Best Questions to Ask When Buying a Home with Solar Panels

08 Jul

If you are shopping for a new home and are considering homes that have solar panels installed already, you probably have lots of questions. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar currently produces roughly 4 percent of all electricity in the United States. However, the SEIA sees that number growing dramatically, predicting that 13 percent of homes will have a solar system in place by 2030.

If you are considering homes that have a solar system here are a few things to know and some questions to ask before signing on the dotted line. 

Questions to ask when considering a home with solar panels

Who owns the solar panels?

Solar systems can be purchased or leased, if the solar is leased you will be paying a monthly fee to the company that owns the solar panels to use them. According to the SEIA, roughly 25 percent of all residential solar panels are leased with the other 75 percent owned outright by the homeowner.

When purchasing a home with solar panels, one of your first questions should be whether it is leased or owned. If it is leased ask to see a copy of the lease and make sure the terms and conditions make sense to you and the monthly payment makes financial sense. In many cases there will be a lease buyout that may allow you to take full ownership of the panels. 

Who installed the solar system?

Look for solar panels that have been installed by a licensed professional While it is certainly possible for a DIY homeowner to install a solar system, in some cases, a non-professional installation can void the warranty which can be an issue if the system starts to malfunction. Always look for panels that have been installed by a pro.

How old is the roof?

Regardless of whether there are solar panels on the house or not you should always consider the age and condition of the roof. A roof is one of the most expensive repairs/replacements when it comes to homes and solar panels make replacing a roof even more expensive as all the solar has to be removed and then reinstalled on the new roof. 

Always consider the age and condition of the roof and how much it will cost to replace it if that is necessary.

How much will maintenance cost?  

How much maintenance your solar system requires will often depend on where you live. If you live in an area that receives plenty of rain, your maintenance requirements will usually be pretty low as the rain will keep the panels nice and clean. 

However, if you live in a dry dusty area you may need to have your panels cleaned on a regular basis. This should be done by a professional for both safety reasons and to keep the warranty intact. Consider maintenance needs and their costs when considering a home with solar. If the panels are leased, maintenance usually falls to the company that owns the panels. 

Consider the average output versus the average usage?

You want your solar panels to cover all of your homes energy needs and if possible produce enough energy to sell back to the grid. Always ask for the details on what the system is producing compared to how much energy your home is using. 

You should also ask about selling any excess energy your system produces back to the energy company in your area. Rules and regulations vary by location so be sure you ask your realtor for details.

A mortgage can be more complicated

While not usually a deal breaker, your lender will want to know the details of any solar system on the home and will factor in any lease costs when deciding if you can afford this particular home. They will want to look at the lease agreement payments and whether the lease is transferable, and any costs associated with transferring it. Each system will be different so be sure to alert your mortgage lender if the home has a leased solar system.

Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

There are both pros and cons to solar panels, here are a few things to consider:


  • Your utility bills will be lower: This is the main function of solar panels, in most cases you will save tons of money on your electricity bills when compared to a non-solar home. Most solar system can provide 80 to 100 of the electricity that a home typically uses. In many cases, you may even generate some income by selling back electricity you don’t use. Some insurers will offer a discount on your homeowners insurance for solar system which offers additional savings. 
  • Power outages won’t affect you: If your solar system has backup batteries you will not have to worry about power outages or issues with the grid during extreme temperatures (which seem more and more common), your house will still be powered while the rest of the neighborhood is dark. 
  • Tax breaks: Depending on where you live, you may get a federal and state tax credit on your solar system. You should check with a local tax professional about possible credits. 
  • Increases resell value: In a recent study, Zillow found that homes with a solar system installed sold for 4.1 percent more than similar homes without a solar system. In addition, solar panels can last for decades which make them a great investment that adds value to your home for the long run.
  • Climate change: Solar panels will help combat climate change and doing your part feels good. 


  • Roof repairs more expensive: If your roof ends up with a leak or you have to replace your roof at some point, repairs and replacement will be more expensive. You will have to hire a pro to remove and reinstall the solar panels while the repairs or roof replacement is happening.
  • Can impact your mortgage: Solar panels will often add some additional paperwork to your mortgage and closing. This is particularly true if the current system is leased. 

The bottom line

Buying a home with solar panels is usually a great idea. It helps the environment while lowering your energy costs. While it can complicate your mortgage, these issues are usually easily resolved, be sure to do your research and understand the system that comes with the house to ensure your solar panels are set to generate energy for years to come.

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