residential leasing

245

Comments

  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    That's our take on the transfer as well. Or it might open the door to subcontractors doing any repairs or maintenance on the system.

    We went through the contract closely twice and didn't see anything about leans, but I know I'll be going through it another time or two.

    As for calculating renewal terms..."which forms shall set forth the new Monthly Payments due under the renewal Lease, based on our assessment of the then current fair market value of the System."
  • JburgessJburgess Solar Expert Posts: 130 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    lesyl wrote: »
    We got the contract today. For the most part things look fine and fair. We're not sure what to make of the following clause however:

    8. TRANSFER
    SolarCity may assign, sell or transfer this Lease or the exhibits, without your consent. Assignment, sale or transfer generally means that SolarCity would transfer certain of its rights and certain of its obligations under this Lease to another party.

    Thoughts?

    Slappy: No leans.

    Thanks.

    Not a lawer, but the banks did it 4 times on my last house loan!
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    lesyl wrote: »
    We got the contract today. For the most part things look fine and fair. We're not sure what to make of the following clause however:

    8. TRANSFER
    SolarCity may assign, sell or transfer this Lease or the exhibits, without your consent. Assignment, sale or transfer generally means that SolarCity would transfer certain of its rights and certain of its obligations under this Lease to another party.

    Thoughts?

    Slappy: No leans.

    Thanks.

    Looks like a standard "We might sell the whole company to Microsoft" clause.
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    Jburgess wrote: »
    Not a lawer, but the banks did it 4 times on my last house loan!

    That's SOP. Banks are only allowed to loan a certain amount over what they have on deposit, so they free up space to make more loans by selling to secondary lenders.

    That is where the term "conventional loan" came from. The secondary lenders - those who buy the mortgages from the banks - have certain "conventions" of what paper they will buy. The most common convention is that they won't buy a loan with a loan-to-value (LTV) of more than 80%, which is where the "standard" of 20% down came from.

    And guys...it's "lien" not lean. :D
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,775 admin
    Re: residential leasing

    I knew that didn't look wright, err write, uh... right.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    Potentially selling the lease to another company is our take too. Can't decide how much it matters since the lease terms won't change.

    I can't remember being this nervous for any expenditure before. Even though tens of thousands of people have sign on for leases, they've only been around for a few years and this feels like we're an early adopter. Something I've always avoided.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,337 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    I suppose if your really nervous you could have a lawyer look at it, I am sure for a nominal fee.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,775 admin
    Re: residential leasing

    I am a bit less worried about the lawyer and more just looking at the proposition of pre-paying 15 years of electric bills for a 15 percent discount.

    If you are planning on not moving or reducing your electric usage for the next 15 years and betting on lots of power cost inflation in the future (that may be a good one to take), and you are prepared to have it removed in 15 years (if renewal/buyout is too expensive)--then it may be OK for your family.

    But, why not contact a local installer and get a quote for an install and figure out your terms for payment. And compare where you would be for the payments and 15 years out with your own system. Throw in the costs for repairing/replacing the inverter every 10-15 years to make things "fair".

    Given that a business has lots of tax credits, investment credits, depreciation, etc. that a home owner does not--it can make financial sense to do a lease (many companies have done that for decades to reduce their tax costs--sell a facility and lease back for use).

    My concern is that you may end up not owning anything after 15 years of payments... But I did not own anything after 15 years of paying my utility bill either...

    But that gets back into conservation--I do own all of that and my home is nicer to live in too. Quieter, no drafts, more outside lighting/ventilation through skylights, house temperature stays more consistent through the day/night/seasons, etc. As well as 1/2 to 1/4 the power bill of my next door neighbors.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    Bill

    "...pre-paying 15 years of electric bills for a 15 percent discount."

    Either I don't understand something or you don't. Under our terms we would pay a single up-front payment of $5,900 for the 20-year lease. And then nothing more -- except to the power company for any usage over what the solar can produce. In theory though, the system we're looking at should cover around 100 percent of our yearly usage. The system should save us at least $15,000 over the life of the lease. We won't end up owning anything at the end of the lease, but we will be $15,000 less poor.

    We did look a purchasing a system. And sure we could save more, but it would cost roughly 3X as much. More importantly, we wouldn't be comfortable spending that kind of money for years to come. So, it seems better to lease now and start to save $15K rather than wait for some uncertain point in the future when we could start to save, say, $23K. In other words, leasing is the best we can do and seems much better than doing nothing.

    My wife just reminded that I in fact get uptight about EVERY purchase over a few hundred dollars. Whatever. :roll:
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,775 admin
    Re: residential leasing

    I may have mixed up the terms of the other lease you were looking at... That one set their payments at a 15% discount over current electric rate.

    I went through the program for a made up address and power bill at:

    http://www.solarcity.com/residential/solar-lease.aspx

    And it told me that I could pay $5,905 up front + $40 per month (+ my standard electric bill for whatever power I purchased).
    • 20 years * 12 months per year * $40 per month = $9,600 in monthly lease payments
    • 9,600+5,905=$16,505 for 20 years of solar power + any additional utility costs
    Or, for no up-front payments:
    • $89 per month * 20 * 12 = $21,360 lease payments
    Now, that is for California--It is possible that you don't have a $XX per month additional payments or that the online calculator does not cover other payment options. I don't know.

    The online calculator/estimator does not list system size/performance--So I cannot tell more.

    -Bill

    PS: My wife gets upset that I don't get worked up about every purchase over a couple hundred dollars (that wears me out... :blush:)
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • a0128958a0128958 Solar Expert Posts: 316 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    lesyl wrote: »
    ... Under our terms we would pay a single up-front payment of $5,900 for the 20-year lease. And then nothing more

    ... The system should save us at least $15,000 over the life of the lease. We won't end up owning anything at the end of the lease, but we will be $15,000 less poor.

    I'd take a second look at this.

    I don't think you're going to be $15,000 'less poor' - I think instead you'll be $15,000 - $5900 = $9100 'less poor' (after 20 years).

    Your electric bill savings of $15,000 over 20 years is $750 per year. $5900 up front lease payment / $750 electric bill savings = 8 year break even point. So it will take 8 years to recover your $5900 'investment.'

    Eight years strikes me as a long time for a lease scenario. It is better than the approximatel 10 - 15 year break even point if you were to purchase with conventional financing instead of lease, though.

    It looks like your lease terms are like a car leasing payment, where the monthly payments are reduced some in return for a balloon payment at the end of the lease term (20 years in your case).

    Unlike a car lease payment, though, you're paying all of the monthly lease payments 'up front.' I.e., $5900 / 20 years / 12 months/yr = $25/mo lease payment.

    $750 ea. yr. / 12 mo/yr = $62/mo electric bill savings. If you could simply pay a monthly lease payment of $25, instead of a one time $5900, then you'd be cash flow positive from the beginning, at $62 electric bill savings - $25 lease payment = $38 net savings each month. $38 * 12 mo/yr * 20 yrs = $9000, which matches up to the net savings number I pointed out at the beginning (above).

    This lease deal doesn't look all that great to me. The leasing company gets all of its monthly payments up front, making you go about 8 years just to break even. I.e., the leasing company gets all of its money first, before you can get any savings.

    I'd look for a lease opportunity where you don't pay any money up front, so that you can be cash flow positive from the first day. My lease deal is like yours, where I don't own the equipment (in fact I have to pay lease payments perpetually). But I didn't have to pay anything up front, and therefor I've got a small savings each month (electric bill savings minus lease payment) of about $20. Over 20 years I'll save $4000. Not big dollars, but, it's doing something for the environment, and, it's always cash flow positive.

    I think you need to look at other leasing options. I think all you gain with your proposed lease terms is shortening the break even point to 8 years or so, and you haven't gained anything from a risk point of view. A $5900 up front payment to lease a system would be difficult to accept for some.

    Best regards,

    Bill
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    Wow! Thanks Bill.

    But I don't see how a $25/month lease is doable. At least not here. In our area, the only $0 down leases come with a yearly 2.5% bump.

    So, in the first year we would pay $499 in lease payments plus another $266 (solar company's estimate) to the power company. In the final year, we would pay $798 for the lease and $1,073 (again estimated) to the power company.

    At the end of the 20-year lease we'd pay $12,758 for the lease and $11,703 for electric. For a grand total 20-year savings of $1,131 over no solar.

    These numbers are for Sungevity's $0 down lease.

    For SolarCity's prepay lease it would indeed be an 8-year break even point. But their projection of $15,000 in savings is after the $5,900. In year 8, their projections are that we would save $919 on up to $1,830 by year 20. Even if those figures are overly optimistic, I like them better than the $0 down figures.

    These numbers take into account the effects of net metering. The proposed system should provide nearly 100% of our yearly usage. Like most systems, it won’t be able to supply all of our summer usage, but should produce should produce a surplus during the rest of the year.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,959 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    And on any prepaid deal your banking the company will be around to service the system, which it will need at least once or twice best case, when we have no long term experience to suggest this is a viable business.

    What happens if the company goes BK, the the bank repo's the solar, its not yours and your out all the prepaid. What happens if the local government, not happy your cheating on the utility taxes starts to tax your solar in a few years? never say never. If we all go solar they will have to make up the revenue.

    Unless you own the equipment as in buy the system outright, prepaid is a huge risk, reminds me of all these people prepaying on great deal of the month VOIP company, only to find out 6 months later they close there doors

    15+ years is forever, I would never sign up for a lease when literally everything is beyond your control and they already have your money
  • a0128958a0128958 Solar Expert Posts: 316 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    I think Solar Guppy raises an excellent point that I hadn't thought through until now. That is, spending $5900 up front for equipment that you don't own is probably risky, in that you just don't know what might happen long term.

    My leasing company could go 'belly up' just like many finance companies do. Like others who don't own their equipment, I'd correspondingly lose my solar equipment. But at least I have a small savings each month, and wouldn't have a large up front payment to try to recover, perhaps unsuccessfully if there's a bankrupcy involved.

    I think if someone's going to lease, in my opinion it needs to be of the nature where it's someone else's money that's used to purchase and install the equipment (leasing company), and that it's a fair and equitable leasing payment that goes out the door monthly. I think if this is the case, then leasing is a prudent thing to do.

    Best regards,

    Bill
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    Yep. I think that's it too. The numbers for prepaying look great as long as the company stays in business. And it's a new business (4 years old) and a new business model....

    We could do a substantial down payment at $2900 and pay $26 a month. Or the $0 plan. Or skip it altogether. Maybe replace our beater pickup instead.
  • nvysealnvyseal Solar Expert Posts: 108 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    lesyl wrote: »
    We could do a substantial down payment at $2900 and pay $26 a month. Or the $0 plan. Or skip it altogether. Maybe replace our beater pickup instead.

    LOL!.. You gonna lease it? ;)

    Really, think of it from a business standpoint. Look at it from the installers view. They are in the business to make money. Aside from the tax benefits and rebates how are they making a profit on you and everyone else they are signing up on this prepay thing? 5900 might just cover the inverters. You still have 26+ panels, installation, racking and maintenance. In the end they have some old worn out panels and an inverter they probably had to replace twice. I still say there is a revenue they are making here that we are missing. Did you check with net metering and see what monthly service costs are going to run even if you're banking power??
  • a0128958a0128958 Solar Expert Posts: 316 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    nvyseal wrote: »
    ... Look at it from the installers view.

    Installations for leasing customers can be an alternative source of more business for a solar contractor, as it allows the installer to offer payment terms to a customer that the installer otherwise may not have to offer.

    Most of the time it's a financing entity that's paying the installer to do the work in leasing scenarios. Hopefully the installer is pricing for leasing arranged installations in a manner to ensure continued contractor prosperity (enough to cover costs, overhead and earn profit), i.e. pricing no differently than if it was a cash transaction or an owner-financed transaction.

    Usually for leasing situations the property owner is required to sign away all rights to rebates, tax incentives and energy credits, to make the finance numbers 'work.'

    I think a key item brought to the forefront in this thread, for leasing, is to be exceptionally wary of leasing deals where you have to make an initial payment as part of the deal.

    I wouldn't conclude, though, that leasing, on a 'broad brush' basis is bad to do. Just find a leasing firm that allows for the transaction to always be cash flow positive.

    Yes the monthly savings will probably be small - the financing entity has to make a profit too. The positives of a good leasing deal include doing something good for the environment, and doing it in a manner where there's at least some savings to the property owner.

    Best regards,

    Bill
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing
    nvyseal wrote: »
    LOL!.. You gonna lease it? ;)

    It's getting ridiculous isn't it?

    So, I just signed the contract and shipped it off. We're leaving on vacation and need to get this off the table -- and quit pestering you guys. At this point, we're comfortable with the concept of leasing, it's the how to pay for....

    We've got 30 days to cancel or change to a different payment plan. So, this isn't necessarily over :cry:

    At some point on this trip, we'll be driving through the 500 mile stretch of beautiful but mostly empty country between Las Vegas and Twin Falls, ID. We've driven this stretch many times and always find it to be a great opportunity to work out solutions to some of the world's most vexing problems and answer many of life's most complex mysteries. It seems solar leasing falls under this category, so we'll reconsider it then. I bet we get it all worked out by the time we hit Currie. :p

    a0128958: You're right, it's not all about the money.

    I really do appreciate all the thoughtful responses. No matter what we do now, we'll be doing it with our eyes wide open thanks in large part to this forum.
  • dreesdrees Solar Expert Posts: 481 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    lesyl wrote: »
    So, I just signed the contract and shipped it off.
    Congrats! Take some pics when they do the install so we can see the finished product. :D
  • tonystewarttonystewart Solar Expert Posts: 54 ✭✭
    I'm new to this forum with alot of questions. :confused:

    How long did it take before you heard back from your provider after initial contact?

    I had my first meeting July 26th with SureTemp Manufacturing about a 6.2kw system in Lake Worth FL

    Filled out all the forms and am impatiently waiting....
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    welcome. it can vary with the company and even availability of components sometimes can hold things up, but i do suggest you get more than one estimate on a system before signing anything. even after signing it could take some time so you may wish to stipulate a no later than date for work to be finished and it should be reasonable to both of you.
  • russruss Solar Expert Posts: 593 ✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    Anytime someone wants money upfront for a solar lease - sounds like a scam.

    If their business model is good enough for them to finance the arrangement and make a profit the homeowner can do the same providing they have good credit.

    I don't think the leasing companies get all that much better of a deal on equipment than is available to individuals that do some shopping and homework.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    russ,
    you may be right about all of that as i'm not very familiar with leasing myself and i don't see it as a viable option in concept, but to each their own.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,337 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing
    russ wrote: »
    Anytime someone wants money upfront for a solar lease - sounds like a scam.

    If their business model is good enough for them to finance the arrangement and make a profit the homeowner can do the same providing they have good credit.

    I don't think the leasing companies get all that much better of a deal on equipment than is available to individuals that do some shopping and homework.

    I have to agree, a simple low cost loan these days is pretty easy to get if you have a decent credit score and some cash (some home equity doesn't hurt either). My look at leasing lead me to these conclusions, the residual at the end of the leases I looked at were as much as a new install so tear off or renewal would have been the options. My costs were not reduced very much, but would have been fixed against the utility increases.

    So just some quick numbers
    10Kw solar rough quote from NAWS $38,000
    Installation, permitting, racking ......$12,000 (SWAG)

    So lets say $50,000 (OK pretty optimistic @ $5 a watt but I bet I could get it done here in PHX for that now)
    20% cash $10,000
    30% Fed credit $15,000
    (subtract any other tax incentives or utility support)
    Loan $25,000

    Current HELLOC rates are way low, some offer 3% but assume a 5% second on the $25,000 = $265 payment for a 10 year payoff.

    So 10Kw system should cover almost everyone's electric charges in a hot AC driven climate, even less would be required elsewhere. Is you bill more than $3200 annually? Do you consume that much electric?

    In my case it was even better as the Utility kicked in $3 a watt, I had all cash for my portion and only floated the rebate/tax credit parts for less than a year.
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    Thanks for the additional comments. As I've said before I completely understand everyone's dislike of the concept of leasing in general. Except for a few apartments when I was starting out, I've NEVER leased anything. My knee jerk reaction has always been No Way, No How. But I've also lived long enough to know there are exceptions to every rule.

    Maybe I'm dense, maybe I haven't explained things well enough, or maybe there's been some jumping to conclusions about leasing that don't apply in this case, but I just don't see the numbers working out in favor of buying. We'll save at least around $9,000 and maybe as much as $12,000 in leasing over buying, and that doesn't even include the cost of interest.

    To recap our situation:
    4.2 kWh system that will supply around 95% of our usage.
    One up front payment of $5,900...OR
    $2,900 up front and $26/month for 20 years that's $9,140 over the 20 years.
    The lease includes all repairs, maintenance and a performance guarantee. It includes a new inverter when the time comes.

    At the end of the lease, we can renew for another 5 years, buy the system, start over with a new system or have the company simply remove the system for free.
    If we sell the house, we can buy out the lease and transfer it to the new owner.

    To buy the same system would cost us around $18,000 (yes, we've gotten outside quotes for comparison) AFTER all incentives. How is buying a better deal? Would it not take us decades to make up the difference?

    As for the leasing company itself, SolarCity, I've done a crazy amount of background research (dusted off my old newspaper reporter skills) and have come to the conclusion that they are a solid, reputable company. Are there scenarios in which we could lose all or some of our money? Sure.

    Could we end up selling the house before we make back our money? Sure. But that's almost a given if we buy the system.

    Is this a scam? Never say never (even with leasing :p), but I just don't see it. And nothing I've read here as convinced me otherwise. In fact, and I don't mean this as a criticism, but in reading over my former posts it seems like I've spent a lot of time correcting misconceptions. I don't think I've done a very good job explaining things.

    But here's the other bottom line: For reasons I won't go into, we simply aren't able to buy a system and won't be able to possibly for years. We can do the lease now.

    We're now comfortable with all the risks. For the first time in my life, I'm comfortable leasing. Something I never thought I would say. It's absolutely true that this forum as made us look at this process in many different ways and think hard about what we're doing. It's definitely clarified what we're getting into.

    Sorry for the novel.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,959 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    OR you could take that 5900 and do improvements like insulation, new energy efficient appliances, new heat pump hot water tank ect and save even more money than what ever a 4.1kw solar system would payback. ( what 2-3 bucks a day in electric )

    No risk, improves the home and a 1500 tax credit to boot ...

    It always better to reduce your usage than generate your own electricity, regardless if you buy or lease your PV
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    Thought about that, Solar Guppy. But none of our appliances are over 5 years old. They're all energy efficient. We just replaced our water heater too. We have a front loading washer, but no dryer. We dry all our clothes on an old fashion clothesline. All of our light bulbs are CFLs, and we have ceiling fans in every room so we keep our A/C set at 82 degrees and remain comfortable. Our A/C is not necessarily the most efficient, but it too is only 5 years old. One of the first things we did when we bought the house was have extra insulation blown into the crawl space. I forget the R-value, but it's up there. As a result, we use about 60 percent of the electricity of the same-sized home in our city. 6,700 kWh compared to 11,000 kWh

    The only thing left to do, which I'll admit would make a big difference, is replace the windows. They're the original 1950 windows.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,959 ✭✭✭
    Re: residential leasing

    Then do the windows first and regardless if your HW is new, get the new GE hybrid heater, the combined savings in energy will exceed the PV production for significantly less money.

    I would also suggest, you do an audit to understand where the current electric is being consumed ... with your improvements done, it would be wise to know where IS the electric going.

    I've been a PV advocate for close to a decade, but one needs to do everything else for reductions in consumption before you spend a dime on grid-tie PV.

    The other advantage is the improvements to the home, increase its values, a lease is pissing in the wind, you will never see that money ever again and don't be coy on selling the house, if you can't afford a PV outright, how do you expect to "pay off" the PV if you have to sell?.

    I know, it can be hard to fight the urge when one wants something, I'm just suggesting you run the numbers from another angle before signing into a 15 year deal that will be very costly to exit
  • lesyllesyl Solar Expert Posts: 40
    Re: residential leasing

    I'll grant you the windows isn't something I hadn't considered and replacing them first is worth looking into. Our water heater is gas so the hybrids wouldn't work for us.

    I don't necessarily think a leased solar system is going to improve the value of the house, but I just don't agree that it's going to be "pissing" its value "in the wind."

    And how on earth am I being coy on selling the house? If we pay the $5,900 up front we'll never have to pay another cent even if we sell the house. If we go with the down payment plan, the most we'll pay off the lease is $6,240, but that's only if we were to sell the house right after we had the system installed. The farther into the lease we get into the pay becomes less and less the less. If for some reason, the buyer doesn't want the system, SolarCity will remove it for free once the lease is payed off or move it to our new house if we buy in the same area and then we wouldn't even have to pay off the lease.

    What am I being coy about?

    I'll admit that a purchased system will likely improve the value of a house, but it's still possible to lose money on it if you sell too early.

    I should also say that we would never consider solar if we didn't fully intent to stay in our house for a long, long time.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 28,775 admin
    Re: residential leasing

    Personally, I am not convinced that purchasing a solar GT will add much to the value of the home... Probably 30% of the system cost at the upper end (at least, that is what the value works out for me)--and very possibly zero or even a slight negative (reports of some buyers being a bit afraid of solar panels+wiring+inverter bolted to a home).

    Conservation measures/upgrades will be a big win--both for energy reduction and improvement in home (fewer drafts, more comfortable temperature/humidity)--plus those typically add to the value of the home (probably at least 50% of the costs to install--just guessing--but market is very weak right now anyway--don't over pay for anything home related).

    Check with a local real-estate agent if home value is important to you...

    In any case, I would avoid taking a home equity loan to pay for solar GT at this point--saving cash and avoiding ongoing payments to have a "cash cushion" for unexpected expenses is much more important at this time (again, in my humble opinion).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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