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Other Financial Assistance Options for a Seismic Retrofit

We’ve covered many different types of houses that may benefit from a seismic retrofit. Each type has different costs associated with it. We hope we can help you answer some questions you may have about paying for the costs of your earthquake retrofit.

How Much Does an Earthquake Retrofit Cost Out-of-Pocket?

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While there isn't a standard cost for an earthquake retrofit, the repair range for one type of simple retrofit runs from $3,000 to $7,000. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) estimated the typical home retrofit that does not require an engineer costs about $4,500. However, it is important to note that individual cost may vary depending on the size of your home and the specific work that needs to be done.

What Help Can I Receive to Pay for My Retrofit?

The good news is that some cities and local governments offer financial assistance for earthquake retrofits, including incentives or rebates to help you pay for the costs to strengthen your home. Local financial support options include:

  • CRMP’s Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) program offers grants to eligible homeowners of raised foundation houses.
  • CRMP's Earthquake Soft-Story (ESS) program offers grants to eligible homeowners of houses with living spaces above the garage.
  • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, offered in cities such as Berkeley, which allows property owners to borrow money to pay seismic retrofits and spread the cost of the upgrade over a period of time through a special assessment on their property tax bill.
  • The California Capital Access Program (CalCAP) Seismic Safety Financing Program, which is designed to assist California residential property owners (including multiunit dwellings and registered mobilehomes) with financing the costs for seismic retrofits.
  • Low-income and fixed income residents of the San Francisco Bay Area may be eligible for grants specifically designated for home earthquake strengthening through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's block grant program. For more information, call (510) 577-6004.
  • For recently-purchased homes, there are transfer tax rebates: The cities of Berkeley and El Cerrito offer rebates or refunds on a percentage of your home’s transfer tax if you complete a voluntary seismic retrofit of your residential property.
  • If you live in Berkeley or El Cerrito, the cities offer a transfer tax rebate if you retrofit your home within a year of buying it. You can also borrow money to strengthen your home without paying any upfront costs. Homeowners or contractors must file a Seismic Retrofit Verification & Refund Application (PDF) after the seismic work is completed.
  • Under California law (Revenue and Tax Code, Section 74.5), a homeowner can carry out seismic-strengthening measures without a property tax reassessment. To receive the exclusion, you must have the work approved by the local building department and file a claim form with your county tax assessor.
  • The USDA Section 504 Home Repair program helps homeowners who are very low income or are over the age of 62. They offer loans to repair, improve or modernize, and grants to remove health and safety hazards.
  • Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website for federal loan program information, community-based resources, and consumer advice.

The above is not an exhaustive list, so make sure you look into what your specific city or county may offer.

What Other Payment Options Do I Have for a Seismic Retrofit?

If you are not eligible for any of the above local programs, you still have some more traditional borrowing or loan options. You should weigh the pros and cons of each and decide what is right for your specific situation.

These options may include:

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  • You can take out a home improvement loan. Banks, credit unions, and lenders all offer home improvement loans. Make sure you shop around and find the loan that makes sense for your specific retrofit project and costs. This type of loan makes sense if you do not have a lot of equity in your home.
  • Look into a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). If you have a lot of equity in your home, you can use that equity to secure low-cost funds toward home improvement projects. This is often referred to as a “second mortgage.” You can pull from funds when needed and pay it off over time to free up more funds for later. Remember that you can shop around for the best lender rate.
  • Look into a Home Equity Loan. This is similar to a HELOC in that it is based on your equity in your home, but instead of a line of credit, you receive a lump sum and a permanent repayment schedule. These types of loans are typically only given to people with strong credit scores—and it is likely that if you have a higher score, you’ll be offered better interest rates (but you should still shop around).
  • You can refinance your home for a larger amount in order to earn some money back to pay for the retrofit. Contact your mortgage lender or bank for more information and remember that this option does include paying closing costs.
  • Take out a personal loan from your bank, credit union, or a lender. These types of loans typically have a payback schedule of a few years, which keeps payments affordable and lets you know when your debt will be repaid.
  • Contact your bank, credit union or credit card company and ask if they have any 0% APR credit card or loan offers. These are typically promotional and only stay low for a limited time. This option could work if you are sure you can pay off the costs before the promotional period is over—otherwise, you’d end up paying high interest costs.
  • Contact your bank, credit union or credit card company to see if they offer low- or no-interest payment plan options for this specific type of purchase, to allow you to pay back the retrofit over time.

More Resources: Retrofits and Preparedness

Visit our resources page to learn more about earthquake retrofitting, including how to make the inside of your home safer for you and your family, and steps you can take to be prepared before, during, and after an earthquake.

More Resources