a variable rate, which is frequently tied to the prime rate, a benchmark index that closely follows the economy. Even if your rate starts out low, it could go up. Or, in these inflationary times, it might go down in the future. A margin is added to the index to determine the interest you are charged. In some cases, you may be able to lock a variable-rate HELOC into a fixed rate.

•   Hybrid fixed-rate HELOCs are not the norm but have gained attention. They allow a borrower to withdraw money from the credit line and convert it to a fixed rate.

HELOC Requirements

Now that you know what a HELOC is, think about what is involved in getting one. If you do decide to apply for a home equity line of credit, you will likely be evaluated on the basis of these criteria:

•   Home equity percentage: Lenders typically look for at least 15% or more commonly 20%.

•   A good credit score: Usually, a score of 680 will help you qualify, though many lenders prefer 700+. If you have a credit score between 621 and 679, you may be approved by some lenders.

•   Low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Here, a lender will see how your total housing costs and other debt (say, student loans) compare to your income. The lower your DTI percentage, the better you look to a lender. Your DTI will be calculated by your total debt divided by your monthly gross income. A lender might look for a figure in which debt accounts for anywhere between 36% to 50% of your total monthly income.

Other angles that lenders may look for is a specific income level that makes them feel comfortable that you can repay the debt, as well as a solid, dependable payment history. These are aspects of the factors mentioned above, but some lenders look more closely at these as independent factors.

Example of a HELOC

Here’s an example of how a HELOC might work. Let’s say your home is worth $300,000 and you currently have a mortgage of $200,000. If you seek a HELOC, the lender might allow you allows you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value:

   $300,000 x 0.8 = $240,000

Next, you would subtract the amount you owe on your mortgage ($200,000) from the qualifying amount noted above ($240,000) to find how big a HELOC you qualify for:

   $240,000 – $200,000 = $40,000.

One other aspect to note is a HELOC will be repaid in two distinct phases:

•   The first part is the draw period, which typically lasts 10 years. At this time, you can borrow money from your line of credit. Your minimum payment may be interest-only, though you can pay down the principal as well, if you like.

•   The next part of the HELOC is known as the repayment period, which is often also 10 years, but may vary. At this point, you will no longer be able to draw funds from the line of credit, and you will likely have monthly payments due that include both principal and interest. For this reason, the amount you pay is likely to rise considerably.

Difference Between a HELOC and a Home Equity Loan

Here’s a comparison of a home equity line of credit and a home equity loan.

•   A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that lets you borrow money as needed, up to your approved credit limit, pay back all or part of the balance, and then borrow up to the limit again through your draw period, typically 10 years.

   The interest rate is usually variable. You pay interest only on the amount of credit you actually use. It can be good for people who want flexibility in terms of how much they borrow and how they use it.

•   A home equity loan is a lump sum with a fixed rate on the loan. This can be a good option when you have a clear use for the funds in mind and you want to lock into a fixed rate that won’t vary.

Borrowing limits and repayment terms may also differ, but both use your home as collateral. That means if you were unable to make payments, you could lose your home.

Recommended: What are the Different Types of Home Equity Loans?

What Is the Process of Applying for a HELOC?

If you’re ready to apply for a home equity line of credit, follow these steps:

•   First, it’s wise to shop around with different lenders to reveal minimum credit score ranges required for HELOC approval. You can also check and compare terms, such as periodic and lifetime rate caps. You might also look into which index is used to determine rates and how much and how often it can change.

•   Then, you can get specific offers from a few lenders to see the best option for you. Banks (online and traditional) as well as credit unions often offer HELOCs.

•   When you’ve selected the offer you want to go with, you can submit your application. This usually is similar to a mortgage application. It will involve gathering documentation that reflects your home’s value, your income, your assets, and your credit score. You may or may not need a home appraisal.

•   Lastly, you’ll hopefully hear that you are approved from your lender. After that, it can take approximately 30 to 60 days for the funds to become available. Usually, the money will be accessible via a credit card or a checkbook.

How Much Can You Borrow With a HELOC?

Depending on your creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio, you may be able to borrow up to 85% of the value of your home (or, in some cases, even more), less the amount owed on your first mortgage.

Thought of another way, most lenders require your combined loan-to-value ratio (CLTV) to be 85% or less for a home equity line of credit.

Here’s an example. Say your home is worth $500,000, you owe $300,000 on your mortgage, and you hope to tap $120,000 of home equity.

Combined loan balance (mortgage plus HELOC, $420,000) ÷ current appraised value (500,000) = CLTV (0.84)

Convert this to a percentage, and you arrive at 84%, just under many lenders’ CLTV threshold for approval.

In this example, the liens on your home would be a first mortgage with its existing terms at $300,000 and a second mortgage (the HELOC) with its own terms at $120,000.

Turn your home equity into cash with a HELOC brokered by SoFi.

Access up to 95% or $500k of your home’s equity to finance almost anything.


How Do Payments On a HELOC Work?

During the first stage of your HELOC loan (what is called the draw period), you may be required to make minimum payments toward your HELOC. These are often interest-only payments.

Once the draw period ends, your regular HELOC repayment period begins, when payments must be made toward both the interest and the principal.

Remember that if you have a variable-rate HELOC, your monthly payment could fluctuate over time. And it’s important to check the terms so you know whether you’ll be expected to make one final balloon payment at the end of the repayment period.

Pros of Taking Out a HELOC

Here are some of the benefits of a HELOC:

Initial Interest Rate and Acquisition Cost

A HELOC, secured by your home, may have a lower interest rate than unsecured loans and lines of credit. What is the interest rate on a HELOC? The average HELOC loan rate as of December 15, 2022, was 7.31%.

Lenders often offer a low introductory rate, or teaser rate. After that period ends, your rate (and payments) increase to the true market level (the index plus the margin). Lenders normally place periodic and lifetime rate caps on HELOCs.

The closing costs may be lower than those of a home equity loan. Some lenders waive HELOC closing costs entirely if you meet a minimum credit line and keep the line open for a few years.

Taking Out Money as You Need It

Instead of receiving a lump-sum loan, a HELOC gives you the option to draw on the money over time as needed. That way, you don’t borrow more than you actually use, and you don’t have to go back to the lender to apply for more loans if you end up requiring additional money.

Only Paying Interest on the Amount You’ve Withdrawn

Paying interest only on the amount plucked from the credit line is beneficial when you are not sure how much will be needed for a project or if you need to pay in intervals.

Also, you can pay the line off and let it sit open at a zero balance during the draw period in case you need to pull from it again later.

Cons of Taking Out a HELOC

Now, here are some downsides of HELOCs to consider:

Variable Interest Rate

Even though your initial interest rate may be low, if it’s variable and tied to the prime rate, it will likely go up and down with the federal funds rate. This means that over time, your monthly payment may fluctuate and become less (or more!) affordable.

Variable-rate HELOCs come with annual and lifetime rate caps, so check the details to know just how high your interest rate might go.

Potential Cost

Taking out a HELOC is placing a second mortgage lien on your home. You may have to deal with closing costs on the loan amount, though some HELOCs come with low or zero fees. Sometimes loans with no or low fees have an early closure fee.

Your Home Is on the Line

If you aren’t able to make payments and go into loan default, the lender could foreclose on your home. And if the HELOC is in second lien position, the lender could work with the first lienholder on your property to recover the borrowed money.

Adjustable-rate loans like HELOCs can be riskier than others because fluctuating rates can change your expected repayment amount.

It Could Affect Your Ability to Take On Other Debt

Just like other liabilities, adding on to your debt with a HELOC could affect your ability to take out other loans in the future. That’s because lenders consider your existing debt load before agreeing to offer you more.

Lenders will qualify borrowers based on the full line of credit draw even if the line has a zero balance. This may be something to consider if you expect to take on another home mortgage loan, a car loan, or other debts in the near future.

What Are Some Alternatives to HELOCs

If you’re looking to access cash, here are HELOC options.

Cash-Out Refi

With a cash-out refinance, you replace your existing mortgage with a new mortgage given your home’s current value, with a goal of a lower interest rate, and cash out some of the equity that you have in the home. So if your current mortgage is $150,000 on a $250,000 value home, you might aim for a cash-out refinance that is $175,000 and use the $25,000 additional funds as needed.

Lenders typically require you to maintain at least 20% equity in your home (although there are exceptions). Be prepared to pay closing costs.

Generally, cash-out refinance guidelines may require more equity in the home vs. a HELOC.

Recommended: Cash Out Refi vs. Home Equity Line of Credit: Key Differences to Know

Home Equity Loan

What is a home equity loan again? It’s a lump-sum loan secured by your home. These loans almost always come with a fixed interest rate, which allows for consistent monthly payments.

Some lenders will reduce or waive the closing costs if you don’t pay off the loan within a particular period.

Personal Loan

If you’re looking to finance a big-but-not-that-big project for personal reasons and you have a good estimate of how much money you’ll need, a low-rate personal loan that is not secured by your home could be a better fit.

With possibly few to zero upfront costs and minimal paperwork, a fixed-rate personal loan could be a quick way to access the money you need. Just know that an unsecured loan usually has a higher interest rate than a secured loan.

A personal loan might also be a better alternative to a HELOC if you bought your home recently and don’t have much equity built up yet.

The Takeaway

If you are looking to tap the equity of your home, a HELOC can give you money as needed, up to their approved limit, during a typical 10-year draw period. The rate is usually variable. Sometimes closing costs are waived. It can be an affordable way to get cash to use on anything from a home renovation to college costs.

If a home equity line of credit sounds right for you, see what SoFi offers. We have HELOC options that allow you to access up to 95% or $500,000 of your home’s value at competitively low rates. Plus, the application process is quick and convenient.

Unlock your home’s value with a home equity line of credit brokered by SoFi.

FAQ

What can you use a HELOC for?

It’s up to you what you want to use the cash from a HELOC for. You could use it for a home renovation or addition, or for other expenses, such as college costs or a wedding.

How can you find out how much you can borrow?

Lenders typically require 20% equity in your home and then offer up to 85% or even more of your home’s value, minus the amount owed on your mortgage. There are online tools you can use to determine the exact amount, or contact your bank or credit union.

How long do you have to pay back a HELOC?

Typically, home equity lines of credit have 20-year terms. The first 10 years are considered the draw period and the second 10 years are the repayment phase.

How much does a HELOC cost?

When evaluating HELOC offers, check interest rates, the interest-rate cap, closing costs (which may or may not be billed), and other fees to see just how much you would be paying.

Can you sell your house if you have a HELOC?

Yes, you can sell a house if you have a HELOC. The home equity line of credit balance will typically be repaid from the proceeds of the sales when you close, along with your mortgage.

Does a HELOC hurt your credit?

A HELOC can hurt your credit for a short period of time. Applying for a home equity line can temporarily lower your credit score because a hard credit pull is part of the process when you seek funding. This typically takes your score down a bit.

How do you apply for a HELOC?

First, you’ll shop around and collect a few offers. Once you select the one that suits you best, applying for a HELOC involves sharing much of the same information as you did when you applied for a mortgage. You need to pull together information on your income and assets. You will also need documentation of your home’s value and possibly an appraisal.


SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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