• With the influx of solar energy installations over the past 5 years, there are now hundreds of homes being bought and sold with solar power already on them.  While we know that solar renewable energy can potentially add thousands of dollars of value to the home, the question of system value, and whether it is functional, is unique to every solar home buying situation.  That's why there are a few precautions and steps you should take if you're buying a home with solar on it to make sure you aren't left with a defunct or unpaid system.  

  • 1. Find Out if The System is Owned or Leased

    The first and most important thing buyers should find out before buying a solar house is if the solar system is owned, or leased.  Due to the period of time most leases demand (20 years or so), often leases aren't paid off when the homeowner is selling.  While it's easy for buyers to get scared off by a house with leased solar panels, (approximately 20 percent are), it is possible to transfer an existing lease to the buyer.  
    If the system is owned and paid off, then the buyer is good to go after getting an in depth valuation.  If the system is not paid off, the value added to the price of the home, (after valuating the system) will allow the seller to pay it off after the sale.


  • 2. If there is a Lease attached, review the Lease with a Professional

    If the system is leased, it is highly suggested that you ask to take a look at the leasing contract before agreeing to take on the lease and move buy the house. The best way to review the lease is either with a lawyer, or the cheaper option, with a solar professional who knows what to look for. If you don't like what you see, the selling homeowner may be willing to compensate you for the liability, or payoff the lease before they sell the house, but otherwise, it may not be worth taking on the added expense.  If you decide to take on the lease, you should make sure the amount owed on it is taken into account when pricing the home. 

  • 3. Get the System Inspected

    Whether you're buying a paid -for system or picking up a lease, you should get it inspected before you buy the house to determine its functionality.  In your own interest, you should also look into hiring an independent company, not one that the homeowner hires, and not the company that owns the lease or installed the panels in order to make sure you're getting a 3rd, objective inspection.  You should make sure the chosen company is doing an in-depth inspection of all parts of the system including:
    • Main interconnection breaker
    • All connections between Main Service and inverter
    • All connections between Solar panels and inverter
    • Inverter
    • Systems compliance with Current building and fire code
    • All wire nuts with Heavy duty equivalent
    • Monitoring equipment
    • Racking / Supports
  • 4. Have the system valuated by the third party company

    After the inspection is done by third-party, you should also have them do an objective and comprehensive valuation of the system. There are many factors that need to be taken into account, including:

    • System Performance
    • Panel Brand
    • Panel Age
    • Inverter Types
    • Monitoring Software / hardware
    • System performance
    • Warranty

    After reviewing all these options, the third-party solar company should be able to provide you with an accurate valuation of how much you should pay for the system.  You will need to get all the details of every aspect of the system before committing to a number.

  • 5. Have your Realtor and Solar Company work together

    Through the entire process, you should have your realtor work with your solar company to ensure you know what you're getting.  Roof leaks, water damage, etc. can happen from a poorly installed solar panel system so anything that could have been damaged in the past due to such things should be inspected and taken into account.  Most solar installers either work with a roofer or do roofing themselves so this should be something that the realtor and solar company should work out together.  Electrical connections, permits, and every other detail involving the system should be verified OK with both the realtor and the solar company before moving forward. 

    It's extremely important to follow these steps in order to ensure that you're not overpaying for a house with solar panels. Any misstep in this process could leave you with a defunct system you paid too much for or stuck in a lease that saves you no money and permanently affects your credit. The only way to really make sure you are getting a fair deal is to work with an independent solar company throughout the process. They can protect you and your money.

    If you are buying a house with solar energy and need help, we're here for you. We can consult with you on buying a lease, do a full inspection of your system, and work with your real estate agent to make sure you're getting the best deal for the solar panel system. We have been helping solar power home buyers in Southern California for the last 20 years. Call us today.
  • About the Author

    Michael Powers


    Michael is one of the founding partners of Stellar Solar. In 2001, he helped launch The Home Depot’s national solar energy program which is now offering home solar through hundreds of stores in nearly a dozen states. He is a writer and marketing professional with over 30 years’ experience in the fields of energy, market intelligence and leadership training. He currently serves as treasurer and board member of Global Energy Network Institute (GENI), a San Diego-based non-governmental organization that advocates linking renewable energy resources around the world using electricity transmission.