A federal loan program that assists people in covering the cost of fortifying their homes against severe weather is helping to fuel a Florida door and window installer’s growth and positioning it for possible further expansion, according to the company.

Wrights Impact Window and Door, which specializes in the installation of impact-rated windows, doors, shutters and shades, announced in May that it was opening a satellite office and warehouse on the state’s west coast. The company decided to establish the new location in part because of the availability of buyer financing through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows homeowners to use their properties as collateral to borrow money for certain types of home improvements, said Howard Van Natta, the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company’s president.

“PACE is white-hot right now,” as a way for people to buy impact windows, said Van Natta. “A lot of people are taking advantage of it.”

Van Natta said that about a quarter of his customers borrow money to pay for their purchases, adding that retrofitting a home with impact windows typically costs between $15,000 and $25,000. Although customers sometimes opt to replace their windows incrementally to spread the cost over a longer period, benefits such as insurance premium reductions only kick in when a home is fully outfitted with storm-grade windows and garage doors, so it can be advantageous for buyers to get the entire job done at once, he noted.

“PACE brings the ability to get impact products to people who don’t have the available cash,” said Van Natta. “It’s a reason we like this business.”

PACE loans can be used to fund a variety of home modifications, including doors and windows that increase efficiency or guard against damage from hurricane-force winds and other harsh weather conditions. Borrowers repay their loan through a voluntary assessment connected with their property tax bill, typically over a period of 15 to 20 years, according to the Department of Energy.

In addition, the debt is tied to the property, not the property owner, which means the obligation to repay it can be transferred to the buyer if the property is sold. This addresses a key reason why homeowners choose not to invest in improvements, like upgraded windows, that they think they may not be able to pay off before selling their properties, according to the Energy Department’s website.

The availability of residential PACE loans in a particular area depends on whether the state has passed legislation to permit them. The loans also require authorization by the local municipality, which can administer them either directly or through a public-private partnership. In addition to Florida, residential PACE finance programs are currently available in California and Missouri.

Wrights’ new location, located in Punta Gorda, Fla., about 25 miles north of Fort Myers, has completed several installations since opening, Van Natta said. The company, which employs about 80 people, is now considering expanding its presence on Florida’s east and west coasts—where properties are most susceptible to weather-related damage—and then plans to look to the state’s interior for additional growth, he said.

“The new office has made a significant difference for us,” said Van Natta. “It’s important for us to be visible in the communities we serve.”

Sam Silverstein is a contributing writer for DWM magazine.

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