Rocket Mortgage breaks into the solar industry

As a prelude to entering the renewable energy market, Rocket released a new rate-and-term refi product

Rocket Companies, parent of Rocket Mortgage, has its eyes on the solar energy industry, announcing this week that it will enter the green energy game by 2022.

According to the Detroit-based company, it will be leveraging the same technology, data and client experience used in the mortgage, real estate and personal lending spaces “to help Americans make their home more energy efficient.”

The plan is that “a dedicated group of team members with extensive training in the industry” will help clients determine if solar panels are the best choice for their home, Rocket said.

Once a determination is made that a customer is a good fit, the team will help connect homeowners to a “simple, digital financing application,” and will help to “facilitate the installation of a new solar solution.”

As a prelude to the initiative, Rocket Mortgage announced a new rate-and-term refinance product, which will allow borrowers to “consolidate any solar panel with their mortgage for one low interest rate.”

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The program provides more flexible guidelines compared to a traditional cash-out refinances, and has a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio as high as 97%, Rocket said.

The refinance will be available to any homeowner with a solar loan, including Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE) loans and private loans. Homeowners who refinance would still be eligible to receive federal tax credits for installing the solar panels. Borrowers would not be required to use the proceeds of the tax credit to pay down the debt on the panels.

Joel Gurman, executive vice president of Rocket Mortgage and the lead on this initiative, said in an interview with HousingWire that the decision to pursue renewable energy was made after a significant number of clients reacted positively to the initiative.

“We have a significant portfolio of clients, roughly 2.5 million clients, and we did some research within that group, and we’ve had a lot of people raising their hands for this product,” said Gurman.

Rocket Companies’ CEO Jay Farner said in a statement that the company has the “technology and expertise to provide the best experience possible for homeowners who want to go green.”

 “This is a perfect synergy between our businesses as we develop a digital solution to ensure Americans can receive solar panels with the same certainty they have come to expect when working with our Rocket platforms,” said Farner.

In a press release, Rocket noted that entering the green home energy industry has vast business opportunities and that the industry is continuing to show signs of growth, with more than 2 million solar panels installed in the U.S. thus far and counting.

Installation of solar panels is gaining steam, with the solar market installing a record of 19.2 gigawatts (GWdc) of solar capacity in 2020, a joint study released earlier this year by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie said.

The study also found that solar accounted for 43% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the nation last year and predicted that the solar market will quadruple by 2030.

A testing phase of this endeavor will start in the fourth quarter of 2020 and is expected to be available to the public in early 2022, Rocket said.

Industry trade groups and regulators in recent years have sounded the alarm about how the structure of PACE loans mean the liens are given priority status above the home’s mortgage. PACE programs are also not regulated as heavily as other financial services, including mortgage lending.

In 2019, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it planned to issue new rules on the program.

In May, Bloomberg published a feature story on how subprime solar loans were trapping low-income homeowners across Florida, California and Missouri.

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