Tips for Home Purchases or Sales Involving Solar Panels

As the number of homes with solar panels installed on or around them continues to increase with each passing year, more and more people are running into a common situation: They're either looking to buy or sell a home that has solar panels. If you're on either side of this coin, which elements should you be closely considering as you move forward?

At Intermountain Wind & Solar, we're here to help with a huge variety of residential solar power and related needs, from initial installations and tax incentives through increasingly common situations where our clients are considering purchasing or selling a home that has solar panels installed. Here are some important themes to keep in mind as you're navigating either side of this situation.

System Ownership Type

First and foremost, it's vital to be cognizant of the kind of ownership of the solar panel system that's present on a given home, and how this impacts a potential sale. There are a few different formats under which solar panels are typically acquired:

  • Purchase: For those who have enough available cash or home equity, it's possible to outright purchase a solar panel system. These homeowners will own the equipment and will receive all of the tax breaks and other benefits that come with it.
  • Lease: More common than an outright purchase is a lease agreement, in which a third-party company owns the panels and the homeowner pays a monthly fee to use them. These leases typically last 20 years, and at the end of the term, the homeowner has the option to purchase the system, renew the lease, or have the panels removed.
  • Loan: In other situations, systems will be financed through a loan, which is then paid back over time with interest.
  • PPA: In a power purchase agreement (PPA), the solar company installs panels at no cost to the homeowner and sells the resulting electricity to the homeowner at a rate that's lower than the standard utility rate.

It's important to be aware of which of these scenarios is in play, as it can have a big impact on the final value of the home. For instance, if you're selling a home with leased solar panels, the new owner will likely be taking on that lease agreement and will need to factor that into their budget.

On the other hand, if you're looking to purchase a home with solar panels, you'll want to be clear on whether the system is owned outright or if there's a lease agreement in place. In the latter case, you may be taking on an existing monthly fee, but you could also have the option to purchase the system at a later date.

Valuing a Solar Panel System

Especially important if you're buying or selling a home where the solar panel system was purchased outright (or where a prior loan has been paid off entirely, meaning the system now belongs to the homeowner) is understanding how to value the system. In some cases, the system may be considered personal property and will be included in the sale price of the home as part of the negotiation between buyer and seller.

In other circumstances, however, it may make more sense to value the system separately from the home itself. This is more likely to be the case if the system is leased, as the new homeowner will likely be taking on that lease agreement regardless of whether they purchase the home or not.

If you're working with a real estate agent, they should be able to help you determine which route makes the most sense in your particular situation.

Buyer Tips for Homes With Solar Panels

Here are some other general tips we offer to buyers who are evaluating homes that have existing solar panel systems:

  • Get as much info as possible: Through your agent and/or a home inspector, try to get as much information about the system as possible, including when it was installed, how big it is, what kind of warranty is in place, etc.
  • Factor in future needs: If you're planning on making any changes or additions to the home down the line (a new roof, an addition, etc.), keep in mind that the solar panel system will need to be taken into account.
  • Ensure accurate appraisal: Make sure that the solar panel system is properly accounted for in any appraisals that are conducted as part of the home-buying process.

Seller Tips for Homes With Solar Panels

If you're selling a home with solar panels, on the other hand, here are some concepts to keep in mind:

  • Ensure quality documentation: Have all of the documentation for the system readily available, including purchase receipts, installation paperwork, warranty info, etc.
  • Understand your local market: Talk to your real estate agent to get a better understanding of how solar panel systems are typically valued in your area.
  • Watch out for scams: Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous individuals out there who will try to take advantage of solar panel owners. If you're approached by someone offering to buy your system for less than it's worth, be very wary.
  • Ensure accurate appraisal: The seller also needs to make sure that the system is properly accounted for in any appraisals, as these can have a big impact on the ultimate sale price of the home.

For more on how to navigate a home sale or home purchase situation where solar panels are involved, or to learn about any of our solar power solutions, speak to the team at Intermountain Wind & Solar today.

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