I'm in the process of purchasing a 16 unit property (eight 2 unit buildings) that doesn't have central heat/air. They're all still using window AC units and gas wall heaters. If the AC units stay then I can make them the responsibility of the tenant instead of having central heat/air units to maintain. But they're UGLY and many of them were installed through a cutout in the wall instead of a window :( I'm wondering if spending the $$$ to install the central heat/air is worth the expense: will it result in increased property value and justify rent increases? Over the course of the next 6 months I'm already converting the carpet to LVT flooring, countertops to Solid Surface, fuse boxes (yes, fuse boxes) to breaker boxes, and numerous other repairs/upgrades. The monthly rent on the units is currently $250 which is less than half of market average. I'm looking for $650+ per month once repairs/upgrades are complete. Just wondering if the central heat/air will make that much of a difference.
Based on all of the repairs you are already doing, I would target the upgrade. One big consideration, what is the standard in that market? If in the SE, then AC is standard, if in the NE than you may be able to get away with not doing. Speak to MEP contractor to see what type of solutions they could offer, do you really need a system in every unit or can you combine via thermostats or other controls? There may also be tax credit available for updating the MEP system.
Best approach is to get an estimate for retrofitting central AC from your contractors and decide if return justify the investment.
If you decide to keep the window AC.... for my rentals with window AC, I always ask tenant buy the units and have my handyman install them properly.
Another option is to replace window AC with ductless AC.