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Competition for Green Home-Improvement Loans

By Morgan Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune

A competitive market is emerging in the San Diego region for home-improvement loans devoted to energy and water conservation that are repaid through property taxes, with three companies now vying for clients.

Property-assessed loans from CaliforniaFIRST are available to homeowners across San Diego city, unincorporated parts of the county and nearly all other local cities. The city of San Diego authorized the program last week for homeowners within its boundaries.

CaliforniaFIRST loans, administered by the Oakland-based company Renewable Funding, will compete with HERO loans offered by Renovate America and Figtree OnDemandPACE from Figtree Financing, both based in San Diego.

So-called PACE financing — short for property assessed clean energy — can be spent on a broad range of energy and water projects, from rooftop solar energy systems to insulated windows, low-flow toilets and desert-friendly landscaping to replaces grass lawns.

Unlike personal home equity loans, PACE obligations are linked to the property and designed to be passed along to the next owner when homes are sold.

PACE interest rates are typically higher than those for the average home equity loan, but significantly lower than credit card debt. Read more.