Impact of asbestos ducts/furnace age on sale price?

artemis78September 14, 2010

Curious to get some feedback from folks on this forum on a financial decision we're weighing....thanks!

As part of a kitchen remodel, we're taking out an old chimney and need to re-vent our existing hot water heater and furnace. Both are 15 years old, in good condition, and decently efficient. The only real issue is that our current ducting is asbestos---something that's not uncommon in older homes where we live, and is not considered a huge issue provided the ducts are in good condition (as ours are). However, it's still something that needs to be disclosed upon sale.

We've gotten some bids on the work, and were surprised to find that re-venting the existing equipment is about a third the cost of a new 96% efficient furnace with new asbestos-free ductwork. We can afford to do this, but it's a reach and we're not super excited about replacing a perfectly functional appliance. Because our current furnace is 80% efficient and we live in a moderate climate where total heating bills are only a few hundred dollars a season, we would never make up the cost in energy savings. However, there are some major pros nonetheless: when we sell, we'd be selling an asbestos-free home with a 5-year-old v. 20-year-old furnace, and the high-efficiency furnace can be vented directly out the side of the house, which means we don't need to have a little duct running along our kitchen wall or along the outside of the house. (The water heater vent can fit into a standard wall; the combined vent can't.)

So my question: can we realistically expect to make up a little of this cost when we sell, or is that highly unlikely? As a buyer, would you pay more (or discount an offer) on a home with/without asbestos ducts, or with/without a high-efficiency furnace? (This isn't something we knew to look at or think about when we bought, but we were also first-timers.) We're in a starter home and are likely to be here another 5-7 years, so barring any emergencies, we don't plan to do any additional HVAC work---whatever we do now is it. We also want to avoid paying for things twice---i.e., re-venting the furnace now if we should really replace it and/or the ductwork before selling anyway.

Thanks for any thoughts!

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I would bite the bullet and get the asbestos out. I believe that when you are ripping out and remodeling, that's the time to fix things that you could not do otherwise. You would be putting yourself on firmer footing for the sale of your house down the road - there are people who will walk away post-inspection from a house with asbestos.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2010 at 6:37PM
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Absolutely agree with graywings because of the strings the word asbestos plucks, especially in younger people who have grown up with the health warnings of the last two decades. They'll mentally associate anything asbestos in their homes with a ticking time bomb or the cost of remediation.

If you go energy efficient now you may get some tax credits. In a starter home, people do look closely at the mechanicals like furnaces and air. Many would also balk at a twenty year old furnace.

And last but not least, don't ever assume the continuing value of fuels. At any time the costs can change and anything you can do now to make your home energy efficient is an investment. Our electrical bills seemed to have taken a sudden leap over last year with little or no warning they have almost doubled.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 5:28AM
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If you plan to sell your home, you should take care of any "glaring" issues. For most buyers, asbestos is a glaring issue. People have a lot more fear of it than the science supports, but that doesn't make the fear any less of a selling obstacle.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 7:48AM
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It depends...
in general I don't think you're going to get more money for a house with a new high efficiency furnace. it sounds good, maybe a sellng point, but won't garner much in the way of additional money vs say, a shiney new kitchen.

I personally am not afraid of asbestos, I understand what the deal is with it, and unless it were crumbling off the ducts I wouldn't care, others might, not sure how much $.

It also depends on how much $$$ you're talking a few $K vs $10K?

my boiler is probably 50+ years old, not much of an issue, not particularly efficienct. Can you remove the asbestos from the ducts? a resporator mask and some garbage bags and you're done.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 8:35AM
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I agree with chrisk ... asbestos ducts are common here in older desirable suburbs ... as long as it's not crumbling.

Depends on what others in your area are doing. Can you ask some real estate agents what they are seeing in the houses selling these days?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 8:48AM
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Some answers...we're talking roughly $1500 just to re-vent v. $6K for a new furnace + asbestos abatement, once rebates are factored in. So it's a lot, but not an insane amount. We will also soon have a shiny new kitchen that won't be too outdated by the time we sell! :)

Asbestos ducts are also common here, and very visible/identifiable so I think the issue is more likely to be pre-offer than post-inspection...I'd guess, based on the houses we looked at and our friends' homes, that maybe one in two houses like ours in our city (bungalows c. 1910-1930) still have asbestos ducts, so while it's a concern, it's a pretty normal thing for home shoppers to encounter.

We can theoretically remove it ourselves, but we're in California where it's tightly regulated, so we still have to comply with the mandates---so it's probably not worth it, since we'd spend a big chunk of change on containment and disposal anyway (whereas that's included when a contractor does it). We would not want to do the venting ourselves either way, since it requires going up into an old chimney and such, so I'd rather have a licensed contractor do it.

We're getting a couple more bids on replacing the whole system, but I'm thinking maybe this is the way to go. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 6:52PM
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It's not my intention to pick a fight, and I understand you're not afraid of asbestos. But a respirator and garbage bags is not adequate and likely amounts to an illegal -- as well as possibly unhealthy -- removal, as well as contamination of the dwelling it's done in. And then there is the issue of where you legally dispose of it.

Don't get me wrong. I respect your right to do or not do whatever you want. I just don't want others to get the impression that such quick and dirty methods pass muster in most localities.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 3:35AM
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I understand what you're saying..

I'm not sure what extra contamination is left in the home.

My municipality has a program where i can dispose of various harmful things from rat poison to gasoline and I beleive aesbestos. This allows a homeowner to remove certian things properly as opposed to dumping it down a drain or in a landfill.

As far as I understand, and I am far from an expert in this matter, aesbestos its only harmful if inhailed. and its really is only harmful inhailed in large quantities or people with comprimised respiritory systems. There are plenty of lawfirms which will have you beleive otherwise.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 11:02AM
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It is my understanding that in my area, most furnace companies will not do it. I've known people who have been told that they can do it themselves and how to do it (apparently things must stay wet, because when it's dry it is likely to be inhaled. I believe that to have it removed professionally, it requires a company with special licenses and tends to be very expensive.
It seems that most older homes do have asbestos in the furnace duct or asbestos in the old floor tiles.
What a hassle this is. Good luck

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 5:25PM
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$6k for a new furnace and ducts (and hot water heater, I assume) sounds reasonable. That water heater, at 15 yo, is at the end of its useful life. LEGAL asbestos abatement is not cheap.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 2:33PM
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Thanks...the 6K doesn't include the hot water heater, unfortunately, but does include the abatement, which is around 1K. It does require special licenses here too, and as it turns out, most of the HVAC people who came to bid use the same abatement firm, so that part was a little simpler---they just gave us a direct quote.

Looks like we are going ahead with it, though---turns out the whole shebang is not to code (not totally unexpected, as the chimney dates to the 1910s and the furnace to the 1990s!) so we have to move both appliances to get them close enough to an outside wall that they can be legally vented. Having an old furnace was one thing, but having a not-to-code furnace is another all together---a good home inspector should catch that (as ours should have---grrr!) so we definitely want to correct it, and might as well do it now while we can enjoy some of the benefits. :)

Thanks for all of the advice!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 2:45PM
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Building codes don't apply retroactively. If your existing furnace was installed "to code" at the time of installation, it is grandfathered in and does not need to comply with modern code. If you replace it, then whatever you replace it with will need to follow modern code.

If you have a 1910 home, there will be hundreds of things that don't meet modern standards but are still perfectly legal.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 11:17AM
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Thanks. I believe where we live, inadequate venting of a furnace is considered a life and safety code violation, and thus cannot be grandfathered in---but we'll definitely check with our building department and verify this. (The current venting setup turns out to be causing corrosion to the heat exchanger anyway, though, so seems like it's worth correcting regardless!)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:15PM
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