SUNday Podcast: Episode 2. Customer’s Experience + Reselling with Solar

Nov 29, 2020Consulting, Solar, SUNday Podcast

Kate Garrens:
Welcome, everyone. I am Kate Garrens with EnergyONE Renewables, here, tuning in for our SUNday podcast, talking about all things renewable energy. Today, I have a special guest, Chris Olsen, who is a previous customer of ours from back in 2015. He’s going to share some of his experiences, his concerns that he had during the process. And then, he has a unique experience as well, because he also sold his home that had solar energy on it. So, I’m really excited. Thanks for being here, Chris.

Chris Olsen:
Not a problem.

Kate Garrens:
So, I wanted to pick your brain a little bit, because I’d like to share with our listeners some of your experience. I know you went through getting solar on your home. You’re over on the Kansas side. And so tell us a little bit about why you went green, why you decided to go solar, and just your experience from start to finish.

Chris Olsen:
What’s today, November 25th. So we’re in 2020 now and I think we started that process with you guys, Energy One, back in 2015. So almost five full years ago is when we dabbled and drove down that solar lane. And what’s ironic actually is, in talking with you here recently, it sounds like 90% of the people that I dealt with are still there, which is kind of ironic. I think Sherry is still there at the time. So, it’s just really cool to know that you still have the same people five years later, right?

Chris Olsen:
I mean, Dustin and I talked, and obviously, Dustin is one of the partners now. So, we talked in September and we gave him all the numbers and he asked for the last … I think we gave you guys 12 months of power bills. That way, we knew what to expect, and I think our power bill was pretty high because we had a really inefficient AC unit at the time for the house. It was undersized and it wasn’t getting good flow. So I think we were spending $300 a month on the system. So you guys were challenged.

Chris Olsen:
You had to put the largest system you could on the roof and on top of that … I don’t know if you even remember this, but we had that whole deal where we had to fight with the HOA a little bit, where we had to give them the schematics and we went to the city and you’ve got the plans. We submitted the plans. They said, “Well, you can see it from the street, 79th street.” And then we talked to him, saying, “Well, let’s not on the front of the house, it’s on the back of the house.” And then I convinced him to, after a time, that they needed to do this. I mean, the solar isn’t going anywhere. I may have been the first in the neighborhood, but I’m not going to be the last. And since then, they become even more, I mean, mainstream and even more aesthetic, I would say, because now they’re solid, beautiful, black, no seams. I mean five years ago. I don’t think that those … were probably just coming out.

Chris Olsen:
So, it was a pretty seamless process. I mean, I think the middle of September is when we signed that contract in 2015. You guys installed it by the end of the year. I’m pretty sure you installed before winter even hit. So probably, if I remember correctly, it’s probably October. So, 30, 45 days after the signing of the contract. I mean, they install … or they dropped off the stuff on the front driveway. The other concern that my HOA had was, how long has that stuff going to be in your driveway? I think that it was literally if I remember correctly, it was there less than a week. I mean, I would think it was three days. You guys planned it to where they drop the equipment off, everything that they would need, all the rails, all the panels. I think we used in phase at the time, the inverters and all that stuff. They dropped that off and then, within a week, solar was on the house, which was really cool.

Chris Olsen:
And of course, I mean, the whole other side of that is, when (insurance) damaged-out our roof that was already damaged before solar. I mean, do you want to go into that now? I mean, I can keep going.

Kate Garrens:
Sure. Yeah. I had forgotten about that. Yeah. Wasn’t it an insurance claim or something, right?

Chris Olsen:
Yeah. So, literally, I think it was in … I want to say it was April and the adjuster came out and said, “Hey. You have … You’ve got some damage on your roof that I could probably total out.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. We just got solar put on this roof. I don’t know if we want to mess with it.” And so what happened is, I called you guys and said, “Hey. We have an issue here. They said that I have damage. It dates before the solar was installed. How do I do this?” And you guys, literally, it was as easy as, “Just tell us what we need to do. We’ll we’ll send …” It was James, right, still your installer today. “We’ll send names out. James will take off the panels. He’ll set them aside nicely. They’ll put on the solar. It will work with them as soon as the roof is on, then we’ll come right back out, we’ll reinstall the solar.”

Chris Olsen:
And that’s exactly what happened. And on top of that, you guys actually even worked with me with the insurance, because the insurance had to pay for that, right. They had to pay to take it off and put it back on. And it was a seamless process to where there was no stress whatsoever on me. You guys handled all those logistics. I mean, it was just, sit back and watch it all come together. I mean, even working with the power company. I didn’t have to do much whatsoever. I mean, Sherry and the team handled all that stuff.

Chris Olsen:
So it was a very easy process and right away, obviously, you see that credit hitting on your bill. So it was a pretty cool and easy to go through.

Kate Garrens:
Oh, great. I can’t remember. You sold your home shortly after, but I don’t remember how long it was. It was maybe a couple, two or three years, right?

Chris Olsen:
Yeah. About a year and a half later. So in 2017, we ended up selling our house. We didn’t want to ever move, right. And then you have that one house, right, that you say, “Man, if anybody ever goes into that one …” And this just so happened to be the house I grew up in, right up the street. So it was like, if this house comes for sale, we’re going to jump on it. Well, about a year later, after the solar was installed, they called us and said, “Hey. We’re going to downsize our house. Would you be interested in buying your old house?” And we said, “Absolutely.” So, we started that process. Put the house … Actually. So, we put it on Zillow, which is what we did. I mean, realtors, obviously we’re the ones that everybody hates, right. But we put that house on Zillow on our own, just saying, “Make me move.” Right. It was one of those things where we just said, “We’ll do this for a month. See what happens?”

Chris Olsen:
Well, because of the solar on the house … We put a picture specifically of the back of the house on there, and they saw all the panels, and under those panels, obviously, you could see our finished patio. So, it was a really cool shot. And we had about five people just from that, want to look at the house, saying, they’ve been looking at houses and this was a big deal-breaker for them, and there was solar already on this house. That’s a huge investment, a huge asset that we don’t have to worry about now and they’re big on the environment. That was why we ended up getting the full ask on our house, plus some because we had that solar system on the back of the house.

Kate Garrens:
Oh, wow. So, you got over the asking price. That’s amazing. Because I know that a really big concern for other people who are considering going solar, but they’re maybe not sure if they’re going to move, or it’s sort of iffy, and so that’s something that people, I think, they get reserved on whether or not they want to buy solar now versus maybe five years from now. So, that’s awesome. That’s great.

Chris Olsen:
I talked to the homeowners not too long ago, just to ask how the system was running, and they said, “Not a problem whatsoever.” I mean, they even called you guys a year and a half later to get the info … Whatever the account was to monitor and to track and do all that stuff.

Kate Garrens:
I remember.

Chris Olsen:
Yeah. They even shifted the account. You guys shifted the account over to their name and that was seamless … That was another thing I was worried about, because it runs through the electrical system, right, and there was that box in the basement, I believe, and that’s how they would see what was being produced. That way, that you could check it with what the power company was getting on their end.

Kate Garrens:
Yes. The monitoring.

Chris Olsen:
Yeah. You even shifted all of that into their name, which is obviously really cool. I don’t know. It was an easy process. But the people who bought it, I mean, they were big on the environment. So, to be able to say … When the adjuster came out or whatever. What do they call that? The assessor. The assessor came out or the appraiser came out. That’s what it is. The appraiser. The appraiser came out and appraised the house, because obviously back then, they were like, “Well, you’re paying over asking for this house. We’ve got to make sure the value’s in there.” I mean, they put the value on the solar at exactly … The value that they added to the house, they put it at exactly what I paid for it. No depreciation whatsoever, which, I thought was really cool.

Chris Olsen:
I mean, obviously, we’d have talked to a realtor if that’s a normal instance, but it was really cool to see that the system we had put in didn’t depreciate at all. It literally just adds that permanent value to the house.

Kate Garrens:
You had mentioned selling your home with solar, and that gave me the brilliant idea of bringing in a realtor friend of mine that’s local here to Kansas City, because I wanted to pick his brain a little bit and see what exactly he’s seeing in the real estate market right now, as far as homes that have renewable energy. And so, Berry, this is Berry Long with Realty Executives. Thank you for being here.

Berry Long:
Hello. Hi, there. Glad to be here.

Kate Garrens:
So awesome. So, Chris was just sharing his story about how he sold his home with solar on it and actually got above the asking price. And that led me to the thought process of bringing you in and getting your take on what you’re seeing in the real estate market, as far as homes with renewable energy. What are you seeing?

Berry Long:
Well, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Oh my gosh. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. It’s important for realtors to stay on top of trends that are happening in the market and right now, folks are starting to have a conversation about carbon footprint and about being ecologically savvy, and how are we leaving this world. In addition to that, they’re talking about sustainability and independence from corporate America, big business, electrical companies, and how can we make our homes more independent.

Kate Garrens:
Yes.

Berry Long:
One, because they want to figure out how they can do things more cost-effectively. Two, it’s ecologically friendly. And three, it’s the right thing to do and how do we want to leave this world?

Kate Garrens:
Exactly.

Berry Long:
So, what we’re seeing is, people are trending towards what we call smart homes and homes that are buttoned up in terms of solar power. And what that means is, is that people want to be able to control their consumption. And so what they’re doing is, with their iPhone, when they leave, they’re controlling their thermostats, their lights. Coupled with that, is also the idea of how can we be autonomous just within ourselves? And so, now people are starting to have a dialogue about solar energy. And there are some exciting trends that are hitting our area. And one of them is, people are asking the question of, is this house green? Do they have solar energy? And how does that impact the marketability and the sell-ability of a house?

Berry Long:
And so, what we’re actually seeing is, homes with solar panels and that have smart technology, are actually bringing higher dollars, if not above list price because they are ready to go into the next generation. And so, it’s a really exciting trend and there is actually a certification that you can get. It’s called a Pearl Certification, and they have several different steps of certification. But there are realtors in the area and appraisers that are in the area, that are specifically geared towards green homes and homes that have solar power and can factor that into the equation of how does this affect your property values. And so, it’s really exciting to have that conversation with people, because it is the question right now.

Kate Garrens:
Yeah. That’s so cool. I love that. I can’t imagine finding my dream home and then finding out that I’m not going to have a power bill on top of it if I purchase that house. That would be the most amazing thing ever.

Berry Long:
Absolutely.

Chris Olsen:
I have a [crosstalk 00:13:35] question for-

Berry Long:
Buying your ideal home and then, wait a minute, bonus, no bill for electricity.

Chris Olsen:
Berry, when we sold our home, this was back in ’17, right, so they put solar … I don’t even know if you know the backstory. But they put solar on our house in ’15 and then we sold it in ’17, and we ended up selling our house for $60,000 over every other house in our subdivision, because of things like that. I mean, is it that common? I mean, that’s huge.

Berry Long:
That’s a huge increase. Here’s the exciting thing. You’re above the trend right now, and anybody that would get involved in solar power right now would be ahead of the game because people are now having that conversation. So, it’s probably more economical to do it now, because as the demand increases, you’re going to see, prices increase. So, now would be the time for people to take advantage of having that conversation now and actually acting on it, as opposed to just having the conversation. Because there aren’t a lot of properties at this point that have the solar panels that people are asking for, so now’s the time to do it.

Kate Garrens:
Another thing that I wanted to bring up too is, just the changes with the solar panels as well. So, when we think back even to five, 10 years ago, solar panels, had this blue tone to them with the silver frames and the white crisscross lines going through it. They really stood out. Nowadays, we’re seeing a lot of the manufacturers are going to an all-black panel. Some of them still do, some of them do not have the crisscross throughout the black design. We have black frames now as well. So, they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Kate Garrens:
There’s also many really cool creative ideas that we solar companies like to get into, where we’ll build maybe a pergola over your patio or next to your pool, and we’ll cover that whole pergola with solar panels. So then it almost makes a shaded, little nice area. And it’s got two functions. Not only is it giving you free energy, but it’s also providing a little bit of shade when you’re hanging out in your backyard. So, I don’t know if you’re seeing that, Berry, but that could [crosstalk 00:16:12]-

Berry Long:
For me, the cosmetic piece is very important, because people always are worried about curb appeal. And when you were doing your house in 2017, Chris, the technology has changed so much that, now you really don’t know that people have solar energy or solar panels. And so, it’s really buttoned up the technology to where it’s not as obvious as it used to be, like you were saying, Kate, and that it does not impact the curb appeal whatsoever, which is really important for marketing and resell. And as the technology continues to grow, you’re just seeing that it’s becoming invisible and people aren’t noticing the solar panels, because they’re integrated into the home so well.

Kate Garrens:
Yeah. That’s great. It’s awesome. I love all the creativity, though, with solar and how people are finding new ways. There are even solar shingles now that I’m seeing pop up here and there. I know those have been out for a little while, but they didn’t … Initially, five, six years ago, when they first started popping up, they didn’t have good reviews, but I see that we’re starting … The technology, every year, is getting better, and so it’s only going to get better as far as curb appeal and aesthetics go with solar.

Kate Garrens:
So, that’s always exciting too, because I know that that is a big turnoff for a lot of people several years ago was, “Oh, they just kind of … They’re so big and they stick out.” That brings me to another thing is, that power, the Watts per one panel are getting greater and greater as the years go on as well. So that means you need less panels for the same-sized system. So, the systems are getting small … Like our cell phones. For a while there, they were getting smaller, but the technology was getting better and better. So, it’s similar to that.

Berry Long:
One of the things that you were talking about was the size. And so, I want to bring in that, in terms of doing solar, you don’t have to have the most expensive house on the block to do solar. People are thinking of solar energy in every price point. People want value across the board. And so, regardless of the price point of your house, you can budget it in, because it’s going to pay off in the long end of things.

Kate Garrens:
Absolutely.

Berry Long:
So, I don’t want people to think it’s just these multimillion-dollar houses or these $500,000 houses that are getting solar panels. It’s a question that we’re getting at every price point.

Kate Garrens:
Yes. That’s so true. And thanks for bringing that up, Berry. A lot of people are not aware that when you get a solar loan, whether you’re paying cash or you want to finance your system, if you’re financing your system, oftentimes your payment for that loan ends up being about the same, if not less, than what you’re currently paying to your utility company. So, it’s like locking in the price right now … Almost like if you were able to purchase gas for the next 20 years. Back in 2000 when it was 99 cents a gallon, and then after 20 years, now, here we are in 2020, somebody just says, “Hey, now all your gasoline for your car is free.” How cool would that be to lock-in at no price?

Berry Long:
Be awesome.

Kate Garrens:
Is it not free once it’s all paid.

Berry Long:
I love free.

Kate Garrens:
I love free. Who doesn’t love free? We all love free. So, yes. And so, anyway. I also wanted to touch on the Pearl Certification as well. That’s great for new solar customers, but because it’s somewhat new and everybody’s just now … I mean, it’s been around for some years, but people are just now starting to hear the rave about it. So, if somebody has solar, you can certainly still go purchase a Pearl Certification. It’s not something that you have to do right when you get your solar array put on your home. That can be done at any time, especially if you’re looking at selling your home and you’ve got a great real estate agent, like Berry,-

Berry Long:
Hey.

Kate Garrens:
… and you want to really see a return on your investment. That Pearl Certification is always great to have in your back pocket.

Berry Long:
Absolutely. 100% agree.
Kate Garrens:
Well, Chris and Berry, thank you guys so much for being here today on our call. I know it’s not our normal way of doing our podcast, but with COVID going on, it really worked for us this time. So, I want to thank you guys for being a part of this show today. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to our Sunday podcast, where we talk about all things renewable energy.