In an historic move, solar panels will be a required feature on new houses in California after the state's Building Standards Commission gave final approval to a housing rule in December that's the first of its kind in the United States. The story sort of got lost in the shuffle with all of the national and global political turmoil and natural disasters grabbing the headlines, so we housesellers thought we would highlight this as one of our first stories of the new year. Set to take effect in 2020, the rule applies to all single-family and multi-family residences of three stories or fewer and was made a requirement as part of the California's ongoing battle against climate change. 

The new mandate has an exemption for houses that are often shaded from the sun, but includes incentives for people to add a high-capacity battery to their home's electrical system to store the sun's energy. The state has set a goal of drawing 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources and sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New homes that are built under the new standards are expected to use 53% less energy than current standards. While other states may have an issue with developers complying with a rule this forward-thinking, a number of California home builders already place solar panels on all or most of their homes.

California home buyers will have an array of options as to how to purchase the panels ranging from paying for solar panels outright, leasing them or entering a power purchase agreement with developers. The state predicts that mandatory solar panel installations and other new improvements will add nearly $10,000 in the upfront cost of a home, but the average home owner with solar panels will save roughly $19,000 over the course of a 30-year mortgage. California hopes to achieve its carbon-neutral energy status within 30 years and in September, the California Energy Commission said the state is currently at 32% of achieving that goal.