As the rooftop solar trend is becoming more mainstream, homebuyers and sellers are asking more questions about installation costs and other aspects of solar power. For real estate professionals, this creates a chance to educate their clients about the benefits with respect to the area.
It also opens up opportunities for information-based startups like SolarStory, a new user-friendly rooftop solar information hub.
SolarStory founder Amro Naddy came up with the idea after coming across Tracking the Sun, a U.S. Department of Energy database that charts the cost of using rooftop solar.
“I was looking at a data set,” he said, “and I thought to myself, this is valuable information but it only updates annually. What if we did it in real time?”
Tracking the Sun is one of several Energy Department efforts to collect, analyze and publicize information on rooftop solar, all with the aim of pushing costs down.
With a real estate background that includes Openhouse (formerly Agent Ace), Naddy realized his site could help buyers and sellers make informed decisions if it was available in a format that anyone could understand.
“We think of ourselves as Reviews 2.0,” Naddy explains. “In a world where a site like Yelp can be so easily gamed, what we do is stick to unimpeachable, objective data. We’re building transparent tools and adding to the agent toolkit.”
A quick tour around the SolarStory website bears that out.
To date, it has assembled city-by-city data for the 50 top solar markets in the U.S. One click reveals a short list of basic information on costs in each city, another page reveals a breakdown of price according to the size of the house.
In Sacramento, for example, the average home currently saves $1,216 in electricity bills annually, the average installation cost is $16,450, and the potential payback period is nine years.
A simple star rating system provides an at-a-glance way to spot which companies have done the most installations. One more click provides details including the type of solar panels they use and the average charge for their services.
This type of information can be critical for the potential buyer.
“You might see someone with four stars of experience but their price is high, while someone with only two stars may be more focused on the specific type of panels you’re interested in,” Naddy explains.
Philip Lang, the co-founder of TripleMint, sees an opportunity for agents to help clients understand the impact of a solar installation on their utility bills.
“When looking at the whole picture of affordability for a home, clients will want to take into account energy bills in addition to taxes, mortgage payments, and HOA fees,” he says. “From an agent’s perspective, any time we can help a client reduce monthly expenses to afford more ‘house’ it’s always a win for the client.”