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  • Writer's pictureKevin Peterson

Solar Panels - What Happens When You Want To Sell?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

If you're considering installing solar panels on your home, one of the options you may come across is leasing solar panels instead of purchasing them outright. While leasing solar panels can be a great way to go solar without a large upfront investment, many homeowners wonder how leasing solar panels can impact selling their home in the future. In this post, we'll explore some of the key considerations to keep in mind when selling a home with leased or financed solar panels.


Solar Panels Can Add Value To Your Home's Sales Price

First, it's important to understand that solar panels can be a significant selling point for a home. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), homes with solar panels tend to sell faster and for a higher price than those without. In fact, the report found that homes with solar panels sold for an average of $15,000 more than comparable homes without solar panels.


So, what happens when you have leased solar panels and want to sell your home? The good news is that leased solar panels can actually be a selling point for your home as well. By leasing solar panels, you're essentially providing the buyer with an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without having to pay for the equipment and installation themselves. In many cases, the buyer may be able to take over the lease and start enjoying the benefits of solar energy immediately.


Challenges of Leased Solar Energy Systems

That being said, it's important to keep in mind that leasing solar panels can also create some challenges when selling your home. For one, the lease agreement may require the buyer to pass a credit check or meet other eligibility requirements in order to take over the lease. This could limit the pool of potential buyers and make it harder to sell your home quickly.


Additionally, the terms of the lease agreement may impact the value of your home. If the lease agreement includes a fixed monthly payment, for example, the buyer may be hesitant to take on the lease if they think the payment is too high. On the other hand, if the lease agreement includes a variable payment based on energy production, the buyer may be hesitant to take on the lease if they think they won't be able to produce enough energy to cover the cost.


To avoid some of these potential challenges, there are two options:



Transfer to the home buyer

Transfer your solar lease to eliminate extra costs when selling

Transferring your solar lease gets you off the hook for any payments owed in the remaining duration of the lease. The process of transferring the lease is fairly straightforward, but does require a reasonable amount of coordination between all parties involved in the transaction: you, your real estate agent, the solar company, the buyer, the buyer’s real estate agent, and even the buyer’s mortgage lender.


Pros:


  • No upfront cost to buy the panels; you can invest saved money in other value-adding improvements to increase your home’s marketability like painting and staging

  • No early buy-out fee

Cons:


  • Complicates the selling process; necessitates more discussion between the seller and buyers

  • May turn off buyers uninterested in taking on lease

  • Limits your offer pool to buyers who are able to qualify for the solar lease in addition to a mortgage

  • Extends closing period until the new buyer is approved to take on the solar lease

  • Potential lease transfer fee

Follow these steps to transfer your solar lease to the new buyer:


  1. Notify your solar company that you are selling your home. Most companies will connect you with a service transfer specialist who will provide you with information on transferring the lease.

  2. Connect your agent to your solar service transfer specialist. The solar representative will provide them with a copy of your solar agreement and supply information on the leased solar panels so your agent can effectively market your home and communicate solar benefits to interested buyers

  3. When you’ve found an interested buyer, provide them with a copy of your solar agreement and give them your solar service transfer specialist’s contact details in case they want to discuss the details of the lease.

  4. The buyer will need to bring the solar agreement to their mortgage lender when they apply for their home loan. The lender will review the agreement and check that it contains a transferable warranty. Basically, the lender needs assurance that the buyer is not responsible for costly repairs to the solar panels which could disrupt their ability to pay their mortgage.

  5. Once the buyer receives the green light on their home loan, reach out to your solar lease transfer representative and request they send the service transfer form to you and the buyer. You’ll both fill out and sign the form—a process you can usually take care of digitally via editable PDFs or online forms.

  6. The solar company will run a credit check on the buyer as they will be responsible for making the payments. Most solar companies require a credit score of 680 or higher though some may allow for lower scores in exchange for a higher interest rate on the lease.

  7. The solar company will send you and the buyer a document confirming the buyer is approved as the new tenant under the solar lease. The approval window can take as little as 2-3 days, depending on the solar company.

  8. Lastly, you need to inform your solar transfer specialist when the home escrow closes to finalize the transfer.

Complete all of these transfer steps before you finalize your home sale to ensure the buyer is officially responsible for the solar lease payments.



Buy out your solar lease to add value to your home

Some solar lease contracts include an early buy-out option, allowing you to buy-out the remainder of the lease and own the solar panels outright. When you own the solar panels, you remove the solar lease from the home sale equation and boost your home’s market value.


To decide if buying-out the panels is a practical option for you, compare the purchase offer to the estimated value owned solar panels add to homes in your market. For instance, if the buy-out offer is $6,000 and the solar panels are likely to add $8,000 to your listing price, it might be worth purchasing the panels for a more straightforward selling process.


Consult your real estate agent to assess how much value owned panels would add to your home to help you make the decision.


Pros:

  • Selling and negotiation is straightforward without the complication of an attached solar lease

  • Potentially sell your home for more with owned solar panels, using the extra profit to cover your buy-out costs

  • Widen the scope of qualified buyers; buyers can apply for any mortgage with a broader range of lenders without the complications of qualifying for a solar lease

  • No extra paperwork for transferring a solar lease

  • Reduced time to close home sale (it can take two weeks for your solar company to approve lease transfer)

Cons:

  • Buying the solar panels is a hefty upfront cost to pay before your home sells

  • There may be large penalties for early buy-outs (we’re talking thousands of dollars)

  • You can lose money if the penalty fee outweighs the solar’s return on investment in the home sale

  • You’re purchasing older solar panels which may not be as efficient as newer designs, reducing their value to prospective buyers


Solar Panel Loans

Now let’s say you opted not to lease your panels, but you’re paying for them over time with a loan. When solar installers provide a loan, they often put a lien on a homeowner’s title that’s removed when the loan is paid off.


In order to sell your property, for buyers who are coming in with a mortgage, you’ll likely be required to pay off that loan at or prior to closing. Mortgage companies want to make sure that new homeowners aren’t taking on additional responsibilities. You as the seller may be able to pay off the finance with the proceeds of the sale (and in most cases the increased value of the home will more than cover the finance loan) or another possible option may be to transfer the loan finance to the new owner.


In conclusion, when you lease or finance your solar system, there can be challenges to selling your home. With a little bit of planning and preparation beforehand, you can sell your home with either leased or financed solar panels with confidence.



BONUS - for the latest tax rebate and incentives when it comes to obtaining solar, check out the following websites to save money...

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