6 Smart Tips for Assessing the HVAC System of a Distressed Property
A malfunctioning heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is one of the most costly repairs that house flippers encounter. Before buying a distressed or foreclosed property, it is extremely important to inspect the home’s HVAC system to reveal existing problems.
You will want to make sure that both heating and cooling systems are in good working condition before making an offer, or account for the system’s repair and/or replacement in your budget. You can also use the HVAC condition to negotiate for a better purchase price. How do you assess the HVAC system of a distressed property?
While it is definitely worth your time, effort, and money to get a professional inspection of the HVAC system in a potential property to purchase, you can start with some simple steps on your own to assess the system. Here are some HVAC tips for house flippers to give you a headstart:
1) Visually Inspect and Listen to the System
You can’t make an accurate assessment of an HVAC system based on its appearance alone. Only a comprehensive inspection will help you determine if it is in good working order. However, you should still keep an eye out for dirt, condensation, rust or anything unusual in and around the system that would indicate a problem.
You will also want to do more than just make sure it is running. Listen for odd noises like scraping, banging, or hissing sounds that may indicate a repair of replacement is needed on the equipment. Check all modes of operation for at least 5-10 minutes each, including heating, cooling, and vent fans.
2) Know the System’s Age
A typical air conditioner or furnace can last up to 15 years, especially if it is well maintained. By knowing how old your system is, you can decide whether a major repair or complete replacement is required. When buying a property with an HVAC system that has been in service 15 years or longer, a total replacement will make sense. The advanced age of the system will be enough to scare off potential buyers, and a new system will make a strong selling point for a flipped house.
3) Find the HVAC System’s Energy Label
Take a quick look at your system to find the energy label. It should include a list of various HVAC units along with their energy efficiency ratings and operating costs. Start with checking the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) for air conditioning units, then the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for furnaces and boilers. Do not forget that the energy label indicated on the system is only a list of minimum standards of similar equipment. Energy efficient systems are highly desired by buyers, especially in seasonal climates where heating and cooling costs can be high.
4) Determine the Comfort Level of Each Room
A well-performing HVAC system will not make you feel uncomfortable in any situation. If you feel hot even when the A/C is on, it means that something is wrong with the system that needs immediate attention. While it may be difficult to test each room in various seasonal conditions, you should feel the heated or cooled air flowing freely to each vent in the home. Be sure to check to top floor vents for cooled air especially.
5) Look For Job Tickets from HVAC Techs
Usually, HVAC technicians post a job ticket on the system after doing a repair or maintenance service. Job tickets are simply a maintenance record that includes details of everything that has been done to the system in the past. You can use the tickets for reference if the unit needs replacement soon or show that it is in good working order and has been maintained regularly.
6) Hire a Licensed HVAC Inspector
For the best results, it is wise to ask for help from an HVAC expert to inspect the system before closing the deal. Although it may cost more, a professional inspection will give you a clearer picture of the current condition of the system, helping you decide whether or not to purchase the property. Considering the high cost of system replacement, a professional inspection can save you a major headache in the future. A bad HVAC system isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for house flippers, but you can make a more informed offer and budget if you know what needs to be fixed or replaced up front.
Do not commit to buying a property without a thorough HVAC inspection unless you are prepared for a full replacement. Take the simple steps above from Harkins Air Conditioning, Heating & Controls to make the best decision when making an offer on a distressed property.