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How to Finance a New Air Conditioning Unit

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There are many reasons homeowners choose to replace their existing air conditioning or HVAC unit, including a desire for greater energy efficiency or better functionality. Homeowners wishing to sell their properties may also want to consider upgrading their HVAC system first — especially if it’s old. Six percent of real estate professionals who participated in the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and National Association of Realtors noted that an upgraded HVAC system recently helped them close a sale.

While it’s obvious a new HVAC system can lead to greater comfort in your home and perhaps even a more attractive resale proposition for buyers, there is one problem that comes with replacing your HVAC — the cost.

While the NARI remodelers estimated that replacing an HVAC unit ran consumers approximately $7,475 nationally in 2017, you may pay more (or less) depending on the size of your home and where you live. For example, HVAC system company Trane quotes a standard XR Series HVAC system for $5,600 to $7,800 (including installation) if you live in central Indiana and have a home that’s 2,000-3,000 square feet. If your ZIP code is 90210 and you live in Beverly Hills, Calif., on the other hand, the same system is estimated to cost $8,800 to $12,000. For a smaller-sized home — less than 1,000 square feet in this example — you would pay considerably less, however. In central Indiana, Trane estimates an HVAC system would set you back $4,600 to $6,600. In Beverly Hills, you would pay $6,800 to $9,400.

With these costs in mind, you may be wondering about the best ways to pay for a new HVAC system. Should you save up the cash or pull from your emergency fund? Or, would financing with a credit card or personal loan leave you better off?

At the end of the day, the right way to pay for a new HVAC system depends on your goals and your personal finances. Consider these loan and financing options as you move forward with your research.

Credit cards

A credit card can be a valuable tool when used with careful thought and consideration. It can make sense to finance an HVAC unit with a credit card in many situations, including ones where you can qualify for a low interest rate or even an introductory 0% APR on purchases.

Some consumers who have the cash to pay for their HVAC unit in full may choose to use credit for additional reasons such as earning cash back or travel rewards. If a consumer uses a cashback card that earns 2% back to purchase a $7,475 HVAC unit, they would pocket $149.50 in rewards with little effort on their part.

What to watch out for

While it could be smart to use a credit card to pay for an HVAC unit, there are several pitfalls to watch out for. Risks include:

  • Length of introductory 0% APR offers: If you’re using a card that offers an intro 0% APR on balance transfers or new purchases, you’ll want to read the terms of your offer to see how long it lasts. Once your introductory 0% APR offer ends, the regular purchase APR will apply to any balance remaining after the end of the intro period. Some credit cards charge deferred interest, meaning you have to pay interest on the remaining balance and interest that would have been charged to the amount you paid off during the 0% APR period.
  • High interest rates on rewards cards: While earning rewards on your HVAC system can make sense if you have the cash, it is not a smart move if you plan to carry a balance. Considering the average credit card APR is 15%, the rewards you earn would be dwarfed by the interest you’ll pay over the long run.

What to look for in a credit card when financing an HVAC unit

If you’re looking for a credit card to cover your HVAC purchase, it makes sense to consider your goals first. Are you hoping to secure 0% interest on purchases to save on interest?

If you’re seeking a card that offers 0% on purchases, you’ll want to understand how long the interest offer will last as well as any applicable fees. You can compare credit card offers right here on MagnifyMoney.

Personal loans

A personal loan is another option you can use to finance an HVAC system. This financial product offers many benefits that can be advantageous if you need some time to pay for your HVAC unit, including fixed interest rates, a fixed repayment schedule and a fixed monthly payment.
Depending on your credit score, a personal loan may also offer a lower interest rate than you might receive with a credit card or other types of financing.

What to watch out for

While a personal loan could be ideal if you need to borrow money for a new HVAC system, there are several details you’ll want to watch out for and understand:

  • Fees: Some personal loans come with fees such as an origination fee. However, not all personal loans come with this fee or any upfront fees, so make sure to check.
  • Precomputed interest: Precomputed interest is a complicated interest scheme that may leave you paying more interest than you would with a loan that doesn’t precompute interest — especially toward the beginning of your loan. You should avoid personal loans that compute interest this way.
  • Prepayment penalties: Some personal loans may charge fees if you pay your loan off early. You should avoid personal loans that employ this “gotcha.”

What to look for in a personal loan when financing an HVAC unit

How much you’ll pay to access a personal loan depends on the interest rate and the fees you’re charged. With that in mind, you should compare offers to find personal loans with the lowest interest rate and lowest fees (or no fees). Also, make sure your personal loan doesn’t have a prepayment penalty so you won’t suffer financial consequences if you pay your loan off early.

Finally, make sure your personal loan comes with a monthly payment and repayment timeline you can live with. To compare loans and estimate the costs of borrowing, you can browse here.

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Home equity loans

A home equity loan works similarly to a personal loan in the fact that both offer fixed interest rates, fixed monthly payments and a fixed repayment timeline. However, personal loans are unsecured loans, whereas home equity loans are secured by the equity in your home. Another option is a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which is a revolving line of credit secured by your home. HELOCs have variable interest rates, and you only pay interest on the amount you borrow, so your monthly payments will vary.

— Read more on the differences between a Personal Loan vs. Home equity Loan here!

The amount you can borrow with a home equity loan is typically limited to 85% of your home’s value. For this reason, this option may not work for you unless you have considerable equity in your property. On a positive note, the interest rate you can qualify for may be lower than other financial products because the loan is secured by the value of your home. The interest you pay on your home equity loan may also be tax-deductible.

What to watch out for

Before you apply for a home equity loan, make sure you understand both the advantages and any potential pitfalls. Here are some downsides you’ll want to be aware of:

  • Fees: Home equity loans come with many of the same fees as a traditional mortgage, including application fees, loan processing fees, origination or underwriting fees, lender or funding fees, appraisal fees, document preparation and recording fees, and broker fees. If these fees are wrapped into the cost of your loan instead of being charged upfront, you’ll pay more interest to finance them. HELOCs may have low (or no) closing costs.
  • You could lose your home: Because home equity loans are secured by the value of your home, you could lose your home to foreclosure if you don’t repay the home equity loan.
  • You may not qualify: These loans are intended for consumers who have considerable equity in their homes, which is why you can only borrow up to 85% of your home’s value in most cases. If you don’t have a lot of home equity, you cannot qualify for a home equity loan.
  • Unpredictable costs: With a HELOC, your interest rate could change at any time. And because you don’t have fixed monthly payments and can carry a balance, you could end up with a hefty bill when it comes time to repay what you’ve borrowed.

What to look for in a home equity loan when financing an HVAC unit

If you’re considering a home equity loan to finance your HVAC purchase, you’ll want to shop around to find a loan with the lowest interest rate and fees you can find. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also notes you should ask if you’re paying any points (a fee you can pay to secure a lower interest rate), since points and other finance charges can lead to higher costs upfront.

The FTC also suggests comparing several loan offers to ensure each lender or broker is competing for your business with the best loan terms possible. Fortunately, you can compare home equity loans online with our parent company, LendingTree.

Company or contractor financing

Because some consumers need to borrow money to purchase a HVAC system, many companies that manufacture and install HVAC units offer their own financing plans. In most cases, they partner with a lender to offer in-house loans. While the terms of these offers vary, company financing can be a good deal if you can secure a low interest rate or 0% APR financing for enough time to pay your HVAC unit off.

What to watch out for

While financing your HVAC system through the company you purchase it from may sound convenient, there are several potential downsides. Watch out for:

  • Short introductory offers: While some HVAC companies may be able to offer 0% APR on their products for up to 60 months, not all companies will offer zero-interest terms that long. Make sure you understand how long your 0% APR offer lasts, as well as how high your interest rate will be once it resets.
  • High interest rates: Like other loans, the terms of your HVAC loan will depend on your credit score and income. Make sure to compare offers to find the best interest rate possible, whether that comes with company financing or another type of loan.
  • Fees: Make sure to ask about any fees you may be charged for your HVAC loan.

What to look for in a company financing when financing an HVAC unit

If you decide you want to compare company financing for an HVAC unit with other financial products, you’ll probably want to call around and ask HVAC vendors in your area. You can also research HVAC companies that offer in-house financing online. If you decide to dive into this option, make sure to ask specifically about financing plans, interest rates and any fees you’ll have to pay to secure a loan. Since HVAC vendors use different banks to fund their consumer loans, the terms of these offers can vary widely.

Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to find information on credit cards, personal loans and home equity loans online. A quick internet search can pull up a treasure trove of information that can help you compare loan and financing offers to find the best deal. Having your HVAC financing lined up before you shop, you can be choosy when it comes to selecting an HVAC unit and the company you want to install it.

Will my credit score take a hit?

Several factors make up your credit score, including ones that can be impacted when you make a large purchase. “New credit” makes up 10% of your FICO score, for example, and opening new lines of credit in a short amount of time can make you seem like a greater risk. As a result, you may see an impact to your credit score if you open a new credit account to pay for your HVAC system.

How much you owe in relation to your credit limits makes up another 30% of your FICO score, and this figure will skew higher if you charge an HVAC system to an existing revolving line of credit (like a credit card). Many experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% to keep your credit score in the best shape possible.

The bottom line

If you know you need to replace your HVAC system and don’t want to wind up suffering without heat or AC while you research loans, time is of the essence. To find the best HVAC financing options for your needs, make sure you read through the terms and conditions of any loan you’re considering and compare more than one loan option at once.

HVAC units aren’t cheap by any means, but you can avoid overspending if you can secure financing with a low interest rate and favorable terms.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Holly Johnson
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Holly Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Holly here

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Top 5 Personal Loan Myths of 2019

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When it comes to personal loans, many Americans are more likely to turn to credit cards as a way to pay emergency bills, enjoy a dream vacation, or pay for items they can’t afford with cash.

According to Experian, existing personal loan debt was at $273 billion in the second quarter of 2018, while existing credit card debt was at $782 billion in the same period.

But it also shows personal loans with a greater year-to-year change in debt growth than credit cards. Whether personal loans are a viable option for expenses depends, apparently, on who you ask.

Awareness seems to be a key factor. When people are in the dark about financial solutions, they will draw their own conclusions, often leading to false perceptions.

What are some of the myths about personal loans?

5 things people say about personal loans

Myths about personal loans have developed over two centuries, making them hard to debunk.

Fortunately, the internet makes it easier than ever to not just raise awareness about personal loans and to clarify misconceptions, but to find the lowest interest rates and apply for loans.

Personal loans have a difficult and lengthy application process

Before the internet, borrowers had to apply for a personal loan by visiting their bank. During the days of the Morris Plan banks, they often evaluated borrowers based on character and income. This may have meant dressing in your Sunday best and arriving for a meeting with a loan officer with stacks of paperwork, pay stubs and tax returns.

Today, applying for a personal loan is easier than applying for a home equity loan or a mortgage.

You can apply easily online in just a few clicks. Many lenders will ask you to provide your Social Security number, your monthly expenses — including any outstanding debt such as mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit card debt — and your income.

Keep in mind that applying for a personal loan may require a hard credit inquiry and could lower your credit score. If you can, try to pre-qualify for a loan before you apply.

You won’t qualify for a personal loan if you don’t have excellent credit

This common misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Personal loans are available for borrowers with a FICO Score as low as 500, but you won’t get the best rates with a rock-bottom credit score.

Most lenders look for borrowers with a credit score of 670 or higher. But a score of 800 or more will net you the best terms and interest rates.

Personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards

Unlike the other myths explored, this one has some truth to it. It all depends on your creditworthiness.

Borrowers with a credit score of 720 or higher get personal loans at an average APR of 7.09%, according to LendingTree data, which is lower than the current 14.73% average APR for credit cards. (Disclosure: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree.)

But if your credit is between 660 and 679, the average APR for a personal loan jumps to 16.72%.

It might be smarter to open a credit card with a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers and pay down as much debt as you can during that introductory period. With on-time payments, your credit score will rise and you can continuing using the same process until your high-interest debt is paid off.

Personal loans have high interest rates

“Personal loans have high interest rates” and “personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards” might seem to be contradictory misconceptions.

In fact, they show just how much confusion there is about personal loans. Some people perceive the rates to be too high, while others assume a personal loan will offer a lower interest rate than their existing credit card debt.

There is just not enough awareness about personal loans being a good option for many people.

So what’s the truth?

If you have an excellent credit score, you could qualify for a personal loan with single-digit interest rates, which is lower than most credit cards.

Personal loans are also a better option than predatory payday loans, which can have an APR of almost 400%.

But if you own a home, a secured loan such as a home equity loan or home equity line of credit will almost certainly deliver a lower interest rate than an unsecured personal loan.

Personal loans just aren’t right for many borrowers

Many people don’t think of themselves as a good candidate for a personal loan. Maybe they feel their credit isn’t good enough or they don’t make enough money to quality.

Homeowners often consider home equity loans or HELOCs before personal loans. And, of course, the 70 million Americans carrying credit card debt month to month may not have thought about a personal loan.

But you could be a good candidate for a personal loan if you have excellent credit and need cash to consolidate credit card debt, pay medical bills or make a large purchase.

With an easy online application process, personal loans are increasingly becoming a smart choice for many borrowers.

What are your personal loan options?

In spite of the myths surrounding them, personal loans continue to grow in popularity.

In the second quarter of 2018, personal loans showed the greatest year-over-year growth than any other type of loan, according to Experian. Personal loan debt increased by 11.4%.

Borrowers looking for cash to pay off revolving credit cards or remodel their home may want to consider a personal loan. If you’re considering a personal loan, check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and repair any errors to be sure your credit is in tip-top shape so you can qualify for a lower interest rate.

If your score isn’t where you’d like it to be, take time to pay down existing debt to improve your credit utilization ratio and raise your credit score. Avoid opening or closing accounts before applying for a personal loan since these actions could reduce your score.

As your credit score is increasing, use the MagnifyMoney personal loan marketplace to find a loan with the lowest rates and best terms for your situation. Always remember to do your research, consider all your options and make sure your finances are in order before applying for a personal loan.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dawn Allcot
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Dawn Allcot is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dawn here

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Loan Origination Fees: Should I Be Paying Them?

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If you’ve applied for a personal loan or mortgage, chances are you probably came across something called an origination fee. If you’re wondering what it’s for and whether you have to pay it, here’s what you need to know.

Understanding origination fees

An origination fee is a common charge that is added to a personal loan, student loan or mortgage. It is charged by the lender and can also be referred to as an application, processing or underwriting fee. Its purpose is to cover the hard costs of preparing documents, processing and underwriting your loan, and any third party fees that might be incurred along the way, said Ashley Luethje, a York, Neb.-based sales manager at Waterstone Mortgage.

“These fees are typically a percentage of the total amount you’re borrowing,” Luethje said. “Generally, a mortgage origination fee is around one percent, but for consumer and commercial loans, the fee can be greater and is at the discretion of the lender.”

How an origination fee can come into play

If you’re deciding between lenders, one criteria you might want to take into account is the difference in their origination fees. There are some key points to consider, depending on the type of loan you’re applying for.

Personal loan

As personal loans are typically unsecured and not backed by any collateral, you may find the highest origination fees in this category. Because these types of loans carry more risk for lenders, they may charge you anywhere between 1% to 6% of the total amount you are borrowing. Those higher fees also offset the lower amount of interest lenders like banks and credit unions will receive during the life of a personal loan. These loans tend to be extended for a shorter term and in smaller amounts than other kind of loans.

If you’re not getting charged an origination fee with your personal loan, be aware that the lender may make up for it some other way, such as charging higher interest rates, said Jacob Dayan, the Chicago, Ill.-based CEO and co-founder of Community Tax and Finance Pal.

“It’s important to note that having a good credit history will yield you a much lower origination fee,” Dayan said. “Those fees are negotiable for larger loans, but will commonly require you to put up something, such as accepting a higher Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on your loan.”

Mortgage

Mortgage origination fees — also called mortgage points — can vary drastically as they are determined by the lender, said Jason Larkins, a Scarborough, Maine-based branch manager at United Fidelity Funding. These fees are charged to cover the labor involved in the processing, underwriting and funding of a mortgage, as well as third party fees incurred in tasks such as verifying your employment.

Many lenders, such as banks, credit unions and brokerages, charge a flat origination fee. This means the fee is not based on the amount you borrow. Others could charge a 0.5% to 1% origination fee; the VA home loan program sets a cap at 1%. “However, if a borrower is paying a 1% origination fee, they are likely paying too much and can shop for a better deal,” Larkins said.

At the beginning of the mortgage application process, lenders must disclose the exact origination fee being charged in an official Loan Estimate form. Lenders may not increase the stated fee except under special circumstances, such as if you decrease your down payment or change your type of loan. However, you could negotiate it downwards depending on your credit score, and the size and duration of your requested loan.

As long as you meet certain criteria outlined in IRS Publication 530, your mortgage origination fees may also be tax deductible.

Student loans

Origination fees for federal student loans are set by the government and may vary depending on whether you have a direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized or direct plus-type loan. Those fees could range from 1.062% to 4.264%  and are deducted from the loan amount — meaning you get a smaller loan in the end but will still pay back the full amount. For example, if you were to take out a $10,000 loan with a 4% origination fee, you would only receive $9,600 but would have to pay back the entire $10,000.

The only federal student loans that didn’t charge an origination fee were the Perkins Loans for undergraduate and graduate students in financial need, but this program recently ended. While most student loans provided by private lenders such as credit unions and banks might not come with origination fees, they could cost you more in the long run by charging higher interest rates. Private student loans also don’t come with the federal protections that are standard with federal loans.

Keep in mind that loans with lower interest rates but higher fees can cost more than loans with a higher interest rate and no fees. An easy way to calculate whether your lender is giving you a good deal is to remember that 3% to 4% in fees is equivalent to a 1% higher interest rate.

Is my origination fee too high?

Origination fees are not required, so it’s at the lender’s discretion to waive or negotiate the fee, said Kris Alban, the San Diego-based executive vice president of iGrad.

“It’s always smart to ask for a discount, especially if you have a high credit score and it’s a large loan,” Alban said. “When negotiating, the lender may agree to lower or waive the origination fees if you’ll pay a higher interest rate — meaning they will still make a profit, and you can pay the fees over the length of the loan rather than up front.”

To get the best big picture outlook of whether you’re getting a good deal on your loan, make sure you’re not just comparing the origination fees but also factoring in the interest rate. For example:

  • A $10,000 loan at a 4.99% APR for five years with a 3% origination fee will cost you $11,620 over the life of the loan.
  • The same loan at 5.65% APR with a 1.5% origination fee will cost you $11,652 over the life of the loan.

“Pay attention to both the interest rate and APR,” Alban said. “If they are different, the lender is most likely factoring additional fees into the APR; any origination fee over 4% of the total loan amount is excessive.”

The bottom line

Origination fees are charged by lenders to cover the costs of processing your loan, whether you’re looking for a mortgage, personal loan or student loan. Even though lenders are subject to regulations, be cautious of anything that sounds too good to be true and remember that the absence of origination fees can translate into higher interest rates. “Take the time to read the fine print and completely understand the terms of the loan,” Luethje said.

While you should exercise your ability to price origination fees with different lenders to get you the best deal possible, remember there is no one-size-fits-all scenario. “Make the choice that best fits your needs. If an upfront origination fee hinders your ability to receive a loan but a higher interest rate is a better option, then that might be the best scenario for you as a consumer,” Luethje said.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Barbara Balfour
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Barbara Balfour is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Barbara here

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