Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the SunShot Initiative’s series on solar and real estate. Read all the posts here.

When appraising or selling homes, real estate professionals carefully account for upgraded features in order to build the best sales pitch possible. Common home renovations like new kitchens and finished basements are a known boost to home valuation and the resulting home sale. Recent research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) funded by the SunShot Initiative has revealed that customer-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) systems provide similar benefits to home sales as these more common upgrades. Two recent studies, including this report from LBNL, showed that homeowners across the country have been willing to pay a premium for a solar home that reflects the value of the solar system, which was about $15,000 for a home with an average-sized, resident-owned solar array. Although market factors like electricity rate and system price may impact the size of the premium, solar homes can be expected to sell for more than homes without PV.

Solar systems not only increase the value of a home, they also increase the speed with which a home is sold. Evidence indicates that homes with PV spend less time on the market than those without. In 2008, California homes with energy-efficient features and PV sold faster than homes that consumed more energy. In Denver, homes with solar were also sold more quickly than homes without. This evidence indicates that a solar home, when properly valued, tends to land a buyer more quickly than a home without solar.

Meanwhile, the number of households with solar energy systems in the United States is expected to surpass 1 million this year. With this robust number of PV homes and a fast-growing market for additional solar installations, an ever-increasing number of solar homes will likely be sold or refinanced in the coming years. However, even though homes that include resident-owned solar PV systems sell faster and for more money than homes without solar, most real estate education classes barely touch on solar energy, if mentioning it at all. As solar energy becomes more common on rooftops across America, it’s vital that real estate agents and appraisers learn more about how to appropriately value solar and what effect solar systems have on home values, so they can leverage the premium-boosting power of a solar system to sell or refinance these homes and maximize the benefits of solar for homeowners.

To help fill this gap, the SunShot Initiative funds projects that ensure real estate agents, appraisers, and other professionals related to the real estate industry have the solar knowledge and training they need to provide the best service to their customers and to accurately account for solar’s value as homes are sold. The Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) funding program provides professionals in fields related to solar energy—including realtors, code officials, insurance and financial professionals, and firefighters—with the basic solar training they need to do their jobs.

One project under STEP aims to educate residential real estate agents, appraisers, and appraiser regulatory officials across the U.S. about solar energy systems through web-based continuing education classes. Another STEP project provides solar training and information to architects, engineers, and other building design professionals so they can knowledgably design solar-ready homes and buildings. SunShot is also funding work at LBNL that will add expanded solar system information to multiple listing services, which are used by real estate professionals to establish contractual offers on properties, facilitate cooperation with other brokers, and distribute listing information.

SunShot is working to provide real estate professionals with the vital training needed to deliver the best information and assistance to prospective or current solar energy customers across the United States. The new projects announced today will help ensure that consumers encounter a confident and knowledgeable solar-trained workforce when they buy, sell or refinance their solar-powered home.  

In addition to training real estate professionals, SunShot’s STEP program also supports the direct solar workforce, as well as power systems engineers and other professionals in fields related to solar energy. Learn more about these training efforts, and find out more about how to go solar at home.  

Becca Jones-Albertus
Becca Jones-Albertus is the the Director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office.
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