For most of us, our house is the most important purchase we will ever make. Not only is it our largest financial investment, but it’s the roof over our heads and the place of security from where we build our lives.
When shopping for a new home, many people focus on the aesthetics of the house, things like what the exterior looks like, the square footage, or how recently the kitchen has been renovated. Rarely are HVAC systems given more than a passing thought. After all, they’re easy to overlook when they’re hidden in the basement or behind closed doors.
However, it is your HVAC system—not brand new kitchen cabinetry—that keeps you comfortable and warm on cold nights. There are three crucial questions that every homebuyer should ask about the HVAC system in their potential new home to be sure they’re making the most informed decision possible.
1. How old is the system?
Most HVAC systems have a lifetime of 10-15 years. Some may last longer, but after about a decade, performance tends to decline and repairs become more frequent. An old HVAC system doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but it is something you should be aware of. You can either plan to be extra vigilant about keeping up with routine maintenance, or you can factor in the cost of replacements when budgeting your offer on the house.
2. What is the warranty?
Modern HVAC systems commonly come with lifetime warranties, but many are accompanied by stipulations that affect the transfer of the warranty when a home changes hands. In some cases, the warranty is nontransferable and becomes void when a new contract is signed. In others, an expiration date comes into effect upon the sale of the home. It’s important to know the warranty status of the HVAC system in your new home so that you can decide how you want to proceed, whether that’s negotiating an extended warranty be built into your contract or just opting to handle it yourself after you assume ownership4
3. Can I see the evaluation from the last HVAC inspection?
Yes, your general home inspection will cover the HVAC system, but the general inspector has a lot of ground to cover and may only give the HVAC system a cursory once-over. Unless there is a glaring problem, the system will be given a pass. You will learn a lot more about your new system by reading through the write-up from the most recent HVAC inspection, which will give a more thorough summary of the system’s history and how well it’s been taken care of. (For example, how rigorously the previous homeowners kept up with regular inspections and maintenance.)
When making any large purchase, you ought to know what you’re getting into. Asking the right questions should be an important component of your process as you research any home you’re giving serious consideration to buying. Contact us if you have any questions about a future HVAC system. We’ll be happy to give you advice.