Thanks to falling prices, buying and selling a home topped with solar panels is becoming more common every year. As the number of homes outfitted with solar panels increases, sales of homes with solar energy systems do too. That said, selling a home with solar panels can still be difficult. We made this short guide on what you should know about selling a home with a solar panels.
Even though adding solar panels to your home can significantly increase its value – a 2015 study found that an average solar energy system can add about $15,000 to a home’s value – many home buyers, appraisers, and real estate agents might not appreciate the many benefits of solar power. When selling your solar-powered home, you’ll be required to clarify and explain these benefits and advocate on behalf of your home. In this way, selling a house equipped with solar panels is not so different from selling any other home. The difference is that you’ll need to understand the intricacies of your system in a way that you may not have before.
You can start by advertising the financial benefits of your home solar system. If you still have old electric bills (you might be able to look them up online), use them as a source of data. Share what you were paying for electricity before installing your solar panels and what you pay for electricity now. You could share these price differences by either comparing two electric bills from the same month (for instance, a bill from the February before you installed solar panels and a bill from the February after you installed the panels), or you could provide a number based on the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour. If you’ve always lived in a solar-powered home, make a comparison between the average price for electricity in your area against the price you pay for electricity (adjusted to include the cost of the solar energy system).
You could also capitalize on the reputation of the solar installer who worked on your system. If your system was installed by a particularly renowned company, you might advertise that you worked with Such-and-such Inc., which has installed over 150,000 solar energy systems in five states.
If you’re selling your home through a realtor, try to work with one who has experience selling homes topped with solar panels. They’ll be better prepared to represent your home’s solar system to potential buyers, and you’ll probably need to spend less time helping your realtor understand why the various elements of your system are worth emphasizing.
Let your realtor (or, if you’re selling your home yourself, potential buyers) know exactly what elements your solar system is composed of and offer detailed information about each. For instance, if you have high-efficiency panels from LG Energy or SunPower, be sure to compare them against efficiency rates for standard panels. If you have a solar battery, include details about its make, model, and storage capacity.
Don’t forget to remind potential buyers of the environmental benefits of residential solar systems, too. An average rooftop solar setup can reduce a home’s carbon emissions by some 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. That’s a reduction of about 65 to 80 percent of your home’s carbon footprint.
Another important part of selling a home equipped with solar panels is to allay any fears home buyers might have regarding maintenance. Remind potential buyers that because solar panels contain no moving parts, they require little to no maintenance; the most that might be required is to remove leaves or snow. You should also advertise the details and duration of your panel warranty (which typically last 25 years) and service agreement (which usually lasts about 10 years).
Finally, talk to your realtor or potential buyers about financial incentives they might qualify for. Some financial incentives like the federal investment tax credit are only available for you at the time you install your system. But others offered at the state or local level could continue providing additional benefits to home buyers. If you’re in a state that offers solar renewable energy certificates, for instance, the home buyer could earn money from the energy they produce on an ongoing basis.
Leasing your solar panels presents additional challenges. In order to sell your home while under a solar lease, you’ll have to either buy the lease out or find a buyer willing to take it on. When seeking a buyer to assume the lease, you’ll need someone who is not only willing to take on the remainder of the lease, but also able to pass muster with the company that leased the panels. This typically means they’ll have to meet all the same conditions that you did when you signed the original lease, including an adequate credit score. If you’re having trouble finding a buyer interested in assuming the lease, you might be forced to buy it out or offer potential home buyers a proportional discount on the home. This could mean losing $10,000 or more.
Fortunately, as lease transfers have become more common, leasing companies have stepped up to ensure the process proceeds smoothly. Many now have dedicated teams of professionals ready to help you transfer the lease and evaluate potential buyers. In most cases, you, the leasing company, and the buyer will have to sign a new agreement. To make this process as painless as possible, talk to the third party owner of your solar system as soon as you begin seriously considering a move. That will give both of you time to figure out how you can best reconcile a new deal with the conditions of your original lease agreement.
The best course of action when selling a home with solar panels is to always be direct about the system’s benefits and challenges, if any. This will ensure that both you and the buyer enjoy a smooth and mutually satisfactory transaction.