Here's What Happens to Solar Panels When You Sell Your House

Despite common misconceptions, rooftop solar could make your home more valuable -- and quicker to sell.

Mike De Socio Contributor
Mike De Socio is a CNET contributor who writes about energy, personal finance and climate change. His path in journalism has taken him through almost every part of the newsroom, earning awards along the way from the Boston Press Photographers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. As an independent journalist, his work has also been published in Bloomberg, The Guardian, Fortune and beyond.
Expertise Energy, climate change and personal finance Credentials
  • Journalism awards from the Boston Press Photographers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and Boston University
Mike De Socio
4 min read
A house with solar panels on it.

Solar panels can appeal to potential buyers for your home, but they can also make the selling process more complicated. 

Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

So you want to put solar panels on your roof, but you're not sure if you'll live in your house forever. Do you need to be worried about what happens when you sell?

In all likelihood, no. For most people, rooftop solar increases the value of their home, making it even more desirable when it eventually hits the market. And despite common fears about the process, selling a home with solar panels is usually pretty easy -- as long as your realtor is up to speed on how it works.

In an era when incentives are high and the cost of solar is low, experts say you shouldn't let the prospect of resale stop you from investing in the technology. In fact, with the right strategy, adding solar to your roof can be an unalloyed benefit when it comes time to sell your home.

Can solar panels save you money?

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Here's everything you need to know before taking the leap.

Do solar panels make it harder to sell your house?

Most of the time, they don't.

Can solar panels save you money?

Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

"Overall, they're perceived as a value, because they're lowering the power bill," said Andrew Tanner, global real estate advisor at Premier Sotheby's International Realty.

Indeed, far from making a home harder to sell, rooftop solar usually adds to the sale price and helps it sell faster. 

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According to a 2019 report from Zillow, properties with rooftop solar installations sold for 4.1% more than comparable residences without them, an added value of $9,300 for the median home.

"Most of the time, the homes will sell quicker with the value of the solar, if people understand it," Tanner said.

Tanner attributes this to a desire for alternative power in the face of increasingly unreliable (and expensive) energy from the grid. "What we see is a lot of people like their independence, and that transcends political fields. People want their independence for their power," he said.

There are, however, still some misconceptions about solar that persist among realtors and other real estate professionals. 

"The first questions from the realtor are, 'Is it damaging the house? Are there leaks from the feet?'" Tanner said. Again, usually the answer is no, but realtors should encourage buyers to get a solar array inspected, just like they would any other element of a property. 

Even better: Sellers can have solar panels inspected in advance, fix any problems before putting the home on the market, and then present potential buyers with the report, Tanner said.

Ultimately, the issue is rarely the solar panels themselves, but a lack of education.

"Realtors need to get behind it, and they don't understand a lot about it," Tanner said. While a realtor might know exactly what to do when there's a pool on the property, some are inexperienced when it comes to solar; it's often the last thing they think about. 

But it's a simple fix: Getting real estate professionals up to speed on basic solar knowledge can ensure a positive outcome for the seller and the buyer, Tanner said.

Can you take your solar panels with you when you move?

In theory, yes. If you own the solar array outright (rather than through a lease or power purchase agreement), you're free to do whatever you want with the panels.

But most would advise against taking solar panels with you when you move. Tanner points out that any warranties you have on the technology -- which last usually 20 or 30 years -- might be voided the moment you remove the panels from their original installation.

That means if you take the panels to a new home, you will be operating without any warranties on the products. 

Not to mention, removing panels from a roof could introduce some of those problems that buyers are worried about -- namely, holes in the shingles that could lead to leaks, Tanner said.

Does it matter how you paid for your solar panels?

It most certainly does. The type of solar purchase you made has a big impact on what happens when you go to sell your home.

If you paid cash

This is the simplest scenario. If you paid cash and own the panels, solar will have very little impact on the sale process for your home. Again, it's not unlike selling a home with a pool or any other add-on.

If you paid with a loan

If you financed your solar panels with a traditional loan, there are some extra steps in the process. You might be required to pay off the loan before or at the closing for the sale of your home. It's just like having any other kind of loan on your home, like a mortgage. You can use the proceeds of the sale to cut a check at the closing table that pays off the solar panels. 

Some lenders allow the new homeowner to apply for and assume the loan. Check with your lender to see what your options are.

If you got a solar lease or power purchase agreement

This is probably the trickiest arrangement. Because you don't own the solar panels in this situation, you can't simply sell them to the next owner. (And by the way, they also might not add to the property value -- again, because you don't own them.)

It depends on how your specific lease or power purchase agreement is structured, but generally there are two options, according to Tanner. 

  • You could work with the solar company to transfer the lease or PPA to the new owner.
  • You could pay off the lease early by essentially "buying" the solar system at or before closing, allowing the buyer to assume the panels more easily.

It's best to check with a solar installer upfront to understand what your options would be in this scenario.

Correction, Aug. 23: An earlier version of this story did not include the fact that a homebuyer might be able to assume a seller's solar loan.