By Scott Laskey
Are you in the market to buy a home?
If so, you might be wondering whether buying a home with solar panels is a smart idea, and what the decision will mean for your property value, ownership costs, and maintenance commitment down the road.
As solar power installation costs have decreased in recent years and the desirability of solar power has increased, more homes with solar panels have popped up across the country.
In fact, more than one million U.S. homes are currently equipped with solar panels.
So if you’re asking yourself, “Should I buy a house with solar panels?” here’s what you need to know.
“There are solar panels on a house I want to buy. Should I go for it?”
If you’re considering purchasing a new home, buying one with home solar panels is a great option.
In addition to the fact that purchasing a home with existing solar panels allows you to reap all the benefits of solar power without putting in the expense to install the panels yourself, panels may increase the value of the home when you go to sell it down the road.
There’s one catch though…
You’ve got to figure out whether the panels are leased or owned.
Here’s the difference:
Leased panels are panels that the homeowner doesn’t own. Instead, they’re out on a long-term lease from a solar installation company.
These leases typically last between 10-20 years. In some cases, it’s possible to buy the panels from the installation company or to roll their purchase into the home’s sale price. Both options can be pricey though.
Additionally, some solar panel lease agreements include increasing payments, which may make them an ongoing liability for you or future homeowners.
Here’s an example:
Consideration of the solar lease may raise your debt-to-income ratio, making it harder for you to get a home loan and qualify for a mortgage.
Owned solar panels are panels the homeowner has purchased outright. If you’re buying a house with owned solar panels, you’ll also own the panels once you sign the purchase agreement for the home. More likely than not, you won’t pay anything for the solar panels when you purchase the home.
If you’re buying a house with a solar loan, the seller of the home will be responsible for paying off any remaining solar power loan associated with the panels. You’ll also have the option of moving the solar panels from one house to another if you decide to sell this house in the future.
If you’re considering purchasing a home with a residential solar panel system, don’t forget to ask yourself these five questions:
Be practical about buying a home with leased panels. While you may be able to negotiate a purchase, it will likely come with a high price tag. Instead, look for homes with owned panels, that you’ll then own outright when you purchase the property.
There are dozens of different solar manufacturers out there, and it’s smart to pay attention to who made the panels on the home you’re considering. If the panels were made by a U.S. manufacturer, you’ll have access to some built-in protections designed to shield you from the effects of misleading warranty terms.
Just like solar manufacturers make a difference, so, too, does solar installation. Take a moment before you buy the home to consider who installed the panels.
Most companies will provide at least a ten-year warranty on their workmanship, so you may still be covered if any issues arise during your ownership.
Once you find out who installed the panels, research the installer’s warranty offering to see what you might be entitled to.
The size of the system has a significant impact on its functionality and your future energy savings. If you can, consider asking the seller how the system affects their energy bills and how much it has saved them over the course of the system’s lifespan.
Depending on where you are, your solar panels might be eligible for net metering, which will allow you to sell any excess electricity you produce back to the grid. This helps you save money (and even earn money) on your power system.
Buying a home with solar panels is a smart decision, just so long as the panels are owned rather than leased. In addition to saving you money on your energy bill, buying a home with solar panels will also boost your home’s value and make it more attractive for resale down the road.
If you’re curious to learn more about solar panels, or residential solar power on the home you’d like to buy, contact Sandbar Solar today. As the largest residential and commercial solar installer in Santa Cruz County, Sandbar Solar & Electric takes real pride in being locally owned for 13 years. You can count on our professional commitment to quality work, ethical solutions, community sponsorship and environmental stewardship.
We’re proud of our reputation for designing and installing the most efficient solar panels across the Central Coast. We invite you to review our online portfolio today. Our work areas include Santa Cruz and Monterey counties as well as San Jose and the Bay Area.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar & Electric. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
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