SUN-Packing: What Happens To My Solar System If I Move?

A person in the United States is expected to relocate 11.4 times in their lifetime. So as millions of American homeowners consider going solar, one of the top questions is always: what happens to my solar system if I move? Fortunately, there’s no need to find a suitcase big enough to transport those dazzling (but difficult to bubble-wrap) solar panels – although you may find it hard to say goodbye to them. Here’s what to expect if you must move away from your solar home:

Teachable Moments With Your Realtor

Studies have shown that solar can have a positive impact on home value. Still, real estate agents, appraisers and lenders are, for the most part, playing catch up with this relatively “new” technology, according to The New York Times. So get ready to coach your listing agent on the value of solar power, especially here in the Northeast. Just like any other energy-saving feature in your home, your solar system should be viewed as an asset when deciding how to price your property for sale. Once you’ve armed yourself with the facts for your market and your home – it’s time to call your solar provider so that you can make an informed decision about whether to sell your system or take it with you.

Most solar companies will perform a courtesy (no-cost) assessment to determine if moving your solar system is commercially feasible. If it isn’t, or if you are among the hundreds of thousands of homeowners who do not currently own their solar system – take heart, you still have options.

Selling Your Home With A PPA / Lease

If your home has a leased solar energy system attached, you can: 1) Buy out the remainder of the lease or, 2) Transfer the lease to the new property owner. Again, a call to your solar company will help you determine whether there is a penalty for paying the lease out prematurely, or, what the third-party owner’s criteria is for transferring the solar agreement to a new homeowner. A recent study done by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed homes in southern California that had been sold with a solar lease/PPA attached. Most participants saw no impact on their home sale value as a result of their lease agreement. Researchers also found that 77 percent of the leases were successfully transferred to the new property owner. So be sure to inform potential buyers early on that the solar lease agreement is a contingency of the home sale to avoid hiccups during negotiations. Alternatively, you’ll need to put some funds towards closing out that solar PPA.

Selling Your Home With A Solar Loan

For the first time since 2011, customers who own their solar systems are on track to make up the majority of the U.S. residential market, according to Boston-based GTM. With solar loans gaining popularity, homeowners need to be aware of the types of loans available in order to make the best go / no-go call.

If your solar power system is financed via an unsecured loan, the loan is not tied to your property, so you can sell your home and move prior to paying it off. Remember though, that you are still obligated to pay off the remainder of the loan. If those solar panels were financed with a secured loan (like a home equity loan or home equity line of credit), the remaining balance must be paid off before you can sell. And, because your property was likely used as collateral for the loan, prospective buyers may find your solar company listed as a lienholder on your property. Communicate this well in advance and you’ll be in a better position to quickly have home sale proceeds in hand to help pay off that solar loan.

Mind Your MLS

Should you determine that prospective buyers do need to know about your home’s solar power system, you’ll need to make certain that there is enough space in the MLS listing for that information. If MLS details are not an option, consider putting solar information on a sticker inside the electrical box in case a future appraiser or real estate professional needs to access it. You may also want to provide redacted copies of your low utility bills so that potential buyers can see the value of solar firsthand.

You CAN Take It With You

Even if it turns out that you can’t take those solar panels with you to your new home, what is highly portable is the knowledge you gained from going solar in the first place. You’ll not only know what to expect but also what solar providers you would (or would not) use again. The point is that regardless of whether you have a known relocation coming up or think you’ll be in your home indefinitely but have an unexpected move arise – solar is still a smart choice. The right solar provider can help you save energy – and potentially money – while maintaining your family’s comfort and helping the planet. They should also help make your transition easier when life moves happen.

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