Home improvement incentive programs – all you need to know
Improving your home, whether you are renovating or repairing it, can be a very costly endeavor. Luckily, you may be able to offset some of the cost by applying for one of the available home improvement incentive programs. Whether you need to install a home security system with cameras in a high-crime neighborhood or repair the damage from a natural disaster, you can count on your government to help you in some way. In this article, we are going to explain what home improvement incentive programs are, who pays for them, how to qualify for them, and show you some of the most popular programs that may be available to you.
What are home improvement incentive programs?
In a nutshell, home improvement incentive programs offer a way for homeowners to manage their home renovation costs. They may include financial aid, favorable loans, tax deductions, or discount vouchers. However, these programs are offered only under certain circumstances. For example, if you want to burglar proof your home on a budget while living in a low-crime area, you might not be able to benefit from these programs. However, if improving your home security is necessary to create a safe space to live in, you have a good shot of finding a program to help you pay for the improvements.
Who pays for home improvement incentive programs?
Most of the time, the cost involved with home improvement incentive programs is covered by the state or local government. However, many programs are paid for by third parties wishing to achieve a certain goal (e.g. neighborhood appeal). Most of the time, these programs are offered to low-income families that require assistance in order to keep their homes well-maintained.
Furthermore, not every home improvement program is the same. Home improvement programs may offer loans under very favorable conditions, but some may also offer grants (free money). Needless to say, loans are, by far, the more common type. There are many reasons why governments choose to pay for these programs, from improving energy efficiency, helping homeowners rebuild their homes after a disaster, allowing low-income families to pay for certain upgrades, etc.
Grants, on the other hand, are usually tied to a very specific goal. For example, it may so happen that your local government plans to increase the appeal of a certain area by making sure that all of the homes there follow the current home security trends. In this case, you would get a grant for purchasing and installing modern home security system equipment. Of course, you will still need to shoulder some of the cost, but these grants might help you get started.
Who can qualify for home improvement incentive programs?
There is no pre-set list of requirements for home improvement incentive programs. Each program has its own set of rules that you need to follow in order to qualify. That said, there are some criteria that are usually found within these programs, such as:
- Income level
- Age of the home
- Location of the home
- Age of the homeowner
The “better” the program is, the stricter the requirements. If all that you require is a low-interest loan to help you improve your home, chances are that living in a certain area is all that it takes. However, if you want to apply for a sizeable grant, your home will usually need to be a victim of a natural disaster. Lastly, if all that you want is to improve the privacy of your home, you might not be able to count on any government programs to help you out. There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.
While homeowners may have thousands of available programs to choose from, some programs are more popular than others. If you are looking to minimize the cost of home improvement, it is in your best interest to take a look at the most popular incentive programs.
Most popular home improvement incentive programs
- HUD programs
- NRIA programs
- 203(k) program
- Section 504 home repair program
- CDBG program
Aside from applying for these programs, you may want to look into finding a good contractor. Otherwise, you may become a victim of a home improvement scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the best way to avoid a home improvement scam is to consider only contractors that are fully licensed and insured. You can find such contractors by verifying their licenses with your county or state government.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular home improvement incentive programs you might have access to.
For most people, HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) programs are the default option when it comes to financial assistance. These programs usually consist of extremely favorable loans, are easy to qualify for, and can be used for a wide variety of home improvements.
To qualify for HUD programs, you will need to:
- Occupy your home for at least 90 days prior to applying for a loan
- Show proof that you are able to repay the loan via regular monthly payments
One of the best things about HUD programs is the fact that the maximum loan term is 15 years for a manufactured home on a foundation or 20 years for a single-family/multifamily home. Furthermore, if you happen to have limited equity, you may be able to benefit from the Title 1 Property Improvement Loan program. This program allows you to ask for a loan of up to $60,000 for a multifamily home.
The improvements that are covered by HUD incentive programs include accessibility features, ways to improve your home security, as well as luxury items (e.g. swimming pool). However, HUD programs usually do not offer any grants to homeowners. There are some programs, such as the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, but they are usually very difficult to qualify for.
If you are looking to obtain a grant for your home improvement project, you may want to talk to the National Residential Improvement Association (NRIA). Aside from grants, NRIA home improvement incentive programs may include discounts, tax credits, and loans. Furthermore, you may be able to qualify for local incentives that may help you pay for home improvements.
To apply for these programs, all you need to do is fill out the application form on the NRIA’s website. You will need to provide some details about your property, including the history of the home and potential improvements you would like to make. After some time, you will get a callback from an NRIA specialist and will be able to discuss the options at your disposal. The NRIA can help you with various projects, from improving home security with landscaping to installing a brand-new, state-of-the-line home security system. Even if you don’t get a full grant for your home improvements, chances are that NRIA will offer you at least a few ways to minimize the cost of your projects.
One of the most popular home improvement incentive programs – The 203(k) program
If you happen to be on a very tight budget, you may want to look into the 203(k) program, also known as an FHA construction loan or simply as a rehab loan. The reason why this program is so popular among homeowners is the fact that you can use it alongside the Title 1 Property Improvement Loan that we previously mentioned. Together, these two programs can allow you to finance numerous home improvements, from repairs to cosmetic changes.
To qualify for the 203(k) program, you will need to satisfy the following criteria:
- The 203(k) loan can only be used for improving residential structures
- Your property needs to meet certain structural and energy efficiency standards
- The cost of the improvement or repair cannot be lower than $5,000
Do note that your property may be able to meet the energy standards even if they are currently lower than the specification. What this means is that you may count on this program to help you replace your windows and doors, thus improving energy efficiency to meet the basic standards. Basically, you only need to prove that your home meets the standards once repaired, not before.
Section 504 home repair program
Families that fall into a very low-income category can benefit from a Section 504 Home Repair Program. This program involves a loan of up to $20,000, with an interest rate of 1%. The repayment period is 20 years. To qualify, you will need to fulfill the following conditions:
- You must not be able to get a loan elsewhere
- You must both own and occupy the property you want to improve
- Your income needs to be below the threshold (50% of the area median income)
Aside from the loan, it is also possible to obtain a home improvement grant through this program. However, this only applies if you are over 62 years of age and need to remove a safety or health hazard from the property. In this case, you may be able to obtain a grant of up to $7,500. You can also combine the grant with the loan.
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) can help you make home improvements that reduce energy costs. This program is reserved for low-income families, as it offers free weatherization services. Some of the improvements that this program covers include heating, cooling, and electrical systems. You may also be able to utilize the program to help pay for upgrading some of your home appliances, prepare your home for power outages during winter, or make any other improvement that will allow you to stay safe and healthy.
To qualify for the WAP program, your household income needs to be at or below 200% of the poverty income limit. Alternatively, you may also qualify if you receive supplemental security income or aid to families with dependent children. Furthermore, you may have a priority if your household includes the elderly or family members with disabilities.
To apply for the WAP program, you will need to identify your local weatherization provider first and complete the weatherization application process per their instructions. After that, you will need to complete the weatherization application process by providing your provider with proof of your income for the prior year.
Another energy-focused program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), provides financial assistance for all things that involve home energy costs. One of the things that distinguish LIHEAP from many other home improvement incentive programs is the fact that it may also help you pay your energy bills. Each state has its own LIHEAP, as well as unique qualifications process.
The program itself does not offer direct grants, nor does it charges a fee for receiving a benefit. If you happen to receive any message that claims that you need to pay a fee to receive a benefit, get in touch with the HHS immediately.
The Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) is one of the best ways to pay for your home improvements if you can qualify for it. The CDBG program offers grants to cities, counties, and states on an annual basis. You can use these grants for a wide variety of improvements, from home rehabilitation to infrastructure improvements.
The difference between the CDBG program and many other home improvement incentive programs is the fact that it has less federal oversight than others. The program distributes the funds via a special formula at the discretion of the local/state government.
Using the home improvement incentive programs
While it may initially seem that utilizing incentive programs is always a good idea, the reality is slightly different. These programs are highly specific in what they cover and what they do not cover. Furthermore, there are usually very strict requirements you need to meet before getting any financial assistance. Lastly, you will need to provide proof that the money you receive was only spent on the designated improvements/repairs.
Before you apply for any of the home improvement incentive programs, you need to fully understand your situation. Many homeowners obtain a grant only to realize that the grant stipulations require too much work. While the grant may pay for some of it, the additional work to fulfill the obligations may cost you even more in the long run. Therefore, make sure that you obtain a detailed price quote before you commit to any home improvement. And if you need to make any improvements to home security, you can always refer to the Customer Opinion Guide. Our articles will provide you with all the information you may need to make optimal choices!