If you’ve ever received consultation regarding the purchase of residential real estate in recent years, the question of solar panels has most likely been brought up. There are 3 general scenarios when it comes to solar panels on residential homes:
1. New solar panels installed along with the building of a new house.
2. New solar panels installed on an existing house.
3. Purchasing a used home with existing solar panels.
In 1, the process is generally straight-forward. You can either pay for the panels in cash separately, or include it into the cost or loan of the house.
Including it with the house loan creates a greater sense of profit due to the fixed monthly loan payment (which would exist – albeit slightly less – regardless of whether or not you have solar panels) and the tangible benefits in utility costs and/or buyback stipends (feed-in tariffs etc).
This is essentially the best and in many cases, the only real incentive for many prospective customers, as solar panel profitablity is based largely on location, roof size/shape/angle/orientation, and the immediate surrounding topography.
If any of the above factors are less then optimal, depending on extent, the solar panels will often be unprofitable. This however, doesn’t include non-profit-related incentives such as cleaner electricity generation and self-sufficiency in times of blackout or emergency.
In 2, the solar panel sales rep will have a tougher sell due to the glaring statistics surrounding residential solar panels – the gist of which I outlined above – coupled with the uncushioned financial cost.
Prospective clients will generally have to be either wealthy, fairly environmentally conscious (or simply just against Big Oil), or convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the solar panels will be profitable.
And lastly, in 3, these solar panels would essentially be a freebie, unless the seller is willing to insure their continued shelflife (a certain level of expected power generation), and a smooth turnover of all documentation and rights related to any feed-in schemes.
In most countries, the solar panel guarantee is attached to the panels themselves, not the original owner. However, the paperwork involved with the turnover of solar panel ownership and all associated FITs (feed-in tariff), often makes this more troublesome than it’s worth.
By treating the solar panels as a freebie from the get-go, sellers may attempt to indemnify themselves against any future problems associated with them. This is often the case when official installation paperwork is missing, and/or when circumstances are such that it’s grey as to whether the guarantee will hold in event of a future claim.
In short, though existing solar panels may seem like a nice “freebie” to go along with your new home, you should find out as much as you can about them, and weigh everything in before making your decision to buy.
For more specifics on whether or not solar panels would be good for your particular situation, see my article PV Home solar panels – Are they worth it? Pt2.