Solar’s rapidly growing in popularity as the prices of material and installation continue decreasing to make solar more affordable. As a result, many homeowners are excited about the energy savings and the idea of going green to help the environment. But you may not be familiar with the pros and cons of buying a house with leased solar panels. And while it’s generally an easy transfer process, there are some things you should know before making your final decision.
Options When Buying a House With Leased Solar Panels
Many homeowners who decide to go solar are intrigued by the zero out of pocket cost associated with leasing panels.
Essentially, you can get your home completely solarized with no money down as long as you agree to lease the panels for a certain period of time. This time can range from 10-20 years on average and it’s a great deal.
However, some homeowners are having problems when it comes to selling. And on the other side of the fence, buyers are having problems buying the homes.
For the buyer, purchasing a home with leased panels can present several hurdles.
For one, you may have to get approved by the solar company to take over the lease. And if you don’t have the credit score, this can mean you don’t get approved.
However, for anyone applying to purchase a home, the credit requirements for buying a home are more stringent than what's required to get approved for solar. So you’re most likely a shoe in for the solar.
Finally, you will want to research whether or not your solar lease will go on your debt-to-income ratio.
Companies like SunPower, who offer a manufacturer direct lease, don’t go against your ratio. However, each solar company will handle this differently so make sure to do your research before leasing.
That’s not meant to scare you but make you aware. In reality, most transfers are seamless and don’t present any problems. And it's usually not very much money for the lease payments so most people find its an easy decision.
Usually the hold up with transferring leases comes from the time it takes for your title company to communicate with your solar provider. There's a UCC lien filing that must be lifted in order to transfer the title, so we recommend working closely with your realtor and title company when solar’s involved.
With that said, there’s also several benefits to taking over the lease and things you can do if you’re adamantly against taking it over.
If you’re taking over the lease, you’re stepping into a home that’s already solar so you don’t have to deal with the installation and construction process.
Your homes already decked out and ready to go. You will want to ensure the solar panels can support the energy usage of the new family which can be verified by asking the current homeowners for past energy bills.
If their bills low, you’re good to go. But if its high, this means the current owners are either using tons of energy or the system may not be large enough to support the utilities of the home. Either way, you can work this into your budget.
If You're Against Buying a Home With Leased Solar Panels, You Have Options
If you decide that you're not willing or able to take over the lease, there’s a few things you can do. For one, you can ask the seller if he/she is willing to purchase the system by paying off the remainder of the lease.
With this option, you won’t have to apply for credit approval or worry about lease payments but it may increase the asking price since an owned solar panel system does add between $15,000 and $25,000 to a home's value on average.
Alternatively, you could ask the homeowner if they would be willing to take the panels with them. They would need to pay to have the panels removed and installed in their next home which may be too much of a hassle for them to entertain.
However, if they agree, you’ll likely have to split the difference and pay to have the roof patched up after the panels are off.
Tips when buying a home with leased solar panels
Check the details of the contract: before buying, ensure you understand the details of the lease agreement. This includes the length of time and payments.
Who makes the panels: If the panels are made in the U.S., you’re covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which was created to protect you from manufacturers using warranties in a misleading manner.
Find out who installed the system: Some companies provide warranties on the installation work which you may still be covered under.
Can you sell your extra power (Net-metering): Check to see if your area allows net metering. If so, you can sell unused power from your home back to the grid to get some of your investment back.
No matter what you choose, going solar is a great choice for anyone who wants to save money on their monthly power bills. But before buying a home with leased solar panels, make sure you understand the risks and benefits as well as the contract you’re entering. If you do this, you’ll be in great shape with your new home.