You don’t have to look very far to find information on solar panels. There are all types of products and low financing options that guarantee to save you money. The average home owner may see solar panels as a way to avoid the ever increasing price of energy. I am not here to tell you solar panels are or are not a good investment. As a Realtor, I am here to give you my professional, unbiased opinion on solar panels in the housing market and how they effect sellers.
How do solar panels work? Solar panels are typically sold on a long-term lease of 20 years with a monthly payment. In turn, the solar company will use the energy captured by the panels to eliminate your monthly energy bill from your existing energy company. If you sign up for a monthly lease of $150 and your typical energy bill is $200 a month, then you save $50/month or $600/year. Multiply that over the term of the lease and you just saved $12,000. Sounds great, right? Not so fast… Remember, you signed a 20 year lease. You are bound to the payments of the long-term contract and based on the example above that would be $36,000. What happens if you decide to move? What happens if technology advances and there are cheaper alternatives?
What happens if I want to sell my home and I have a long-term lease on the solar panels? If you do want to sell your home, the potential buyer will have to take over the solar panel lease in order to purchase it. OR the new owners could purchase the home without taking over the lease, leaving you responsible for the payments even after you moved out. At first glance, the monthly savings look great and the innovative technology is a must, but make sure you are familiar with the long term ramifications.
What could the future hold? Pretend it is the year 2024. You own a home and purchased solar panels 10 years ago. You are halfway through your lease. In that time, technology has advanced and we can capture the same amount of energy on one panel as you can with the 20 rusty panels currently on your roof. In addition, the cost in the solar panel market is a monthly payment of $40 a month. Now you want to sell your home. When you list your home, interested buyers are notified that the home is attached to a 20 year solar lease with 10 more years remaining. Why would the buyer take over a lease at $150 a month when they can get it at $40 a month? Why have 20 solar panels on their home when they could have one? Why spend more for old technology? These are all valid questions that will cause problems in your future sell.
Let’s say you don’t plan on selling in the next 20 years. My initial response would be: 20 years is a long time. Your plan today may not be your plan tomorrow. My second response would be: keep in mind you are leasing solar panels. Once your 20 years is up, you still won’t own them. But you have the option of forking up about $5,000 to buy them at their market value. Another extra expense…and to add insult to injury, any repairs that need to be done to the solar panels during your lease will be at your own expense. The hidden costs are everywhere.
Know the facts before you decide to lease or buy. Ask yourself one question. Is saving $50 a month worth the long term issues? You may save on the front end, but if you ever decide to move, it will likely cost you. In my professional opinion, if you want to go the solar panel route, purchase them or avoid them all together. Otherwise, your solar panel leasing agreement could be a disaster when it comes time to sell.
Feel free to contact me directly for some personal experiences with solar panels in the housing market.
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan, https://www.flickr.com/photos/