Solar power leases may have pitfalls. We’re seeing more and more solar panel popping up on home these days and with them come issue when trying to resell one’s home. Studies have suggested that the addition of solar panels on a home can boost a home’s value. But sometimes those solar panels can sabotage a deal when it comes time to sell.
Selling Green Homes
More companies are offering home owners a contract to lease solar panels where they pay no upfront costs for the installation and could start saving on their electricity bills right away. But some home owners who sign onto these deals are finding some snags when they go to sell.
Many potential buyers are leery of taking on the leasing payment contracts for the next 15 to 17 years because they often have to qualify on credit from the solar companies themselves, in addition to the mortgage. Also, some buyers are hesitant to sign a contract because they’re concerned the solar equipment will become obsolete or won’t amount to a big savings in the end after paying the leasing fee.
We asked Solar city over to our home in Belmont for an estimate. Of course the carrot is free installation, but the savings is minimal. Since they are leasing you the equipment, they take an override on the energy their panels on your roof produce–and they sell that energy to you at a reduced rate–but it’s not anywhere close to free, as if you owned the equipment.
But we’re seeing issues trying to re-sell home with leased solar panels. Some home buyers are refusing to buy the house unless the seller buys out of the remaining lease payment stream — which could be $15,000 or more. If you’re going to eventually buy-out the contract anyway, it’s a far better idea to but it up front and enjoy 100% of the energy dollar savings.
In Fresno, Calif., a couple trying to sell their house told The Los Angeles Times that it attracted multiple offers but two sets of buyers backed out of the contracts due to the leased solar panels on their roof. The buyers felt the long-term cost of the lease agreement was too high or they were concerned about the credit qualifications they had to meet in order to take over the lease. Ultimately, the couple selling the home had to pay $22,000 to break the lease with the solar company so that they could sell the house.
With the rising popularity of solar, we already have seen several disputes arise over solar panel leases, and we expect the problem will get nothing but more frequent.
Residential solar installations are rising dramatically — up by 50 percent per year since 2012, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Before you sign on the dotted line for a solar lease, check with your accountant for tax consequences if you purchase the system, you might qualify for a tax incentive write-off. A simple home equity line of credit may be all you need to qualify to own 100% of the power your home generates.
Source: “Leased Solar Panels Can Complicate – or Kill – a Home Sale,” The Los Angeles Times (March 22, 2015)