MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA—When Hurricane Florence hit the South Carolina coast in September, it marked the third major storm in three years to hit the area. South Carolina’s benchmark event remains Hurricane Hugo and its 135-140 mph winds that battered the coast, but with the power and frequency of hurricanes increasing, most people know that the next Category 4 hurricane will likely happen in the near future.
“It’s not a question of if, but when,” says local roofing company owner, Dan Bowden.
The public demand for Safe Home South Carolina, which provides grants for homeowners to make their properties more resistant against wind damage, has risen so much that the program was open for less than three days before closing for 2018 (it won’t open again until July 2019).
So what can homeowners do when they want cost-effective ways to protect their property from hurricanes?
Bowden says that there are steps such as hurricane shutters and the highest standard for roofing, FORTIFIED. The nonprofit scientific research organization Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety developed the FORTIFIED standard over a number of years with rigorous testing; producing a roof that can withstand hurricane-strength winds and prevents water intrusion.
What makes the FORTIFIED affordable is that some insurance companies want their customers to get it and will help pay for it through reduced premiums, because it reduces a company’s risk during a hurricane. MyStrongHome, a benefit corporation with a South Carolina office, has developed a model for offsetting the cost of FORTIFIED through partnerships with insurance companies, guaranteeing lower homeowner’s insurance and delivering better stronger roofs for a lower price than a conventional roof.
Eleanor Kitzman, MyStrongHome co-founder and a former South Carolina Commissioner of Insurance, wrote the legislation creating Safe Home and thinks it’s a beneficial program. However, Kitzman also knows it’s very limited not only in funding but also because the maximum grant is only $5,000, which is much less than the cost of a roof. She says the idea behind MyStrongHome is to leverage your future insurance savings to pay for the roof and protect against hurricanes.
“If you need a new roof, get the right roof,” Kitzman says. We can show you how to do it with fewer out-of-pocket expenses, so the right roof will better protect your family and earn you insurance discounts. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the table.”
Vera Ramirez and her husband, Tom, needed a new roof and contacted Bowden’s company, Compass Designs. The Myrtle Beach homeowners were interested in financing for the roof, and Bowden told them about MyStrongHome. Ramirez says what convinced her to do it was that MyStrongHome could arrange for lower insurance rates, effectively paying for a significant portion of the cost instead of paying for an entire conventional roof.
“I’m getting a better roof and the insurance reduction guarantees me saving $4000,” Ramirez says.
Bowden likes being able to offer his customers this financial solution, but he’s also impressed with MyStrongHome’s process. Before a roofer is paid for the roof installation, the work must be certified FORTIFIED by a third-party company. For Bowden, that certification is something missing for most homeowners, who want better protection against hurricanes.
“Most municipalities, including Horry County, do not require inspections for new roofs, so fraud and sloppy work can be fairly common,” Bowden says. “The FORTIFIED documentation is gold because it’s evidence-based that you have a roof that can withstand powerful storms.”