Switching to solar is an exciting proposition for SoCal homeowners who can enjoy great savings, but that excitement is sometimes dampened by outsized concerns that selling a home with solar may be more challenging. If you want the savings offered by a clean energy alternative but are hesitating because you may sell your house, here’s what you need to know as it relates to the three methods of acquiring solar—cash, loan and lease.
Did You Purchase Your Solar in Cash?
Adding solar panels to your home when you have the cash to buy the system outright should offer nothing to worry about if selling your home is a possibility. You’ve simply increased the value of your home and the tradeoff for the buyer is that there will be no energy bill for the duration of the system’s lifecycle, barring increased usage. If there’s any difficulty selling a house with paid-off solar on its roof, you may need to consider a new realtor.
Of course there’s always the possibility that you run into a prodigiously finicky buyer who doesn’t fully understand the benefits of solar or trust in the system’s longevity—so what if he or she is making the only offer you’ve received on your home? In this case it helps to have a great warranty as a guarantee for the buyer. The current industry leader is SunPower, offering a 25-year guarantee on the entire system—product and power—fully covering labor, shipping and parts in the event its system underperforms. By contrast, most competitors offer just 10 years for breakage, and charge to ship and replace the panels.
Did You Get a Loan for Your Solar?
So maybe you don’t have the cash to buy your new solar energy system outright, but you’ve qualified for a $0-down loan and would like to move forward. Are you now in danger when selling your home? No, you still shouldn’t have any trouble since the home has increased its equity. What typically happens in this case is that the buyer’s home loan amount would reflect the solar’s value, and you as seller would pay off the remainder of the loan from the sale of your home.
Did You Lease Your System?
If you lease solar panels, you should expect a lower energy rate on a monthly basis—with the exception of getting pulled into a nonsensical lease that costs more than your electric bill did. Assuming you had the foresight to not sign up for a bad deal, at the the point you’d like to sell, there are two options.
Your first scenario is to exercise your lease-buyout option, which would mean you add the value of your solar panels to the sale of the home and then pay down the buyout amount. Secondly, you could have the home buyer assume the lease. Here again, so long as you worked with an honest company that saved you money on your energy bill, a prospective buyer should appreciate having a reduced cost of power.
SunPower offers two things that will help if you choose to sell your home and have leased panels. The biggest protection is that SunPower does not authorize its leases unless it can verify that the homeowner will get savings in Year 1—so you’re in no danger of being duped into a bad deal. If the buyer decides to assume your lease, SunPower has a team of finance specialists on hand to help ensure a smooth transition.
Biggest PitfallsWith good advice and an honest solar installer, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find yourself stuck with a home you’re unable to sell because of solar—especially if you’re not caught in a situation where you need to sell immediately. However, if you don’t do your homework and end up overpaying for your system or get pressured into predatory lease terms, you could wind up being one of the few cautionary tales.