Everyone wants to enjoy the American Dream: home ownership.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling of picking out a place of your own, jumping through the hoops to secure the financing, and eventually paying off your piece of the world.  For most folks, owning a home is their biggest financial goal, and nearly 70% of all Americans have achieved this milestone.

While most people tend to buy houses early in the calendar year, there are still plenty of great opportunities to purchase at any season.  In fact, with the Raleigh, Wake Forest, and Rolesville real estate markets still running at record highs, now would be a great time to look around for your ideal homestead.  

If you are thinking of purchasing a home, there are plenty of things that you’ll want to look out for before signing on the dotted line.  You’ll almost certainly have to have the structure inspected, but these inspections don’t always uncover all potential problems.  You, as the person who will be lining in the house, should try to help discover all issues in the home before closing.  

One of the most expensive issues that can sour the experience is faults with the heating and air conditioning system.  It is wise to take as much time as possible to ensure that the system works well, has been properly maintained, and will reasonably perform to your expectations.  The following are some tips that can help you identify potential problems with the unit and provide some insights on how it was cared for.

  • Try the Thermostat.  This is likely the first step you’d want to take, and the most obvious.  Just turn on the system!  See where the last settings were, what the schedule was, etc.  This could help you get a feel for how much stress the system may have been operated under.
  • Attempt to run the heat and the cold.  Usually, people will only check the air conditioning if it’s warm outside, or the heater when it’s cold.  But a savvy home buyer will try to run both, if possible.  You may have to turn the thermostat to much hotter or colder settings than you’d usually run the system, but the idea is to see if the system responds at all, and if it does will it produce the hot or cold air you expect.
  • Look at the existing air filters.  This is another easy step that could shed some light on the previous owner’s habits.  Is the filter overdue for replacement?  Is it an expensive filter, or an inexpensive one?  Pull back the filter – do you see a lot of dust and debris?  If the system hasn’t had filters replaced in a timely fashion, it likely hasn’t had any other routine maintenance done.
  • Inspect the insulation.  Climb up into the attic, and look over the insulation.  Does it look thin and worn?  Has it been damaged?  Is it all there?  These will not only help you understand the costs you may incur during harsher months, but it can also shed some light on how hard the system may have had to work to keep the house comfortable.
  • Check for asbestos.  This should only apply to older houses built prior to the 70s, and would appear in virtually any home inspection performed prior to close.  You likely won’t have to find it yourself, but know that if your potential property was insulated with asbestos you’ll likely have some expensive replacement in your future.
  • Look over the windows and doors for air leaks.  Take some time to really look over the door seals and windows for cracks, drafts, and other wear and damage that could raise your heating and cooling costs.  Also, try to gauge the age of your windows.  It is estimated that windows should be replaced every 15 – 20 years, so if you’re looking at an older home and seeing cracked panes, fogginess, or condensation inside the windows, you may have an costly renovation shortly after taking the keys.
  • Request a thorough, professional house cleaning.  Unless this house is a brand-new construction, there’s probably many years worth of dust, debris, pet dander, and other unwanted stuff in the ducts of your HVAC system.  Professional cleaners should open up all of the registers and clear out many of these irritants before you move in.

While repairs and replacements are inevitable in the life of a homeowner, you definitely don’t want to start your journey off with a malfunctioning or inefficient HVAC system.  These few tips can help you identify issues before taking ownership of the home and eliminate or share costs with the seller.  While you cannot quickly and easily identify any and all issues present with the system, you can get some clues well in advance of signing off on the purchase.  If you have major concerns about the system, feel free to give us a call and schedule a time to have one of our helpful technicians check the system and give our opinions.  

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