If there are solar panels on the roof, here are the questions to ask before you buy...

Government energy minister Greg Barker may say that householders could get paid hundreds of pounds a year for heat generated by solar thermal panels – but there are potential pitfalls to be avoided if you are looking to buy a home which has them fitted.

Solar panels
Solar panels

Buyers can have trouble getting a mortgage if the roof has been “rented” to a utility supplier, according to research by independent home finding company County Homesearch.

There are almost 300,000 homes in UK with solar panels which either can be owned outright by the householder or fitted and rented out to a utility supplier.

But if a householder opts to rent the roof space out to a green energy company it may cause a sale to falter.

In a case study highlighted by County Homesearch, the seller of one house was able to point to a handy income from the panels on his roof and saw it as a real benefit which would add value to the property.

But ownership of the panels was unclear and one potential mortgage provider was unwilling to lend unless ownership was passed on to the purchaser.

County Homesearch says that often these panels are installed by solar companies for free, and they then sell extra energy generated back to the grid. These schemes are usually based on 25 year leases which require the approval of the mortgage lender.

The three questions you should ask if a property has solar panels are:

1. Do the panels increase or decrease the value of a property for aesthetic reasons? A Cotswold cottage with solar panels may well be a turn-off and reduce its value while a modern town house with them maybe a plus and a revenue earner.

2. Can the seller confirm who owns the panels? If they have been put up and owned by a power company on a 25 year lease that may be a problem as lenders will be reluctant to lend on that basis. A legal transfer of ownership will need to take place.

3. Having solar panels on the roof – which are very heavy – might undermine the roof’s structure and it’s advisable to inform the insurance company that they have been installed.