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What Is a Construction Loan?  A construction loan (also known as a “self-build loan”) is a short-term loan used to finance the building of a home or another real estate project. The builder or home buyer takes out a construction loan to cover the costs of the project before obtaining long-term funding. Because they are considered relatively risky, construction loans usually have higher interest rates than traditional mortgage loans.

How a Construction Loan Works
Construction loans are usually taken out by builders or a homebuyer custom-building their own home. They are short-term loans, usually for a period of only one year. After construction of the house is complete, the borrower can either refinance the construction loan into a permanent mortgage or obtain a new loan to pay off the construction loan (sometimes called the “end loan”). The borrower might only be required to make interest payments on a construction loan while the project is still underway. Some construction loans may require the balance to be paid off entirely by the time the project is complete.

If a construction loan is taken out by a borrower who wants to build a home, the lender might pay the funds directly to the contractor rather than to the borrower. The payments may come in installments as the project completes new stages of development. Construction loans can be taken out to finance rehabilitation and restoration projects as well as to build new homes.

Construction loans can allow a borrower to build the home of their dreams, but—due to the risks involved—they have higher interest rates and larger down payments than traditional mortgages.
Special Considerations for Construction Loans
Most lenders require a 20% minimum down payment on a construction loan, and some require as much as 25%. Borrowers may face difficulty securing a construction loan, particularly if they have a limited credit history. There may be a shortage of collateral because the home is not yet built posing a challenge in seeking approval from a lender. To gain approval for a construction loan, the borrower will need to give the lender a comprehensive list of construction details (also known as a “blue book”). The borrower will also have to prove that a qualified builder is involved in the project.

Construction loans are usually offered by local credit unions or regional banks. Local banks tend to be familiar with the housing market in their area and are more comfortable making home construction loans to borrowers in their community.

Construction Loans vs. Owner-Builder Construction Loans
Borrowers who intend to act as their own general contractor or build the home with their own resources are unlikely to qualify for a construction loan. These borrowers will have to take out a variant called an owner-builder construction loan. It can be difficult to qualify for these loans. Therefore, potential borrowers must offer a well-researched construction plan that convincingly lays out their home-building knowledge and abilities. The borrower should also include a contingency fund for unexpected surprises.


Example of a Construction Loan
Jane Doe decides that she can build her new house for a total of $500,000 and secures a one-year construction loan from her local bank for that amount. They agree on a drawdown schedule for the loan.

In the first month, only $50,000 is required to cover costs, so Jane takes only that amount—and pays interest only on that amount—saving money. Jane continues to take funds as they are needed, guided by the drawdown schedule. She pays interest only on the total that she has drawn down rather than paying interest on the whole $500,000 for the entire term of the loan. At the end of the year, she refinances with her local bank the total amount of funds she has used into a mortgage for her dream home.

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Construction Loans: What They Are And How They Work

Building a house from scratch can be a great opportunity to get the home you’ve always wanted. But construction costs can add up quickly and timelines can be unpredictable. Luckily, a variety of construction loans provide the upfront cash needed to pay for the land, materials and labor to build a new house.

What Is a Construction Loan?

A construction loan is short-term financing that can be used to cover the costs associated with building a house, from start to finish. Construction loans may cover the costs of buying land, drafting plans, taking out permits and paying for labor and materials. You also can use a construction loan to access contingency reserves—if your project is more expensive than you planned—or interest reserves, for those who don’t want to make interest payments during construction.

How Do Construction Loans Work?

Construction loans let future homeowners borrow money to purchase materials and pay for labor necessary to build a home. You also can often use this money to purchase the land you’re building on. If you already own the land, you may be able to use the property as collateral for your loan. Because construction loans generally are intended to cover the building process, they’re typically issued for a period of 12 to 18 months. That said, some loans automatically convert into a permanent mortgage once construction is complete.

Unlike traditional mortgages, construction loans aren’t secured by a completed house. For that reason, the application and approval processes for a construction loan also are more complex than for a mortgage. Your lender likely will want to inspect your architectural plans and examine your financial situation before approving you for financing. You will probably also need to provide an estimated construction timeline and budget.

After you’re approved for a construction loan, you won’t receive all of the funds as a lump sum. Instead, the lender will make payments to your builder through a series of draws—or installments—as they complete various stages of construction. In this way, construction loans act as a line of credit. Draws are scheduled based on the construction timeline, and your lender likely will send an inspector to evaluate the status of construction prior to each payment.

In most cases, you’ll only need to repay interest on funds as they are drawn—not on the entire loan amount. Depending on the lender, you also may have the option to convert your construction loan into a mortgage after construction is complete. If this is not an option, you can apply for a mortgage—or end loan—to pay off your construction loan.

Types of Construction Loans

Building a home is not a one-size-fits-all process. To meet the varying needs of future homeowners, there are several types of construction loans available—primarily, construction-to-permanent and construction-only loans. Owner-builders and homeowners performing extensive renovations on an existing house have separate options.

Construction Loans Compared


How it work

This loan finances construction of a home and then converts into a fixed-rate mortgage once the home is completed.

Lender issues a short-term, adjustable-rate loan that is used to complete construction of a home. After construction is complete, the loan must be paid in full or refinanced into a mortgage. This requires two application processes and two closings.

Draws are made to the owner-builder, rather than to an approved third-party contractor. These loans are usually only available to owners who can demonstrate experience as a homebuilder—or have a contractor’s license.


Most akin to a traditional mortgage, renovation loans cover the cost of purchasing a home and performing major renovations. Because of this, the loan amount is based on the anticipated value of the home after renovations.


What Does a Construction Loan Cover?

A construction loan typically covers all costs to build your new home, including the land, building permits, labor and materials. Construction loans also include closing costs like other types of home loans.

Construction Loan Rates

Like interest rates for other types of loans, rates on construction loans generally vary based on the borrower’s creditworthiness, the size of the loan and the loan term. What’s more, interest rates for construction loans typically are variable, meaning they adjust over the course of the loan based on an index, like the prime rate.

More specifically, rates usually hover at about one percentage point above standard mortgage rates. You may find construction loan rates between 5% and 6% today. This is because construction loans aren’t secured by a completed home and are therefore riskier than traditional mortgages.

Construction Loan Requirements

Construction loan requirements vary from lender to lender, but some of the common borrowing guidelines include:

Good to excellent credit. To reduce risk, lenders typically require borrowers to have a minimum credit score of 680 to qualify for a construction loan. However, some lenders may require a higher credit score, so you’ll want to shop around and compare guidelines. If you plan to build a home, improve your credit score before applying for a construction loan.
Low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your DTI ratio is a comparison of all of your monthly debt payments (including the new construction loan) to your gross monthly income. The lower your DTI, the more cash you theoretically have to make payments each month. You should have enough income to cover payments on your current debts and the new construction loan. Lenders typically require a DTI ratio no higher than 45% for construction loans.
Down payment of at least 20%. Borrowers typically need a down payment of at least 20% for a construction loan, but this can vary by lender. For example, some lenders might require a higher down payment of 25% to 30% of the total loan amount. If you put down less than 20% you’ll likely pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).
Licensed builder. Before taking out a construction loan, you’ll need to choose a licensed, reputable home builder. Choose a builder who has a proven track record of completing construction projects to a high standard and is a member of a reputable construction trade group, such as the National Association of Home Builders. You can search for a local builder online using NAHB’s directory of local building associations.
Pros and Cons of a Construction Loan

Construction loans are a considerable investment of time and money. Before applying for a construction loan, consider these benefits and drawbacks.

The construction loan amount is based on the project and/or the future value of the property.
The short repayment term for the loan means you only have to make interest payments during the construction period.
It’s a good financing option for current homeowners who want to build a new home but don’t have enough equity for a home equity loan or line of credit.
The loan amount is set in advance, giving the borrower little flexibility in the event of unexpected costs.
The entire balance of the loan is due at the end of the construction process. If the construction loan doesn’t automatically convert into a permanent mortgage after construction, you’ll have to get a new loan to pay what you owe, which means paying two sets of closing costs and fees.
You’ll pay higher interest rates on a construction loan compared to other loan options.
How To Choose a Construction Loan

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a construction loan lender, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. For that reason, it can be tempting to settle for the first lender you find. You shouldn’t make this decision in haste. Make sure you choose a lender that fits your unique needs by asking these questions:

What types of construction loans do you offer?
What interest rates are available? Are they fixed or variable?
Do you charge closing costs or other fees?
Can I use the equity I have in my land toward a down payment?
How do you pay construction draws—as a percentage of completion or based on a set schedule?
Can the builder request a first draw to pay for materials?
What happens if there is a delay in building the home or a sudden increase in construction costs?
How To Get a Construction Loan

Before you can get the financing necessary to start your construction project, you’ll need to get approved for a loan. This process is typically more rigorous than for mortgages and other loans because the loan won’t be secured—or collateralized—by a home. In addition to imposing traditional borrower standards, lenders also will need to review and approve architectural plans, an estimated construction timeline and a proposed budget.

To be approved for a construction loan, you will need:

Good to excellent credit. To reduce their risk, lenders require borrowers to have a minimum credit score of 680 to qualify for a construction loan. However, some lenders may require a score of at least 720. If you’re planning to build a house, consider taking some time to improve your credit score before applying for a construction loan.
Enough income to pay off the loan. In addition to having a strong credit history, you should have enough income to cover payments on your current debts and the new construction loan. To confirm this, your lender will ask for financial statements or other documentation demonstrating your annual income.
A low debt-to-income ratio. A borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a comparison of all of your monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income. The lower your DTI, the more cash you theoretically have to make construction loan payments each month. To increase the likelihood that borrowers will be able to make payments, lenders typically require a DTI ratio no higher than 45% when issuing construction loans.
A down payment of at least 20%. Borrowers usually are required to make a down payment of at least 20% when taking out a construction loan. However, many lenders require more—between 25% and 30% of the total construction costs. The requirement varies by lender, but if you make a down payment of less than 20% you may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).
Project and construction budget approval. You’ll need to provide detailed documentation about the project and budget, including a deed (or purchase offer) for the land, complete floor plans, a detailed line-item budget in the lender’s preferred format, a payment (draw) schedule and a signed construction contract with change-order provisions
Builder or general contractor approval. Likewise, you’ll need to demonstrate to the lender that your architect and builder are qualified, licensed and insured. This may involve providing copies of the builder’s insurance certificates, resume and proof of financial stability. Include a description of each party’s responsibilities, including the architect, general contractor and anyone else involved in the project.



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How To Get a Construction Loan With No Money Down
If you want to get a construction loan without having to make a down payment, you can apply for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Veterans Affairs (VA) construction loan. The USDA construction loan is ideal if you want to build in a USDA-eligible rural area. The USDA charges upfront and annual guarantee fees that are due in the month immediately following loan closing.

VA construction loans are intended for active-duty service members and veterans of the military, as well as eligible surviving spouses. VA loans require a one-time VA funding fee, which is a percentage of the loan amount, to help offset the cost of the VA loan program to U.S. taxpayers. You can roll the fee into the loan amount, which will increase your monthly payments.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How hard is it to get a construction loan?
Getting a construction loan is difficult and the process is rigorous compared to a mortgage for an existing home. Borrowers with no prior building experience are likely to have their construction loan application rejected if they plan to build the house themselves. Borrowers must present a well-researched construction plan that’s convincing in terms of how they intend to build their homes.

How do I qualify for a construction loan?
In addition to meeting the lender’s borrowing standards, you’ll also need to provide building plans, an estimated construction timeline and a proposed budget for approval. The construction loan lender must also approve your choice of builder.

What credit score do you need for a construction loan?
Lenders typically require borrowers to have a minimum credit score of 680 to qualify for a construction loan, but this can vary.

How long does it take to get a construction loan?
Application approval times depend on the specifics of the project and if lenders are provided with a complete package of materials. The loan approval process may span as much as 45 days.

When do you close on a construction loan?
You close on the loan before construction begins, and payments are made to the builder (with your approval) in several stages during the building process.

Is a construction loan or a mortgage better?
Getting a construction loan or a traditional mortgage depends on your situation—particularly if you plan to buy an existing home or want to build one. A construction loan gives you the flexibility to build a home that’s customized to your exact tastes and needs, but it will cost more than buying an existing home. Getting a traditional mortgage tends to have fewer obstacles, takes less time and has a lower interest rate than a construction loan.





Considering a custom built home? Here are 4 of the best construction loan lenders
The process of acquiring and using funding from a construction is unique compared to other options.

gmast3r | Getty
When it comes to buying a home, most individuals choose to purchase something already on the market. However, in some situations, it can sometimes be advantageous to buy raw land and have a home built for you from the ground up.

For instance, in a seller’s market when there aren’t too many homes on the market but a huge demand for home purchases, you can bypass the costly process of haggling with sellers and paying way above the asking price for a home. And, of course, you’ll get to design a home that’s exactly the way you want it.

CNBC Select rounded up four of the best construction loan lenders to consider if you’re thinking of building a brand-new home or doing a major renovation of your existing home. We evaluated lenders based on a number of factors including the types of loans offered, customer support and others (see our methodology below).

Best construction loan lenders

Best for in-person service: TD Bank
Best for loan variety: Flagstar Bank
Best for a longer construction period: Citizens™
Best for lower credit scores: Cardinal Financial
Best for in-person service

TD Bank Mortgage

TD Bank Mortgage

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included
Types of loans
Fixed-rate, adjustable-rate mortgage, jumbo loans, construction-to-permanent loan, VA loan, FHA loan, medical professional mortgage
Up to 30 years
Credit needed
Not disclosed
Minimum down payment
Options as low as 3%
Terms apply.
Carries loan option that allows for a slightly smaller downpayment at 3%
Has both online and in-person service
Online support available
Mobile app available
Refinance options available
Doesn’t offer USDA loans

Who’s this for? TD Bank is a household name in the banking industry, even calling itself “America’s Most Convenient Bank.” In addition to offering service online and through a mobile app, TD Bank has over 1,100 physical branches throughout the U.S., making it an ideal lender for those who prefer an in-person process.

This lender offers what’s known as a construction-to-permanent loan option. This means that your construction loan converts into a regular mortgage upon completion of the build. This loan option is typically advantageous for many aspiring homeowners since you only have to submit one application and pay one set of closing costs.

TD Bank’s construction loan has fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options and can be used for primary residences of 1 to 4 units and for second or vacation homes.

Best for loan variety

Flagstar® Bank Loans

Flagstar® Bank Loans
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included
Types of loans
Conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans, jumbo loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, fixed-rate mortgages, construction loans, professional loans and Community Loans
8 – 30 years
Credit needed
580 for certain types of loans; 620 to access the most loan options
Minimum down payment
0% with a USDA loan or VA loan
Terms apply. Flagstar® Bank is a Member FDIC.
Offers a wide variety of loans to suit an array of customer needs
Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages available
Has an online process but also in-person branches
Home equity loans are only available in limited geographic areas

Who’s this for? Flagstar Bank offers a couple of different construction loan options: It offers a renovation loan, a construction draw and a one-close construction loan. The renovation loan is meant for those who are purchasing a property that needs significant repairs; instead of applying for two loans (a mortgage and a separate renovation loan) this option lets you roll both expenses into one loan. This way, you’ll pay just one set of closing costs and have just one monthly payment.

The construction draw option lets you pay only interest during the phase where your home is being built (the build must be completed within 12 months, though). Once your build is complete, you’ll need to apply for a mortgage to cover the principal payments plus the monthly interest. This is called an end loan. With this option, you’ll have to submit more than one application and pay more than one set of closing costs.

With the one-close construction loan, you’ll pay interest during the home’s building phase (similar to the construction draw option) except your construction loan will convert to a traditional mortgage upon completion of the build. This means you only have to submit one application and pay one set of closing costs.

Best for a longer construction period

Citizens™ Mortgage

Citizens™ Mortgage

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included
Types of loans
Fixed-rate mortgage, construction loans
15 – 30 years
Credit needed
Not disclosed
Minimum down payment
Not disclosed
Terms apply.
0.125% mortgage rate discount available to existing customers in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan
Has both online and in-person service
Online support available
Mortgage rate discount isn’t available in all states
View More
Who’s this for? Citizens™ offers a construction-to-permanent loan option, which means borrowers will only submit one application and pay for one set of closing costs. But the most appealing feature of this loan is that borrowers can take up to 18 months to complete construction on their homes. Typically, construction loan lenders only allow borrowers 12 months to finish construction, so the extra time allows your project to recover from any snags in the plan or delays.

For your permanent financing, you can choose from fixed or adjustable-rate options.

Best for lower credit scores

Cardinal Financial Mortgage

Cardinal Financial Mortgage

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included
Types of loans
Conventional loan, FHA loan, VA loan, USDA loan, jumbo loans and construction loans
Not disclosed
Credit needed
Minimum of 550 for some loan types
Minimum down payment
Not disclosed
Terms apply.
Wide variety of home loan options
More accessible loan options for borrowers with low credit scores
Online support available
Down payment assistance available in all 50 states
Doesn’t offer HELOC’s
View More
Who’s this for? Cardinal Financial is an online lender that boasts low credit requirements for its various home loan options. According to one blog post on the company’s website, it accepts credit scores as low as 550 for VA and FHA loans. FHA loans typically require a credit score of at least 580. Jumbo loans typically have a credit score requirement of 700 but Cardinal Financial considers jumbo loan applicants with a minimum credit score of 660.

This lender offers construction loans for both home renovations and brand-new home construction.


What is a construction loan?
How do construction loans work?
What is the best credit score for a construction loan?
What is the difference between a construction loan and a regular loan?
Will I pay a fixed rate on my loan?
Can you act as your own general contractor/builder?
What is a construction loan?

A construction loan is a short-term loan that can be used to cover the cost of building a brand-new home. Typically, the funds get disbursed in increments as the home-building project progresses, and the construction must be completed within 12 months.

This option can be ideal for individuals who want a home that’s extremely customized to their liking, but the process can often be very costly since you’ll need to purchase land to build on.

How do construction loans work?

Once you’re approved for a construction loan, the funds get disbursed to your checking account incrementally as your construction progresses. An appraiser will usually check in during different stages of the build to approve more fund disbursements for you.

During the building stage, you’ll typically only pay interest on the loan. Once the build is complete, the loan converts to a traditional mortgage (if you choose a construction-to-permanent loan) and you make payments toward both principal and interest. If you chose a construction-only loan, you’ll need to apply for a separate mortgage (called an end loan) to pay off the principal on the construction loan, or you can pay the principal off out of pocket in one lump sum.

What is the best credit score for a construction loan?

Most lenders consider a credit score of at least 680 for a construction loan. Some may actually require a minimum of 720. As with any other form of credit, though, a higher credit score means you’re more likely to get approved for your desired funding amount. Plus, you’ll be able to qualify for some of the lowest interest rates offered by the lender.

If your credit score isn’t yet considered to be in a healthy range, it’s recommended that you take steps to improve your score before submitting loan applications.

What is the difference between a construction loan and a regular loan?

A construction loan is used to finance the cost of a property that hasn’t been built yet. A regular or traditional mortgage is used to purchase an existing property. Construction loans are also meant to be short-term loans, lasting only up to 12 months before you’ll have to conclude your build and convert the loan into a traditional mortgage. Regular mortgages, though, are long-term loans, which are typically meant to be paid off in as little as 10 years and as long as 30 years.

Will I pay a fixed rate on my loan?

Various lenders offer both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loans for new builds. Once you lock in a rate for the construction phase of the project, that same rate typically carries over into the traditional mortgage payment phase as long as you choose a fixed-rate loan.

Can you act as your own general contractor/builder?

Construction loans require a licensed contractor or builder to carry out the construction phase (plans for the home and for the contractor must be confirmed and submitted before you can be approved for a loan). If you are not a licensed contractor, you cannot act as your own general contractor for the construction of your home.

Bottom line

Building a home can be a very exciting but taxing process, especially since construction loans can sometimes be tougher to come by. Still, borrowers should do their homework to make sure they agree with all the terms set forth by a lender and that the loan they ultimately go with is best for their needs.

Our methodology

To determine which construction loan lenders are the best, CNBC Select analyzed dozens of U.S. mortgages offered by both online and brick-and-mortar banks, including large credit unions, that come with fixed-rate APRs and flexible loan amounts and terms to suit an array of financing needs.

When narrowing down and ranking the best construction loans, we focused on the following features:

Fixed-rate APR: Variable rates can go up and down over the lifetime of your loan. With a fixed rate APR, you’ll lock in an interest rate for the duration of the loan’s term, which means your monthly payment won’t vary, making your budget easier to plan.
Types of loans offered: The most common kinds of construction loans include construction-to-permanent loans, construction-only loans and renovation loans. Having more options available means the lender can cater to a wider range of applicants.
Fees: Common fees associated with mortgage applications include origination fees, application fees, underwriting fees, processing fees and administrative fees. We evaluate these fees in addition to other features when determining the overall offer from each lender. Though some lenders on this list do not charge these fees, we have noted any instances where a lender does.
Flexible minimum and maximum loan amounts/terms: Each mortgage lender provides a variety of financing options that you can customize based on your monthly budget and how long you need to pay back your loan.
No early payoff penalties: The mortgage lenders on our list do not charge borrowers for paying off the loan early.
Streamlined application process: We considered whether lenders offered a convenient, fast online application process and/or an in-person procedure at local branches.
Customer support: Every mortgage lender on our list provides customer service via telephone, email or secure online messaging. We also opted for lenders with an online resource hub or advice center to help you educate yourself about the personal loan process and your finances.
Minimum down payment: Although minimum down payment amounts depend on the type of loan a borrower applies for, we noted lenders that offer additional specialty loans that come with a lower minimum down payment amount.
After reviewing the above features, we sorted our recommendations by best for in-person service, loan variety, a longer construction period and lower credit scores.

Note that the rates and fee structures advertised for mortgages are subject to fluctuate in accordance with the Fed rate. However, once you accept your mortgage agreement, a fixed-rate APR will guarantee your interest rate and monthly payment remain consistent throughout the entire term of the loan, unless you choose to refinance your mortgage at a later date for a potentially lower APR. Your APR, monthly payment and loan amount depend on your credit history, creditworthiness, debt-to-income ratio and the desired loan term. To take out a mortgage, lenders will conduct a hard credit inquiry and request a full application, which could require proof of income, identity verification, proof of address and more.


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