Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Do Solar Panels Add Value If You Sell Your Home?

Michael and Marie Esposito of Tottenville have gone solar and love it. They have 18 panels that cost them $62.00 a month to lease. They went live June 2013. (Staten Island Advance/ Jan Somma-Hammel)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Looking to save money, retiree Ronald Calzaretta wants to cut his energy costs and install solar panels on his Great Kills home.

While Calzaretta feels the decision may be a no-brainer, it has left him with a new set of questions: Will the solar panels increase the value of his home should he ever want to sell it? And will his home be more appealing to buyers?

The questions come at a time when more homeowners are purchasing or leasing solar panels for their homes as a way to deal with rising energy costs. Since June 2013, the number of borough residences with solar panels has grown from 115 to 534.

One of the reasons for the recent growth is that the panels have become more affordable through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) rebate.

But, for home buyers, solar panels don't appear to be a big draw -- yet.

"Do solar panels increase the value of a home? Probably," said Joan Camerlengo, broker/owner of Camerlengo Real Estate in New Dorp. "But we just don't know yet."

"We don't have enough data," said Ines Ballugera, a Rosebank-based certified real estate appraiser. "I have looked at three homes that have them and it didn't increase the value."

"It's sort of like an in-ground pool," said Jon Salmon, broker/owner of Salmon Real Estate in Castleton Corners. "If you want the pool, you will pick this home over another without [it]. If you don't like it, you will move on to another home."

"The biggest drawback is maintenance of the panels, because they have to be clean or they're not going to function properly," Ms. Ballugera said. "This falls either on the company that installed them or the homeowner."

"With all this said, solar panels are gaining wider acceptance," Salmon added.


Many solar panel installers offer both lease and purchase options to homeowners.

"We try to have customers purchase the panels, because that seems to be the best investment they can make if they have the funds available," said Noah Schechtel, director of sales and operations for the Mariners Harbor-based Total Solar Electric, which designs and installs solar panels mostly on commercial real estate. "They also get rebates if they put money upfront."

Homeowners Peter and Jeannine Romano of Rossville, who have a 20-year lease agreement for the solar panels on their home, can't see why buyers wouldn't want them.

"For 20 years, my rate is locked in, then there are no more payments," Romano said. "In 20 years, a new homeowner will only have to pay Con Ed's connection fee. That's a real selling point."

According to NYSERDA, homeowners who lease the panels have options should they decide to sell their home before the agreement is up.

"If the new owner does not want to take over the contract, a buyout clause allows the seller to pay the contractor for fair-market value of the system, thus releasing the owner from the contract obligations," said Alan N. Wechsler, a NYSERDA spokesman.


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