I think we all agree that renewable energy and conservation is critical to our planet, our pocketbooks and our health. That said, in the real estate world, there have been a lot of questions and concerns related to roof-installed solar panels. If you’re advising a buyer or seller client, please be sure to understand that there are many issues beyond what meets the eye in terms of cost savings and good environmental stewardship.
Leased solar panels bind the seller, and in some cases the future buyer to long range terms and conditions. Some contracts have been shown to be fair and balanced, but others have terms that are not at all acceptable to some new buyers. The contracts should be read in detail before signing!!
There can also be physical home advantages and disadvantages to a home with panels. Great savings or hardly any savings? Both outcomes have been reported.
There are also concerns from firefighters about battling blazes with homes with roof panels. There should be clear markings where the electrical system can be shut off – and some reports have shown water penetration on upper story fires is limited in the areas where the panels reside. There are also concerns by firefighters about the added weight and instability on the roof. For this reason and others, the panels should be noted when qualifying for homeowner’s insurance as well.
The caliber of the professional installing the panels makes a huge difference as well, including what technology is employed and the warranted provisions granted to the homeowner.
There are many benefits to professionally installed, well written contracts for the installation and use of solar panels, but REALTORS need to advise clients that they need to do some research first to fully understand their obligations. Some of the basic first questions a homeowner should ask several solar installation providers to supply are:
- How is the company rated, and are they reputable with a history of outstanding service before and after installation?
- Do you plan to install an owned or leased system?
- Is the roof positioned to catch the sun or is there enough space on the ground to accommodate the panels?
- What brand and type of equipment is provided? (and ratings of such equipment… some is good some not)
- Does the installer of the panels guarantee a range of the estimated annual production expected from the system?
- Will the panels be tied into the grid so you can “sell” unused power back to the utility?
- Who gets the tax incentives, the installer or the homeowner?
- What is the maintenance required (washing, snow removal, re-positioning?)
- What is the gross cost, including all equipment, electrical panel upgrades, installation, additional homeowners insurance if applicable and rental or initial payment?
- What is the warranty? Does it cover all parts and service or is it limited?
- Is there a schedule of replacement parts and costs that may be needed to keep the panels functional in the long run?
- Can other companies service the panels without voiding the warranty?
Clients should consult with their attorney for any contractual obligation they are proposing to assume. And of course, due diligence research and information on the insurability, safety and environmental and saving impact that the panels have is needed.