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5 questions to ask a real estate agent before selling your solar home

There may come a time when you decide to sell your solar home. At that point, you will want a solar-friendly real estate agent that understands the ins-and-outs of solar-powered homes to be able to explain all aspects of your solar energy system to potential buyers, as well as home inspectors, lenders and appraisers. A knowledgeable solar-home listing agent will help achieve the highest valuation possible for your solar home, while demonstrating to others how your solar-power system adds value to your home. How do you know if your real estate agent will help you get the most value for your solar home? You know your solar home well, and you need a listing agent that is both experienced in selling solar homes and willing to learn the specifics of your solar home. Here are five questions to ask any potential listing agent to determine if they’ll be best for helping to sell your solar home.

1. What education and experience do you have with rooftop-solar homes?

Look for a listing agent with the National Association of Realtors GREEN designation, which shows that an agent has received education in solar and other green-home features. Ask if the agent has ever lived in a solar home and what they learned from that experience. Your agent should be enthusiastic about living in a solar home, as that energy will contribute positively to the sale of your home. Learn about their expertise selling other rooftop-solar homes: how many solar homes has your listing agent sold and how did the agent deal with any solar-related issues to secure closing on time?

2. Can you provide seller and MLS references for solar homes you’ve sold?

A solar-home listing agent should be able to provide you with recent seller references. Ask for Multiple Listing Service (MLS) addresses of recently-sold solar, so you can review house-specific listing information, such as selling prices, days from listing to closing, and how the solar-specific details were described. One detail in particular to focus on is any discrepancy between the listing price and selling price of solar homes: be on the lookout for too many homes with listing prices $10,000 or more higher than sales prices, which may be a red flag that an agent may not get the most value for your solar home.

3. How will you set the listing value for my solar home?

According to the federal office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, homes powered by the sun have an average listing price of $15,000 more than similar homes without solar nationally. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that “PV systems (that are owned) typically increase market value and almost always decrease marketing time.”

Your real estate agent should choose around five similar properties­–with a comparable home and property size, home age, quality and condition–that closed within the last six months to help set a value on your home. Also, try to get a sense for similar properties that were excluded from the listing price-setting process and why they were not used to determine value.

4. How will you market my solar property?

An agent should have a clear plan for how to market your home’s solar features, as well as an understanding of the national and local solar and real estate markets. Studies in both Northern California (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) and Denver (Colorado Energy Office) found that homes with energy-producing photovoltaic (PV) panels and related equipment sold faster than those with no PV panels. To demonstrate the home’s solar worth to potential buyers, the listing agent will need you to provide solar energy system spec sheets, equipment warranties, solar loan agreement or statement that equipment is paid in full, any easements, system sales agreement with cost, past two years of actual energy-generation reports and electric bills.

There are a few online tools and certifications that your listing agent should be aware of. For instance, PV Value® measures the marketable financial worth of a new or existing PV rooftop-solar system on an easy-to-use spreadsheet. Pearl Certification is a third-party, detailed evaluation of the green features of your home–including rooftop solar–that is a useful marketing tool to present to buyers. Additionally, the Pearl Certification includes completion of the Appraisal Institute’s Form 820.05, which puts in writing any energy savers found at your property.

5. How do you assure the appraisal value won’t come in lower than the purchase contract price?

The appraiser is hired by the buyer’s lender to make sure there is enough value in the home to meet the sales price. Your listing agent should require that only an experienced solar-home appraiser be used by your buyer. While the listing agent can’t control the appraiser’s final valuation, the agent can provide detailed solar data and meet with the appraiser to help answer any additional questions they may have. The more details on the solar features the appraiser has, the less likely the home will be undervalued.

All the solar system details, energy-generation reports, electric bills, PV Value® and other information used for marketing also should be provided to the appraiser before the inspection to ensure your solar home is appraised at the correct value. The agent should also give the appraiser the completed 820.05 form–which will add weight for an appraiser if completed by a third party such as Pearl–and their comparable and noncomparable property data with explanations.

Getting the highest value possible

There are many details that go into getting you the highest price on your solar-powered home. Get the highest valuation possible on your solar-home sale by listening carefully to the answers prospective listing agents give you and don’t be afraid to ask them solar competence questions, as this is a vital part of selling a solar home.

Guest author: Greg Field

This article was written by Greg Field from Green Leaf Realty. With over 11 years of experience in the solar and energy efficiency industries, Greg’s extremely passionate about solar. He has personally helped over 1,500 Arizona homeowners go solar, including placing panels on his own home, and recently earned National Association of Realtor’s GREEN designation. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not to EnergySage.

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