Buying Property w/ Window Units

21 Replies

I'm considering purchasing a small duplex that was built in 1964.  It only has window units, no central air or anything.  Do you guys usually shy away from this or is it not a big deal?

@Andrew Merritt I factor the cost to add central HVAC in order to command higher rents and to hopefully attract and retain a higher quality tenant. Depending on the area, or if there are existing tenants that are perfectly fine with window units, it be better to just stick with them.
@Andrew Merritt Hi Andrew. There seems to be two trains of thought so I think it comes down to your personal preference. On the one hand, you can keep the window beaters and keep your costs low for maximun cash flow and minimal out of pocket. On the other, and what I do, is pony up to have a central HVAC system installed. Central AC will usually bring the appraisal up for refinancing purposes and you can expect a better tenant and get a touch more rent for an offset. $6k on a 30 year adds less than $40 a month. If your exit strategy is to one day sell it, it may help tremendously to sell it and probably pay for itself because folks don't want to own a window beater home down South. Kind regards, Johnny Napier

Thanks guys, I was considering doing the same thing.  Is there any kind of rule of thumb for estimating this?  I don't even have the place under contract so I don't want my HVAC guy to spend time on quoting me anything.

@Andrew Merritt Have you considered installing a ductless (aka mini split) system? I’m looking into doing that for a property I just purchased, rather than ponying up for a true central HVAC system. An agent recently told me that mini splits usually appraise as central HVAC. I have not verified this with an appraiser, yet, though.

@Nathan McBride I have considered that and that is what I would most likely do.  I suppose I was incorrectly using the terms interchangeably.  I think that would actually be the better route to go with this property as it's a rather small square footage. 

Had one done last February for 4/2 1200 sq ft with a 2 ton split unit including all new electrical and ducts for $5200.00.  Last December did a replacement 2 ton split unit for $4,000 in a 2/2 1000 sq ft.   This past July I had a replacement 2 ton split unit without duct work and electrical for $3,900.00 in a 3/2 1160 sq ft home.   I gave you $6k since you didn't mention size of the house.  

Nathan brings up a great point.  I forgot that you mentioned duplex.  If you're not paying utilities, it's probably the most cost effective solution for 2 separate doors. 

You may think to take out the unattractive window units and install the new mini room air conditioners that wall mount and come with remote controls. I think you can pick them up for about $300/units and be much simpler to install than a whole new house central system. I think people will like having full use of the windows. These units as something like 10" to 12" high, about 8 " deep, and from 4' to 5' long and are an electronically controled, actually a nice and attractive feature. They come with a mini compressor that mounts on the outside of the wall and w/thier own mounting bracket.  or you can simply mount then in the attic with a drainage hose for the condensation to the outiside of the wall itself. This way no one looking at your house from the outside would even suspect each room has an air conditioner. Sounds complicated but it is not and each unit takes about one hour to install and have it running minutes after the install is finished. Compare that to the maybe between $5K and $10K you will have to pay for a whole house central system. 

@Andrew Merritt mini splits have certain maintenance requirements. I think their filters are smaller and more sensitive to lack of changing. I would write into my lease that I will come by and change filters quarterly or however often you need to protect your investment.
Whether or not it makes sense to install HVAC would depend on the market and the premium A/C commands in the market. With older buildings you may have asbestos and should factor the cost of Asbestos abatement as well.
@Andrew Merritt @Nathan McBride Mini splits are the same price. The equipment cost is much higher on mini split. It’s the same concept used for lots of products. Convienience cost more. Easier to install higher cost. Central air is the way to go. Window AC if installed incorrectly leaks and can rott our the windows. I don’t think that’s worth any savings. Do it right and invest in your investment. You will always get the better tennnant with the right amenities. A car dealer once tried to sell me a brand new car with no AC in it. I laugh and went to another dealership for the car I needed.
@Gilbert Dominguez They don’t take 1 hour to install . They are less invasive than central and install quicker but anyone who puts it in under an hour hasn’t done something correctly. It’s a days worth of work depending on how many heads are installed. They do heat and are very energy efficient. The most important thing is hiring the right person for the job. A person with a lot of hvac experience. Listen to their recommendation and value their opinion because you called them for their expertise. If you knew what your doing you wouldn’t be hiring them. Let them suggest the best option, and make it work with your budget. Better than a ”Great“ brand is a great installation. I’m an HVAC technician by trade.
I dont like window units for several reasons. The biggest being that they usually destroy the window and the moisture causes mold. Central air is a good fix but can be costly to install and will have expensive maintenance costs down the road. When I bought a duplex without central air I had my handyman cut a hole in the wall and permanently mount a 15k BTU unit there. It was 90% cheaper than central air, much more efficient than a window unit, and doesn't create all the problems window units do. Dont be afraid of the investment but plan to change it in the next 3 years.

@Andrew Merritt   We have an older 4-plex in a historic area of town and the window units have worked great for us.  There is no duct work, so going back and installing central A/C would be cost prohibitive.  It also hasn't been an issue for our prospective tenants.  We buy units that have digital thermostats, and have sufficient cooling capacity for the space, so they work well.  As we have had to replace older models that we inherited from the previous owner, its less than $200 and 30 minutes to swap one out.