With the Great Recession finally over, Maryland’s housing market is booming once again. And homebuilders are increasingly incorporating solar panels into their designs. It’s easy understand why: Solar panels deliver higher ROIs than traditional home improvement favorites like:

  • Customized bathrooms
  • Granite kitchen surfaces
  • Swimming pools

But although solar offers many terrific benefits (like lower monthly bills and smaller carbon footprints), you’re sometimes better off buying a normal home and installing solar panels after you move in.

When shopping for solar-enabled homes, use this checklist to determine if you’re making the right decision.

  • Who Owns the Solar PV System?

There’s a huge difference between leasing solar panels and buying them. Before taking out that new mortgage, make sure that you own the panels and not some 3rd party.

  • How Are the Panels Financed?

Solar panels installed on existing roofs usually carry higher set-up costs than those incorporated during the home construction phase. In addition, retrofits require separate financing while solar panels on new properties are often folded into the mortgage.

But not always.

Only buy this home if the increased property value (from the solar panels) is less than what you’d pay to install solar on an existing rooftop. You can use this free form to get a better idea of installation costs.

  • Who Is Responsible for Repairs?

Solar power malfunctions are incredibly rare — but they happen.

  • Are you covered under your existing homeowner’s insurance or do you need a separate policy?
  • Is the original installer or homebuilder responsible for repairs? If so, for how long?

In addition, how does the warranty work for your installation? Are you receiving the 25-year protection that comes standard with most high quality panels? Or are your panels covered under the 1 to 5 years that come with Maryland home warranties?

  • Does Your System Qualify for Incentives and Net Metering?

Maryland offers a range of attractive incentives designed to bring solar installation costs down. The state also has a net metering program that allows you to sell excess electricity to the power company at a profit.

To qualify for these benefits, however, your panels must be installed and connected to the grid by a licensed electrician — not a home contractor.

  • What Solar Parts Were Used?

Sadly, many homebuilders and realtors eagerly promote the fact that a house comes with solar — but downplay what components were used. Always keep in mind that:

  • a well installed system that uses high quality solar components can last 40-years or longer
  • a poorly installed system with inferior parts might last only 10 years — and require frequent and costly repairs

If your dream house comes with the latter, you’re better off buying a non-solar home and paying for an installation later on.

Before Moving into Your Solar Home

But it’s important that you ask the right questions and run the numbers before signing on the dotted line. Make sure that your home’s solar panels qualify for all of the great benefits, pricing, and protections that come with normal panels installed on existing rooftops.

To learn more about solar-enabled homes, contact us for a free solar estimate.