Moneymoney

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 05:48 PM

What Happened When I Bought a House With Solar Panels

On a rare rainy day early last year, my husband, Alex, and I toured what, with any luck, would become the most exciting and daunting purchase of our lives: a cream-colored bungalow-style fixer-upper, built in 1924, a few blocks from our rental in Santa Barbara, Calif. What the house lacked in curb appeal, it more than made up for in charm and utility: the original built-in cupboards in the dining room, the way the light streamed in from copious windows, the fenced backyard for our wirehaired mutt. Moldy linoleum in the bathroom would be easy to rip up. A shower head inexplicably hanging above the kitchen sink would be easy to rip out. The location was a big draw, as was, at least initially, the fact that the red pitched roof of the two-car garage was outfitted with 17 solar panels. We’d get to do our bit for the planet.

The solar array was a modern addition to a property that otherwise hadn’t changed much since 1950, when the late owner, Michael “Jug” Jogoleff, moved into the home’s 948 square feet as a preschooler with his mother and aunt, transplants from Iowa. He never moved again. He grew tall and barrel-chested and remained a lifelong bachelor, becoming a neighborhood fixture who organized block parties. His décor reflected his obsession with all things electronic, in particular ham radio. “Radios and computers were packed into every available square inch of space he could find,” and “his roof bristled with every form of antenna,” Santa Barbara’s amateur radio club wrote after he died of cancer at the age of 70 in January 2017. “He was the consummate ‘ham’ and could build anything—and did! Amateur radio has lost one of the last of the ‘real hams.’”

Two days after walking through Jug’s ham shack, we made an offer. A week later, just before we entered escrow, we learned the solar array hadn’t belonged to Jug. It was, in the language of the industry, a third-party-owner, or TPO, system, belonging to Sunrun Inc., the largest provider of residential solar in the U.S. I started looking into the TPO model. It’s used less often than it once was, but it’s been important in making residential solar, once out of reach for most people, much more widespread. The reason is simple: Homeowners usually pay nothing upfront. A company like Sunrun puts solar panels on your roof, connects them to your home, and claims a tax benefit for owning the system. Going forward, you pay Sunrun to provide the bulk of your electricity needs instead of your utility.

I’d soon learn that the system was tied to the title of the house. It appeared that if we bought Jug’s place, we’d have to assume his lease arrangement with Sunrun. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this as a buyer, but it definitely piqued my curiosity as a journalist. I set out to examine the value proposition carefully.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-sunrun-solar-panels/

Bottom line -- the seller doesn't own all of the property, since the solar panel company owns the panels and the deed is encumbered.

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Reply What Happened When I Bought a House With Solar Panels (Original post)
Troll2 Feb 2019 OP
Solesurvivor Feb 2019 #1
Troll2 Feb 2019 #3
TheShoe Feb 2019 #2

Response to Troll2 (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 05:52 PM

1. Not to be nit picky but no one ever owns a house even if they pay for it

in total in cash, if you don't believe me stop paying your taxes and see if you "own" it for long. You're basically paying rent to the township

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Response to Solesurvivor (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 05:56 PM

3. True - real estate taxes are the prototypical "wealth tax".

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Response to Troll2 (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2019, 05:53 PM

2. Congrats on the new house

We are also buying a new place this month.

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Moneymoney