Profile picture for tomshelley

Why doesn't Zillow account for solar power? This is a huge money saving upgrade!

Solar power options are huge money savers and a definite value add to a home.  I have recently added solar to my house and my electric bill has dropped to under $40 per month when I was averaging around $150 to $200 per month prior to having solar.  Zillow should update their evaluation/comp process to include solar upgrades just like they do for pools, air conditioning, etc.
  • June 27 2011 - Highgrove
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Answers (8)

Best Answer

We have a number of energy-efficient homes in my market (San Francisco East Bay area), ranging from solar-paneled homes to fully LEED-accredited homes with all sorts of energy conserving features. Unfortunately, while people appreciate these features - especially once they buy the home and see how much they're actually saving on their monthly utility bills - we haven't yet seen a direct relationship between energy conserving features and pricing. I'm guessing that Zillow doesn't alter their Zestimates in response to energy efficient features (solar panels, etc.) because there isn't yet a direct market correlation.

If you're putting your solar-paneled home on the market, I'd advise you to print out a number of recent utility bills (and maybe some bills for a comparable home WITHOUT solar panels) to illustrate the real dollar value of those solar panels. Include references to this benefit in your marketing materials. This can act as an incentive for buyers to bid "that extra bit" for your solar panels. Until people become more savvy about "green" improvements, your actual sales price boost will be based on how well you package and sell this energy efficient feature to the prospective buyers who come to see your home.

I have a background in environmental analysis of housing, and I am accredited "LEED AP", so I know all about the value of energy efficient home improvements, and I'm quite invested in seeing homes becoming more "green" through improvements like solar panels. I am looking forward to the day when there's a direct demonstrable correlation between home values and energy and water conservation measures like your solar panels!
  • June 28 2011
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
I don't have any clue how you expect them to factor it in...

They use a modeling method, modeling the county record data of the recently sold non-distressed properties in the area.

First, you would need to get the counties to collect and maintain data in the public records indicating the amount of renewable energy (in KWhrs) per year for each house.  (Which, frankly, if they are not taxing you for this "improvement, they won't bother to do).

Second, the homes that sell in the area need to be producing renewable energy in order for that variable to be used in the modeling.

Otherwise, the only "value" of that renewable energy is the amount it would cost to buy that energy per month, and figure the equivalent mortgage principal that could be borrowed for that payment assuming a 30 year fixed rate loan at present interest rates.

And any owner can do that already, so what is the point of having a website do it for you?
  • November 15 2011
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Profile picture for Resistoon
Zillow really needs to have an option to factor in Solar Electric based on the size of the system.  

My Grid Tie Solar Electric system produces more electricity than I use each month and cost me less than $5 a month, this fee is required to stay connected to the grid.  Because of Zillow's lack to take the panels into account, it under estimates the value of my home.  They really do need to change this. 
  • November 15 2011
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Profile picture for tomshelley
Thanks for all of the input.  I've already had the panels installed.  Did it back in February.  My last two electric bills came out to be $0.88 and $1.02.  Even I didn't expect a monthly savings to that extent.  Normally I'm spending $300+ per month on electric this time of year.  My system is guaranteed to 80% of its installed production for 30 (or was it 40?) years.  Based on what I paid and my monthly savings so far, it should pay for itself in about 5 or 6 years.

The real reason I'd like to see this improve my home value is because I'm under water and would like to get myself into a fixed mortgage before the rates start going back up.  But with the monthly savings I'm getting, hopefully I can stay in my home with my current mortgage for that much longer. :)
  • June 30 2011
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Profile picture for sunnyview
Solar is appreciated by buyers, but in many cases they are not willing to pay what it costs to install the system. Maybe as energy prices rise, buyers will pencil energy costs into their bottom line before they buy, but for now solar is a bonus feature that many don't want to pay for upfront.
  • June 28 2011
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Profile picture for shasta_steve

Solar panels will last 25-30 years with most of the new ones expected to last 40+ years.  If I remember right the "useable" life of solar panels is how long the will produce over 80% of original output.  

Maintenance costs are minimal because unless the solar system is a tracking system there are almost no moving parts.   Tracking systems are almost never used on roof top systems.  

Older systems are far from "obsolete".  In a residential setting efficiency means almost nothing.   The only thing that matters is cost per kw. Efficiency only matters if you are paying for the fuel but the sun is free.  If you have a very efficient system all you get is fewer panels on your roof but often they are much more expensive per kw.  

I also do not understand that incentives don't matter.  Sure the one who puts them in gets the incentive but they effectively lower the cost of the system.  So if you spend 30k on a system you get a 9k tax credit, so your effective cost is 21k.  When you sell the system you don't have to recoupe the 30k but only 21k or a portion of it. 

I work in the power industry and used to operate the two largest solar plants in the world but they were not PV systems.   PV has been coming down in price lately so I would probably wait a year or two before I decided to put it in.  In California we are not allowed to sign anymore "new" coal or nuke contracts so that pretty much limits our new production to natural gas and renewables.   Costs are going to go up as soon the economy improves.   My gut feeling is that in most of the sunny areas of California solar will become very common but we will have to fix our power grid first. 

  • June 27 2011
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
Additional concerns are the maintenance costs, and additional roof replacement/maintenance costs.  Not to mention, anything that was installed in the past 3 years is already "obsolete" due to recent improvements in efficiency.

And the "paybacks" have the tax incentives factored in, which is usually for the installing party, not the purchaser of second hand equipment.

Besides, Zillow doesn't use a "comp-process" for the Zestimates, nor does it factor in pools nor air-conditioning.  And you can factor it in on a "my estimate" but that feature is temporarily disabled due to changes currently being worked on.

Yes, some items like "solar" may pay for themselves in a period of years; but in terms of resale value, they rarely bring in what they cost.
  • June 27 2011
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
Zillow is in the process of modifying their "my estimate" feature.  I wonder if solar power will be one of the options.

My concern about solar power is that the calculations for return on investment often run 15 to 20 years, but the equipment life is about 15 years.     My second concern is that it is cloudy all the time over my house!
  • June 27 2011
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