Everything You Need to Know about Buying Your First House with Solar Panels

Buying a home with solar panels might seems like a fool-proof way to dive headfirst into sustainable homeownership. But when it comes to buying your first home with solar panels, it's a little bit like buying a home with a pool. You need to weigh all the pros and cons for both the long-term and the short term. So, what should you consider before taking that plunge? 

Are they owned or leased? 

This is one of the most important things you can ask about your potential new home. Solar panels can be expensive, costing up to $20,000 in some cases, so many solar companies offer a lease option. This can be great for the initial buyer since they get the benefits of the panels without having to take out a HELOC or personal loan, but it can be a burden as a buyer. That's because you'll likely be asked to take over the lease for the solar panels. This means additional vetting from another lending as well as additional debt. So, what should you consider before taking that plunge? 

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Did you read the lease?

You should never sign a legal document without reading it or asking a lawyer to read it for you. A solar panel lease is no exception. Be sure you understand what your financial obligations are and who is responsible for the repairs if anything happens to the panels. 

How much energy will you save in your first home?

Your geographic location, the quality of the panels, and where they're installed can all play a major role in how much energy you actually save using them. Don't be afraid to ask the current owners if you can see a copy of their energy bill. While you're looking at it, be sure to ask them about their habits. A single person who travels often is naturally going to spend less energy than a family of four with a stay-at-home parent. 

Where are on the house are they located on the house?

For you, solar panels on the front of your home are a proud declaration of your commitment to sustainability. But when you're ready to sell the house, you might not be able to find a buyer who feels the same way. To some people, solar panels are an eyesore. Unfortunately, you can't always dictate where on the house the panels are installed, the sun is where the sun is. But if it's possible, look for homes that have the panels installed on the backside of the house. This will help increase curb appeal if you decide to sell your home. 

Can you negotiate? 

When you're buying a home, everything is negotiable. If you're not interested in taking over the lease, be sure to ask the sellers if they'll lower the sale price of the home enough to allow you to buy the panels outright. You can also ask the owners to take the panels down altogether if you're not interested in having them at all. If you choose to have them removed, be sure to get the roof inspected after to be sure there wasn't any damage in the removal process. 

Remember, the seller isn't the only one you can negotiate with. Talk to the solar company and see if you can get a reduced price on the rest of the lease, a better interest rate, or a shorter term.