Preferred Contractor Spotlight: Turf Exchange & Solar Universe
Founded in 2009, sister companies Turf Exchange and Solar Universe are providing smart energy efficient upgrades for customers that effectively meet the changing needs of California home and business owners, especially in the areas of energy and water conservation. Serving customers across Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties, Turf Exchange provides superior artificial turf installation for residential and commercial customers; Solar Universe sells, designs, and installs top-quality residential solar solutions. The companies also offer smart home products, including Nest thermostats and variable speed pool pumps. CaliforniaFIRST PACE financing has been essential to both companies' efforts. As part of an ongoing series featuring our CaliforniaFIRST contractors, we spoke with Turf Exchange and Solar Universe's CEO Mitch Katz to talk about the plans for growth for both companies and how their partnership with CaliforniaFIRST has helped fuel the expansion.
Tell us about your financing partnership with CaliforniaFIRST.
Working with CaliforniaFIRST has been fantastic. The Regional Sales Managers are fantastic. They come to my office any time for trainings and to ensure that any questions that we have or our customers have are handled quickly. They do ride-alongs with my sales team to our clients' home. The program is very, very supportive.
What do your customers like about CaliforniaFIRST financing?
Our customers instantly seem to value the PACE financing concept with CaliforniaFIRST for artificial turf and solar. They love the fact that they don't have to put any money down, they get 100% financing, and the criteria is not based on their FICO score. This is their holy grail! Many of our customers are able to finance much more through CaliforniaFIRST than they could through conventional financing or leasing. We used to only offer leases for solar; now, we have completely dropped leasing and offer CaliforniaFIRST financing.
Do you and your customers find the CaliforniaFIRST program easy to use?
When I'm sitting with a customer, I put their address in the system, and it tells me right away if their property is eligible. I make a phone call to CaliforniaFIRST on the spot, and within minutes I know if the customer is approved. I can sign the customer right in their living room.
Tell us about a customer who was helped by the financing program.
I had a customer that was interested in an artificial turf upgrade. We showed him artificial turf samples. The upgrade was a $10,000 job, and he qualified for $50,000 financing with CaliforniaFIRST. He decided on the spot that he wanted to do solar for another $30,000, and then another $10,000 worth of HVAC upgrades for a new air conditioner. Every one of these upgrades was wrapped into the CaliforniaFIRST financing. Now, he has no power bill, no water bill, and a better air conditioning system. The net impact of the upgrades only adds $291 a month on his property taxes.
What does the future hold for Turf Exchange and Solar Universe?
I'm very excited about the future of energy efficiency with CaliforniaFIRST--I'd like 85-90% of my business to be financed through the program.