Why Real Estate Agents Need To Understand Solar

Christina Mathieson, LEED GA
Green EDU Instructor

As a clean energy advocate in the solar industry for just under a decade, it’s been my mission to share knowledge and information on the how and why of solar power and energy efficiency. I believe the more real and unbiased information homeowners receive, the more they will see solar as a “no-brainer” and realize that not spending money on energy would leave them in a way better financial position.

After learning of the impact that solar may have on a real estate transaction, my heart broke just a little bit. It wasn’t that solar was ever bad; it was that the industry I had diligently stood to represent hadn’t considered the effect third-party ownership may have when a home changes owners. In today’s market, people understand and accept that solar power works seamlessly, with minor, if any, need for maintenance or upkeep at all. My personal mission soon transitioned into helping the real estate community really understand solar and adapt to it.

When I began working within the real estate community and later studied for my New York State Real Estate Salesperson License, I learned that there were two major reasons why agents and brokers absolutely needed to understand solar. The first was the requirement to disclose all of the material facts of a property to a buyer. The second reason is that It’s our fiduciary responsibility to a seller to make sure their home is presented, listed and sold truthfully and in their best interest. As a Buyer’s Agent who now looks at every possible way to protect my clients, I now understand that this knowledge is an absolute must.   The question became “How can this be accomplished?”

Yes, there are a few additional steps that need to be taken when representing the seller of a solar-powered home and no, they’re not obvious at first. When the solar installed on a home is owned by a third party through a lease or power purchase agreement, it’s so important that the agents on both side of the transaction understand that while this is not an asset to the property and will not appraise as such, there is value to the energy produced by that solar system. Buyers, lenders and attorneys need to be presented with the value of the energy a system produces during its lifespan. We cannot simply view the payments as a “debit” without viewing the energy as a “credit”. Having a solar-powered home cannot and should not ever be looked at as a liability. Being able to document and explain this is key and very few real estate professionals have the knowledge to do so.

When a solar system is owned by that homeowner, whether outright or through financing, that system IS, in fact, an appraisable asset and the value of the energy it produces must also be considered as part of the process. Depending on the size and age of an owned solar system, the value of the home will increase accordingly. The same need for valuation applies to energy efficiency retrofits such as insulation, high-efficiency appliances and high-efficiency home systems. If agents don’t know how to identify these assets, a high-performing home may not be properly valued. In my classes, I ask my students to envision a bag of money their clients just left in the house for the new owners.

The key to all of this is that the real estate community must receive the education that will empower them to add even more value to the clients they represent. Without receiving thorough training on concepts and access to the resources that make all of this simple, we’re not properly representing our clients or ourselves as the trusted resource for homeowners and home buyers.

Christina The Solar Specialist Mathieson, is the author of the first and only in-person “Becoming A Solar Specialist” course in the United States which Educates, Trains, and Prepares Real Estate Professionals on how to best represent the buyer and or seller in a transaction where an existing rooftop or ground-mounted solar system is present.   The “Becoming A Solar Specialist” course provides Continuing Education Credits approved by the New York State Department of Sate (NYSDOS) for 3.75 Credits. “Becoming A Solar Specialist” is approved for Appraisers, Home Inspectors, & Real Estate Agents (Salesperson/Broker)

Christina has been in the solar industry since 2010 and is an authority on the effect a residential solar system has on a real estate transaction and is a LEED Green Associate with extensive knowledge on energy efficiency and green building practices, In 2018, Christina was honored as one of the “Top 50 Women In Business” by Long Island Business News and most recently was appointed by Legislator Kevin McCaffrey to represent the 14th Legislative District on the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission.   Christina Mathieson is approved as a Full Instructor by the New York State Department of State, who is focused on the Real Estate community to Educate & Empower Real Estate Professionals with the information they so desperately need.

Contact: [email protected]

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