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Selling a house with solar panels involves certain considerations, depending on where you live and whether you bought or leased your system. It’s also an opportunity to attract more buyers on the benefits of solar energy. There’s not only the positive environmental impacts to promote, but in hot, dry climates especially, renewable energy may offer huge savings on outrageous AC bills.
By recognizing that not every buyer will sign an offer based on your “go green” attitude alone, you can take care to position your home’s solar power as a selling point and mitigate hassles that create friction on the way to a closed deal.
Just follow these simple best practices we’ve rounded up from real estate experts who’ve sold lots of homes with solar panels, plus research from the country’s top solar associations and organizations.
More and more homes are running on sun
The residential solar market is holding strong. After President Biden temporarily eliminated solar tariffs in 2022, solar panel imports during the first quarter of 2023 increased by 87% from the year prior.
California remains the uncontested leader in solar with enough capacity to supply 8.5 million homes, followed by Texas with 1.1 million and North Carolina with 860,000.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost to install solar panels has dropped more than 50% over the last decade, and the market continues to diversify as more national and regional installers enter the picture. The 30% federal solar tax credit has also made solar panels more affordable for many Americans.
Even as the market broadens across the country, homeowners who’ve opted to install solar still have to contend with a few logistics when the time comes to sell their house, including what’s still owed on their system lease, the age of their panels, and making sure buyers understand the advantages of solar.
Do solar panels increase home value?
Solar panels can make a home more attractive to buyers because of the long-term cost savings.
“What my experience is, for a lot of our buyers, especially ones that are going to make this more than just a winter residence and a full-time residence here, is that having the solar can provide some predictability with energy costs,” says Dan Hamilton, a top-selling agent in Palm Desert, California.
Highlight the benefits of solar energy
When you’re selling a house with solar panels, you and your agent will want to hammer home the benefits of solar with potential buyers, including:
Think Americans are a bunch of gas-guzzlers? You’d be surprised how many buyers will appreciate your solar panels for the sake of sustainability. “A lot of people say they want to be green,” says Hamilton. “They want to be environmentally friendly.”
So there’s an opportunity for you and your agent to be educators. Tell buyers about how the sun delivers more energy to the earth in one hour than the global population uses in an entire year. Explain that since the sun has a predicted 5 billion years of life remaining, solar power is the ultimate renewable resource.
In a state like Connecticut, using solar energy for a year is the environmental equivalent of planting 150 trees. Going solar helps promote air purity (especially in environmentally compromised urban areas) and has the potential to greatly reduce instances of respiratory and cardiovascular health issues.
Lower electric bills
Solar panels can reduce your monthly energy bills and prevent you from being at the mercy of your local electricity suppliers.
“Edison (the primary supplier for Southern California) has been increasing rates fairly rapidly, so it provides some protection against those rate increases,” says Hamilton. “We have about four months of the year where it’s over a hundred degrees. If you’re in a 2,500 square foot home, you can easily have $600-$650 a month electrical bills if you don’t have solar. With the solar system, that costs maybe $250-$300 a month.”
And the savings aren’t limited to sunny states. In Massachusetts, solar users enjoy an average 25-year savings of $95,292 despite the state’s long winters and coastal weather.
So put the potential savings into real numbers for buyers, especially if they express concerns over inheriting your monthly $50-$250 solar panel lease. Source data from your old electric bills (check your online utility account if you don’t have them handy). That way, you can work real numbers into your marketing materials by comparing data from before and after the installation of your solar panels.
To control for weather variances, use numbers from the same month, if possible. For example, compare data from the April before you installed your solar panels with data from the April after the installation took place.
Extra financial incentives
Net metering is a policy in most states that allows solar panel users to swap unused solar energy for credit toward their traditional electric bill. Since solar energy doesn’t 100% replace electricity in the home, this is a great way to keep electric bills even lower, since you may be eligible to receive discounts and utility credit based on the amount of unused solar energy your panels were able to generate.
Promote the reputation of your solar installer
If you had your solar panels installed by a reputable company in the area with a recognizable consumer brand, highlight that in your marketing materials. This will allay any concerns buyers might have about the quality of your solar panel installation.
According to Forbes, the top solar panel installers nationally include:
- ADT Solar (previously Sunpro Solar)
- Blue Raven Solar
- Green Home Systems
- Elevation Solar
- Momentum Solar
- Palmetto Solar
- Trinity Solar
Help reduce buyer concerns over maintenance
Solar panels aren’t like pools or elaborate gardens, which require constant tending to, so make sure buyers don’t view them as an extra maintenance hassle.
“There’s no moving parts; they’re easy to maintain,” says Hamilton. “All you need to do is have someone clean them every two to three months, keep them so they’re clear and can access the sun, and there’s not a lot of maintenance to them. Maintenance is really a non-issue.”
DIY-minded solar owners can give their panels the occasional scrub with water and a coarse cloth to rid them of any dirt and debris. Otherwise, any reputable solar installer should be able to handle regular cleaning of your solar panels.
Buyout your lease if you can
If you do lease your panels, you’ll need to do one of the following:
1. Buy your lease out
If you’re in a position to do so, buying out the remainder of your lease prior to the sale of your home is the most straightforward way to handle the situation if you’ve got a set of rented panels on your roof.
The bad news is that with the typical cost of solar system installation averaging around $20,000, you could be on the hook to shore up a good chunk of change, depending on how far along you are in the lease payments.
2. Transfer the lease
Can’t afford to pay off your solar lease? It is possible to transfer the lease over the buyers, but it creates a few complications. The buyers will need to meet the solar company’s minimum credit standards to qualify for the lease, and some buyers won’t want to tack on that extra monthly expense to their overall housing costs.
Depending on your market and how in-demand solar panels are, it could take longer to sell your home, and you might have to reduce your list price to find a buyer willing to take on the lease.
Work with an agent who has experience selling a house with solar panels
An agent who’s sold homes with solar panels will know how to address your solar system in the MLS remarks, make all the proper disclosures about the lease (if you have one), and ensure you’re released of liability from the panels after closing. Plus, they’ll have experience talking to buyers about the benefits of solar and promoting solar in your marketing plan.
“I always want to use sign riders in front of my listings, and in all of my marketing materials talk about the solar,” says Hamilton. “I get the necessary information from my seller, so I can speak intelligently to the buyer about the solar.”
As far as how you can help your agent?
“You need to get a copy of your solar agreement for your agent,” Hamilton adds. “If buyers ask about the solar panels, I need to know the terms of the contract.”
Capitalize on solar energy to boost your home sale
Selling a house with solar panels offers a unique selling proposition for potential buyers. By highlighting the benefits of solar energy, showcasing the credentials of your solar installer, and addressing buyer concerns about maintenance, you can set your property apart from the competition.
By working with an experienced real estate agent who is familiar with selling homes with solar panels, you can effectively market your property and find the right buyer for your home.
FAQs about selling a house with solar panels
Solar panels can increase the value of your home, especially in areas where energy costs are high and where solar energy is popular. The exact increase in value depends on factors like the quality and capacity of your solar panels, and the local real estate market.
Highlight the benefits of solar energy in your listing and promotional materials, such as reduced energy bills, environmental impact, and potential tax incentives. Make sure to work with a real estate agent experienced in selling homes with solar panels.
If you have a solar panel lease, you can either buy out the lease before selling your home or transfer the lease to the new homeowner. Discuss the options with your leasing company and real estate agent to determine the best approach for your situation.
Provide documentation of maintenance records, warranties, and any information from the solar panel manufacturer or installer. This will help assure buyers that the solar panels are well-maintained and protected against defects.
Selling a home with solar panels can be more complex than a typical home sale, especially if there’s a lease involved. However, working with a knowledgeable real estate agent and addressing potential buyer concerns can help make the process smoother.
Header Image Source: (Diyana Dimitrova/ Shutterstock)
- "Solar explained," U.S. Energy Information Administration (February 2022)
- "How Much Do Solar Panels Save on Average Electricity Bills?," EcoFlow (March 2023)
- "US solar panel imports jumped 87% in Q1 2023, hit new high after Biden's relief," S&P Global (May 2023)
- "These 10 States Are Leading Solar Energy Installation in 2023 These 10 States Are Leading Solar Energy Installation in 2023," EcoWatch (June 2023)
- "Federal solar tax credit in 2023: complete guide," EnergySage (March 2023)