March 23, 2015

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Leased Solar Panels

by marlooxley
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Leased solar panels could impede a home sale

WASHINGTON – March 23, 2015 – Some prospective buyers have second thoughts when they discover that a seller doesn't own the solar panels on his house, and that a buyer must qualify on a credit application to assume the home's solar lease payments.

Some buyers refuse to sign a contract altogether unless the owner buys out the remaining lease payment stream – $15,000 or $20,000 or more, possibly – out of concern that the solar equipment will become obsolete or not save as much on their monthly utility bills as claimed.

The leased-panel issue is popping up more nationwide and interfering with home sales and closings, some real estate industry note.

U.S. residential solar installations have increased an average of 50 percent a year since 2012, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. More than 600,000 homes and businesses now have on-site solar, with the fastest growth occurring in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.

SolarCity ranks as the biggest player in the field, with approximately 190,000 customers in 16 states. Jonathan Bass, the company's vice president of communications, says working out smooth transfers of leased systems from sellers to buyers has become a priority. Because it's a growing concern, SolarCity has assembled a 12-person team that arranged nearly 3,000 transfers so far.

Homeowners should be aware of potential complexities that can occur if leasing, rather than buying, solar panels. Those who opt for a lease must understand their long-term obligations. And for those who have a leased system and are planning to sell, the rule of thumb is to contact the leasing company well in advance to learn about lease transfer and buyout options should prospective buyers have problems with the panels.

Source: Washington Post (03/21/15) P. 4; Harney, Kenneth R.

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