Behind a cloud

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell wonders if he’s been proven right.

Many moons ago I commented on the trend for companies to install solar panels on people’s homes at a reduced cost, in a deal that would see the homeowners benefit from the free electricity, while the companies received the feed-in tariff and the fee for any surplus electricity sold back to the grid.

On the surface it sounds good but I remember expressing concern, especially if the homeowner wanted to move.

Sure enough, I met a couple this weekend who are currently living in rented accommodation with a view to buying a home. They appreciate that their tastes in homes differ wildly, so when they found somewhere that they both loved, imagine their dismay when they discovered that the property’s solar panels had been installed in a deal similar to the one outlined above.

Furthermore, the installers had sold that deal on to another company without the knowledge of the homeowner.

The couple I met responded as I had predicted when I wrote the article – they weren’t going to take on that liability. In fact, the situation was murkier than I had thought. For example, if the solar panels were to be accidentally damaged – in a fire, let’s say – then the homeowner would be liable for the loss in income.

Therefore, the vendor bought the panels outright to ensure the sale went through, which ended up costing him almost double the original installation fee.

It was an interesting story to listen to, especially since it unfolded precisely as predicted. However, this could be the tip of the iceberg. Most of us have had to move home at some point, and we know that it is far from a straightforward procedure, so added complications like this could easily turn prospective buyers away, further affecting the housing market.

That said, home improvements also increase the saleability of a home. So even as people are choosing to improve rather than move, those improvements will actually be a sound investment further down the line – if they are done properly.

It’s certainly worth bearing in mind as we approach the FIT Show later this month, where you’ll be able to find new products with which to attract new customers.