Buying or Selling a Home with Solar — Everything You Need to Know

Jenna Vasquez

Last Updated: January 25th, 2023

Whether you’re looking to buy a new place or putting yours on the market, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to switching homes. You want to make sure you’re getting the best deal and setting yourself up for future happiness, but buying or selling a home can be — and often is — overwhelming. 

In this article, we’re specifically going to address buying or selling a home with a solar system already installed. As solar gets more and more popular, more and more homes will already have panels on their roof when they go up for sale. 

While solar is generally a positive addition to a home, you’ll want to consider the following before confidently buying a home with solar already installed. And if you’re the seller, you’ll want to ensure you’ve covered all your bases and can successfully sell your home and solar system without issue.

In this article, we'll discuss each of the following areas when it comes to buying or selling a home with solar panels already installed:

Checklist for buying and selling a home with solar

Who owns the panels?

Buyers

Buying a home with solar panels already installed need not be a headache; however, you will want to first establish who owns the solar panels on the home you are considering.

If the current homeowner bought the panels outright, the price of the home likely already accounts for the value of the existing solar system.

However, if the current owner is still paying off a loan for the panels or is leasing the panels, there are a couple of additional factors to consider.

Loan

If the seller of the home has a loan on their solar panels, this will not be able to be directly transferred to the buyer. The seller will need to pay off the loan with the proceeds of the home, or essentially sell the remaining cost of the solar system to the buyer and use that money to pay off the remainder of the loan.

Lease transfer

Leases can be transferred if all parties involved agree to the transfer and are willing to cooperate throughout the process. This saves the seller from having to pay an early buyout fee, and allows the buyer to take over the lease and solar system without having to purchase the panels.

If one or both parties do not wish to transfer the lease, the seller will need to end the lease agreement (and most likely pay a fee for early termination) and have the panels removed from the home before the buyer moves in.

Sellers

If you are selling your home and own your solar system completely, you should simply factor in the price of the system in your overall listing price.

Talk to your real estate agent to determine what value your solar system should add to your home. A general rule of thumb is that the value of your home is increased by 4 percent, but this number can vary.

If you have a loan for your system you are still paying off, you’ll want to ensure you pay off the rest of that loan when you sell your home. You may also be able to reach an agreement with your buyer to have them purchase your panels.

If you are leasing the panels, it is possible to transfer that lease, but you will have to reach this agreement with the owner of the panels and with the buyer of your home.

Solar system maintenance

Buyers

Another factor to consider if you’re buying a home with solar panels already on the roof is that panels sometimes require maintenance or cleaning in order to perform most efficiently. 

If you live in a desert, a wooded area, or a highly polluted area, it’s a good idea to have solar panels inspected and cleaned by a professional at least yearly. For simpler maintenance, you can remove dust or debris yourself where feasible. 

If your panels are not functioning properly, the financial responsibility of the repair can fall on the homeowner, manufacturer, or installer depending on the nature of the problem. Solar panel maintenance is usually pretty easy and doesn’t require a lot of work, but it does add another element to being a homeowner that you want to make sure you’re ready for.

Sellers

Your best bet when selling your home with solar is to make sure the panels are in good working condition long before it’s time to sell the house. Where applicable, use your energy monitoring system or data from your installation company to confirm production.

Consider hiring a professional to come clean the panels before you put your house on the market, so that dirty panels don’t deter potential buyers from wanting the home.

Lifespan of solar panels

Buyers

Most solar panels have a lifespan of 25–30 years, and panels that are well-maintained can last up to 30 years.

As a potential buyer of a home with solar panels already installed, you’ll want to consider how much life the panels have left in them. If the solar system you’re looking to inherit is fairly new and has been well-maintained, you’ll be in good shape to enjoy the full remaining life of the panels.

However, if the panels look run down or are already 10–15 years old, you’ll want to keep in mind that they might need maintenance or replacing in the near future, which would be your responsibility if you purchase the home.

Additionally, make sure you know what the warranties are for the panels and inverters on the solar system. If the equipment or workmanship is still under warranty, you’ll want to make sure you know the ins and outs of how to take advantage of this warranty if needed.

Sellers

If your solar panels are less than 10–15 years old, you’re probably good to go in this category. If your panels are older, realize that potential buyers might worry about the risk of inheriting a system that’s going to need replacement soon, and consider adjusting the cost of the home accordingly if needed.

Another tip is to know the original date of install of your solar panels so you can quickly provide that information if requested.

Is the original solar company still in business?

Buyers

You’ll want to ask what brand of panels, inverter(s), and battery (if applicable) are used on the solar system you’re considering buying, so you know who to reach out to with questions or concerns.

One thing you might not think to consider when buying a home with a solar system is whether the company that installed the panels is still in business. Additionally, does that company still stand by the workmanship warranty that was in the original contract for the solar panels?

If the original company is not still in business or seems difficult to work with, you can find hope in the fact that other solar companies are often willing to provide services or maintenance to your panels — for a charge — even if they weren’t the ones that originally installed them.

Sellers

If you still have a good working relationship with the company that installed your solar system, be sure to share this information with whoever is buying your home. 

While it is ultimately up to the buyer to deal with any future issues with the solar panels on the home, it is good practice to provide detailed information and any relevant documentation or company contacts to the person or people who are buying your home (and solar system) from you.

Sun exposure

Buyers

Solar panels function best when they are exposed to plenty of sunlight. If the house you’re looking to buy has had solar panels installed for many years, you’ll want to make sure the panels are still unobstructed by trees that may have grown or other blockers. 

Also make note of which direction the panels are facing, as south-facing panels are the most effective. If for some reason the panels on the home you’re considering face a different direction, beware that the energy production may be lower and you might not save as much on utilities as you would like (unless the installer provides a legitimate reason for placing the panels facing a different direction.)

Sellers

When preparing to list your home for sale, ensure your solar panels are unobstructed by overgrown trees or other blockers that might compromise the energy production of the system.

Condition of roof itself

Buyers

As with many other aspects of a potential home, you’ll want to consider the condition of the roof on which the solar panels are installed. If the roof has leaks or is probably due for a replacement anyway, then in order to replace the roof, you’ll have to pay to have the solar panels removed and reinstalled on the new roof.

This can be a costly undertaking, so you’ll want to make sure you know the lifespan of the roof and panels, and consider the costs of roof replacement in your home purchase decision, if it will need to happen in the near future.

Sellers

If your roof is in good operating condition, then this shouldn’t be a concern. If it has holes or leaks, you’ll want to get those fixed before trying to sell the home, as these issues can deter potential buyers.

Energy and money savings

Buyers

Probably the ultimate question when it comes to solar is how much money it will save you, and if the benefits outweigh the costs. You’ll want to crunch some numbers on how the average monthly utility costs in the area where you’re buying a home compare to how much energy the solar system on your potential home is producing.

Another factor to consider is whether the rest of the home is energy efficient. A solar system may produce a lot of energy, but if some of the appliances are outdated or energy guzzlers, then you might not end up saving as much with solar as you were hoping. 

Overall, solar energy is usually a win for homeowners in the end since the less tangible benefits of living on green energy and helping the environment help offset some monetary costs associated with maintaining and owning a solar system. That being said, you need to make the decision that’s right for you when it comes to buying a home with solar already installed.

Sellers

Communicate with the potential buyer of your home about how much energy your solar system has been producing and what appliances, if any, are staying with the home. 

Also be prepared to discuss your past year’s worth of energy bills vs. your energy consumption vs. how much your panels are producing. All of this information will be relevant to someone who is considering taking over your solar system.

The bottom line

Buying a home with solar can often save you a lot of upfront work, but the suggestions in this guide can help you know if you’re getting a good deal for your situation. 

Selling a home with solar shouldn’t be too challenging as long as you do your part to ensure the system is in good working order and communicate clearly with the potential buyer about everything you know about your solar panel system.

If you end up opting to buy a home without solar panels, or are moving to a home where solar isn’t installed and still want to take advantage of the energy and cost savings that often accompany solar, check out the best solar companies in your area to get a solar quote.

Best of luck in your new, green-energy-powered home!

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