Thinking of Moving? Not so Fast! | Searching for Green

If you intend to live in your present house for the rest of your life, life is a little simpler. But for the rest of us, who sooner or later may need to sell and move, a new challenge awaits. What influence will have the solar panels on your attempt to sell the house?

Let’s note from the start that under microFIT terms it is possible to transfer the contract to the new homeowner. There may be some complications if the original contract is closed under a corporation name (there are some tax implications that favor this approach) but even in that case it’s probably possible.

“Energy conservation and renewable generation adds value to a home! You’ll get that value back when you’ll sell your house!”. Or at least that’s the song everybody is singing… Even my friends at OurPower seem to believe this so it has to be true, since they are not trying to sell me anything! But I think that this is an exaggeration, at least for the next 5-10 years.

First of all, how can anyone be so sure, if there is almost no precedent to back this assertion? Do you know anyone who bought a house sporting solar panels? If you do, let me know their experience, I’m really interested. Until then, the claim is just hot air.

Second: as most home sellers know, in normal situations most improvements never return their whole cost at sale time. There are even tables in home selling books and magazines detailing which improvements are worth it and which not. Their purpose is to make the house more attractive so the number of potential buyers is higher. Kitchen cabinets, hardwood flooring, new bathroom? Maybe. Solar panels? Nothing fancy about them, and some may even dislike the look of your roof!

Third: your regular buyers are not necessary technology-aware. Do you think they will want to bother with a new system just for the sake of it? Personally, I think that simply mentioning terms like “solar panels” and “inverter” will put them off. Suddenly, you mission will be to sell the house AND the solar panels. While it’s not exactly the same thing and location, there is at least a report of a person having a hard time selling his house, presumably because of the geothermal heat pump he had installed. And Fine Homebuilding Magazine has a recent article suggesting the same pattern.

Of course, things can change dramatically in a few years if the solar panels will be installed on a significant proportion of the houses.  Until then, you can answer just for yourself: if tomorrow you would buy another house, what would you prefer? The regular one, or its identical twin which is $20,000 more but gives you an income stream for the next 15 or 20 years? Even better, ask that question to cousin Joe, aunt Maggie or even your spouse :-). They are likely to be  less enthusiastic than you about technology, so closer to the mindset of the Average Joe, your potential house buyer.


3 Responses to “Thinking of Moving? Not so Fast!”

  • Pieter H:

    You might not get back all the potential returns of you solar project when you sell your house, you probably have to share some of the future profits with the buyer to make it more attractive. That is better than other home improvements (kitchen, pool) where you usually don’t get your original investment back.

    Anyway, there is always the risk of moving and I think I would be more pissed off that I have to give up my pond and finished basement when I move since those projects have my blood, sweat, and tears included.

    • icabrindus:

      Sharing the future profit with the buyer it’s obvious. What I’m arguing is that you will have to give up more than that, since the buyer may not be willing to bother at all with it. It’s something new for most people, and they’ll try to avoid it, if possible. Maybe if the panels will be widespread, say in 5 years, the story will be different…

      And, contrary to what everybody seems to think, the image will not improve if the electricity price goes up! microFIT contract has a fixed rate, so the return is fixed for 20 years, more like a bond. It will be better only after 20 years.

      Rationally, I agree that you should get most of your money back for the panels. But buying/selling a house is not an entire rational process. I have some sweat invested in my basement walls, too, and I value them probably more then they actually worth in anyone else’s eyes :-).

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