ATLANTA, April 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With consumer confidence and the real estate market on the rise, many homeowners are ready to begin home remodeling or maintenance projects. According to an online survey conducted on behalf of SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE: STI) by Harris Poll, 56 percent of homeowners plan to spend money on home improvement projects this year. More than a quarter of homeowners (27 percent) indicated they will invest in an outdoor area such as a patio, deck, pool or landscaping in 2014. Bathroom remodels (17 percent), home repairs such as a new roof or HVAC systems (16 percent) and kitchen remodels (11 percent) were cited next. About five percent of homeowners plan to add square footage, and another five percent intend to complete a basement/attic remodel. "People may no longer be as nervous about investing in their homes," said Gary Miller, business head of LightStream, a national online lending division of SunTrust Bank. "With the economy picking up and homes beginning to increase in value, the home improvement loan category has been energized." Paying for Home Improvement Projects Of those who plan to spend money on home improvements this year, 20 percent plan to spend $10,000 or more, according to the survey. "Although many people will use money from savings or from tax refunds, we're seeing a strong market for home improvement loans. Customers are telling us they're using loan proceeds to fund deferred maintenance projects as well as pool installations, solar energy systems, landscaping, and kitchen, bath and basement remodels," said Miller. Television personality and high-end contractor Stephen Fanuka recommends having funds on hand before starting any home improvement project. "To help manage timelines and costs, have a signed contract detailing agreed-upon construction milestones," said Fanuka. "Payments should be made as benchmarks are completed. Keep a clear, ongoing record of the products and services you've purchased," said Fanuka. "That means, however, you'll need money in the bank to cover everything." Home equity loans can be a smart option for financing home improvements. SunTrust offers a variety of loans and lines of credit with variable or fixed payment alternatives for consumers who have accrued equity in their homes.