Hey, everyone! It’s Rachel Frentsos with the Annapolis Fine Homes office of Long & Foster. This is Moving Forward with Rachel. Today I have Jeff Gilbert with Azimuth Solar.
I really appreciate you joining me. I’ve been in the business for so long, and I know that solar isn’t brand new, but certainly newer to the residential arena. I know that there is a lot of confusion about it in transactions with home sales. People get confused about what to do with the panels, or what not to do. There’s leases and owned. I really appreciate you joining me to clear up some of this information about solar panels. Thank you for joining me!
Jeff Gilbert: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!
Rachel Frentsos: Absolutely! Give us some information about your business and what you do.
Jeff Gilbert: Just a little history. I used to be a solar installer. I had an installation company for 8 years. After I sold it, I started doing training, consulting and inspection services. I’ve been doing that for the past 10 years.
About 3 years ago, my wife and I sold our house and bought a new one. In that process, we were looking at houses that had solar on them. So, I asked my agent, “What can you tell me?” She was like, “I don’t know anything about solar.” Then I talked to the listing agent and he was like, “I don’t know anything about solar.”
Then I said “Ah-ha!” I’m the expert. I think the agents in the industry really need some guidance here. So, I added Real Estate Consulting and Inspection Services to my business.
Rachel Frentsos: I think that’s great! A couple of years ago, I had a whole deal fall through because the house had solar panels and there was so much confusion about it that my buyers just walked away. So, there is information that I think would be valuable not only for buyers and sellers, but for agents as well.
What should homeowners know?
Rachel Frentsos: What should homeowners know about installing solar panels? The pros and the cons.
Jeff Gilbert: The best thing, in my opinion, is to own the system. There’s owning, there’s leasing, and there is Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s). Power Purchase Agreements and leasing are very similar and then owning is out there by itself.
The best thing, in my opinion, is to own the system. There’s owning, there’s leasing, and there is Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s). Power Purchase Agreements and leasing are very similar and then owning is out there by itself.
You’re going to get the best return on investment from owning it. Yes, you now have a thing that you’ve got to take care of, but I recommend it. You’re going to get the best returns.
Rachel Frentsos: Do you have to be in the property for a certain number of years to recoup the cost of installing the panels?
Jeff Gilbert: Yes, and it depends. If you live in Washington, DC, it may only be 2 ½ years before it’s “free energy”. In Maryland, it may be 7-10 years. It depends on a number of factors.
Rachel Frentsos: That’s something you can help people with, in terms of making the decision of how to best move forward.
Jeff Gilbert: Absolutely!
What should prospective buyers know?
Rachel Frentsos: How about prospective buyers? When I’m showing houses and the house has solar panels, what do you recommend for buyers? What should they look out for?
Jeff Gilbert: Don’t get discouraged if you see solar on a house! Probably 70% (that’s a guess) of all the solar systems installed in the Greater Metro area are leased systems or PPA’s. So, there’s a contract you have to deal with. You have to qualify, you have to agree to it. It can be kind of complicated. It’s just a little stick in the mud.
You just have to get through it, and once you do, it should be a good situation because the technology is proven. It’s really good stuff!
It doesn’t matter who you get the solar from, as far as the manufacturers. It’s all good quality stuff, designed to last a long time, and the warranties are really good. It’s just getting through the contract and that kind of stuff, which is where I help out!
How do you know you’re getting a fair deal?
Rachel Frentsos: It gets a little complicated! Exactly! I had an experience where I was looking into getting panels for my own house. They measured and they came back and gave me a price. When I told them it was very similar to what I was paying in electricity right now, they started dropping the price. So, at that point, honestly, I lost faith in the process. I felt like they were out to take advantage of me and not really give me a real, competitive price.
As a homeowner, how do you avoid that? How do you know you’re getting a good deal or a fair price?
Jeff Gilbert: It’s tough because most people don’t understand solar. They don’t understand the contracts. There’s a lot of little parts to it. They’ll say, “Here’s the deal you’re getting, and oh by the way, we’re going to escalate the rate by 2 ½ percent,” and people go, “What does that mean? How does that compare to the escalation costs of BG&E and PEPCO? Is it good? Is it bad? How do I know?”
There’s lots of questions, and that’s what I help people out with. The salesperson already has the advantage, but you don’t. They’ve already learned everything about it. But you don’t, unless you’ve educated yourself on the subject. That’s what I help people with.
I would recommend getting three or more quotes. Oftentimes, what you’re going to get is three different prices, but also three different deals. So, then you have to figure out, “How do I compare one to the other?” That’s where I can help out.
Rachel Frentsos: It’s fantastic that you offer the service! I don’t know of anyone else who does that.
Jeff Gilbert: I’ve done searches, not just in the Greater Metro area, but nationwide, and I don’t see anyone with that service description on their website.
Rachel Frentsos: I think people ultimately want to help the environment, but then it gets so confusing that it really can stop you in your tracks.
Where do you see the future of solar going, then?
Jeff Gilbert: More! As it affects real estate, there are about 70,000 solar energy systems on roofs in Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia already. That’s expected to double in the next three years. So, that’s 140,000!
If it’s true that people sell every 10 years, or so, and there are 70,000 systems out there, then maybe one tenth of that is being turned over (as far as changing ownership) every year, which is 7,000 systems. That’s a lot!
So, real estate agents like yourself are going to be bumping into these issues where the house for sale has solar. It’s only going to be more. It’ll double in a few years. So, that’s the future!
Understanding how to work through the contract as things evolve. It’s a big experiment, really! What’s offered as products in five years might be totally different if the industry said, “That didn’t work so well for the customer”. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but that could happen. Then what’s being offered is something new.
That’s why I kind of like owning the system. Then you don’t have to worry about the contract.
What about the tax credits?
Rachel Frentsos: Speaking of owning the system, don’t you get the advantage of the tax credits, as well? Because, if you lease it, the company gets those tax credits.
Jeff Gilbert: That’s right! In theory, that’s how they are able to offer you a lower rate than the utility company, is because they’re getting all of those incentives and it gets worked into the math. I would prefer to get those incentives directly.
Rachel Frentsos: Exactly! Thank you for all of that information! What I’m going to tell people is to call you. We’re going to put all of your information below the video in case they have any questions about solar. I do feel that it’s important, but it is very confusing. I’m glad that you can offer your services to clarify things so that we can move forward with it.
So, on a side note, you live in Annapolis, correct?
Jeff Gilbert: No, Silver Spring!
Rachel Frentsos: Do you come out to Annapolis?
Jeff Gilbert: I do, yes!
Rachel Frentsos: Do you have a favorite place that you like to go eat with your wife?
Jeff Gilbert: I do! Latitude 38 is one of my favorites! I enjoy having lunch or dinner and looking out over the water at the boats and the “wild life”.
Rachel Frentsos: I really appreciate you joining me and taking time out of your day to tell us more about solar. Thank you so much!
I will be in touch with you and anybody out there, if you have questions about solar, feel free to reach out to Jeff. He’s the expert!
We’ll see you soon!
Jeff Gilbert: Thank you so much!
Rachel Frentsos: Bye!