We paid ,000 for a fixer-upper 3 years ago. We put ,000 into it. 3 months ago, it appraised for 1,000. Magic? No, Sweat Equity!
Sweat equity isn't just for resale value. It also helps with refinancing. That ,000 I mentioned in the last paragraph was all on high-interest credit cards. When our renovations were complete, we refinanced our home and paid off all of our credit cards, reducing our monthly payments by 30%. That still leaves us with 50% equity in our house.
When you have a mortgage, you want at least 20% equity in your home. Not only could this make a difference in your interest rate, or even just qualifying for a loan, but having 20% equity should eliminate that nasty little PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) that nibbles away at your principal payment each month, if you have a 90% or 100% mortgage. A few good sweat equity projects could be just what you need to refinance your house and get a better deal. Note: be sure your renovations are 100% finished before trying to re-finance. Appraisers don't want to see any work in progress.
If you have a good 1st mortgage, no second, and carry any other kind of debt, like car payments or credit card balances, sweat equity can help you qualify for a home equity line of credit. We found one with Bank of America (who holds our first mortgage) with no fees of any kind. It's completely free unless we use it. If we don't use it, we pay nothing, just like a credit card. Now, if we need a new roof or a new truck, it's already financed, at a low rate of interest, which is also tax deductible. If you like your new mortgage company, a good plan is to make 3 or 4 payments on time with your new loan, then apply for the line of credit. This way, they still have current credit and appraisal information to make the loan process go more smoothly. Ours was handled with just a couple of phone calls.
The psychic rewards of sweat equity:
Being able to show off a home improvement project that you did with your own two hands, is a great feeling. Not only will you have the satisfaction of accomplishing something, but the results will be unique. Your project will never turn out exactly the same someone else's.
Another benefit is having something custom, so the result enhances the original space, accommodates your furniture or collectors' items, and compliments your taste. One of our favorite projects was adding custom cabinets to a finished garage. Instead of trying to squeeze our treasures into pre-existing cubbyholes, we measured our stuff and built the cabinets to suit. Then we truly had a place for everything and everything in its place.
Finally, you'll get to enjoy the results and know that the project cost way less than if you had hired someone else to do the work. If you're on a budget, this could mean the difference between having what you want and doing without.