Looking back, I would probably have preferred to experience these life steps separately, but hey, I’ll never know if that’s any better.
A few years ago, my wife and I decided to take the plunge and buy a starter home just in time for our baby’s arrival.
Back then, it didn’t feel like we had much of an option. Our family of three needed the space, and, well, I needed my wife to be happy. Combining these experiences proved tricky because of a common problem: limited resources.
Tina and I had pretty much exhausted our personal savings accounts after we closed on our house, and by the time we made preparations for the baby, we were definitely cash strapped.
The experience of settling into our new living space also did not go as smoothly as planned.
The worn windows and doors of our fixer-upper soon revealed their age by rattling ominously at the onset of storms, even modest ones. Raising a newborn in these conditions was clearly not ideal, so we decided to prioritize fixing the situation as soon as possible.
As we began exploring our different financing options for home improvements, we started with an obvious one: our credit cards.
Even with good credit, we quickly realized this was not the best course of action. Paying 18% interest annually seemed like an obvious no-no, especially because we figured it would take us around five years to make the monthly payments more affordable.
Next, we looked into the possibility of taking out a personal home improvement loan offered by our local bank.
The offer we received was actually a better deal than available online, but it still didn’t feel quite right. With a variable interest rate of 14% and high fees for late payments, it seemed like a risky proposition if we encountered some financial difficulties down the road.
Again, we passed and continued to shop around for other options.
A close friend of ours eventually suggested we consider using PACE financing, short for “Property Assessed Clean Energy.”
By the initial sound of it, we didn’t think our hurricane impact windows and doors would qualify for this government-approved program, but it turned out they did. In fact, many of the leading PACE providers in Florida recently made these resiliency-type home improvement projects eligible for financing due to growing demand.
For us, PACE turned out to be the ideal fit for several reasons.
First, we got a prime fixed-interest rate of 4.8%, a bargain compared to our next best option. Even better, we were not asked to put any money down. The project costs were just added to our annual property tax bill, which helped make the repayment process easier and more flexible than a standard monthly bill.
Overall, this convenient arrangement gave us more wiggle-room to better manage unexpected expenses.
Once our new windows and doors were installed in May 2017, our home was battle-ready for the summer hurricane season. By the end of September, we found our home was not only significantly less noisy during storms, but also more energy-efficient.
Compared to the previous year’s benchmark, we saved around 20% on our utility bill as a result of the improved insulation. Since then, we’ve continued to realize consistent electricity savings, particularly in the summer.
Beyond all these clear upsides, it also came as an added bonus to see our home value increase as a direct result of our new improvements.
As local Realtors based in Broward County, we were reasonably well-aware this could happen, but it was nevertheless a relief to see it come to pass.
Being in South Florida, it’s not surprising that one of the most popular requests we hear from prospective buyers is for homes with hurricane impact windows and doors already installed. These folks share and value the same core safety concerns as us.
When it comes to our overall experience with PACE, it has been overwhelmingly positive.
It’s something that comes up in regular conversations with our neighbors, who are also considering making similar types of home improvements.
While it’s great to know PACE is available in Broward County, we are hopeful this valuable option will soon become available to our friends and fellow Floridians across the state.
If your district doesn’t have PACE yet for some reason, you should reach out to your local Commissioner or consider another practical option: move to Broward!
Nicolas Raineri is a homeowner from Broward County.