Friday, December 18, 2009

The Affordable Solar Option

We’d all like to pay less on our energy bills, right? Most of my clients don’t mention solar power as a desired amenity. Why? Solar panels are few and far between on homes in San Francisco; basically they are just too expensive to consider. But not anymore.

CBS Evening News recently presented a segment on how some solar companies are making solar panels affordable for homeowners. I contacted SolarCity to see how the program works. Companies such as SolarCity, who lease solar systems to customers, do consultations on homes and determine the system and the rental rate. Once installed, the customer pays his (now reduced) PG&E bills plus a monthly rental fee for the system. Although the CBS news segment quoted the monthly rental fee to be $100 per month, a spokesperson from SolarCity stated that the monthly rental rate is based on the size of the system, and indicated that the monthly rate for San Francisco County would most likely be less.

Lease terms for solar panels are 15 years, with small increases in the rental rate annually. The annual increase can also be bought down at the beginning of the lease term to reduce the percentage of annual escalation (currently about 3.9%).
What if you decide to sell your home before the 15 year lease is up? The leases are transferable. You can also choose to pre-pay the remaining amount of the term, which would be a great perk to the new buyer. At the 15 year mark, customers may negotiate a fair market value and purchase the current equipment, or enter into a new lease.

Amy Blakeley, REALTOR® McGuire Real Estate
ablakeley at

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