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VOL. 44 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 14, 2020

Freon freeze is going to drive expensive HVAC decisions

Updated 12:33PM
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Home sales increased a staggering 15.7% in January compared to January 2019, sales data from the Greater Nashville Realtors reveal.

And newly crowned GNR president Kristy Hairston says the area can expect more of the same next month.

“With increased sales in January, a large number of pending sales and low mortgage rates, February looks to be another active month in the Greater Nashville area,” she says.

There were 3,117 pending sales at the end of January compared with 2,853 pending sales at the same time last year, Hairston says.

The median price jumped from $293,650 in January 2019 to $305,950 this year. Condominiums saw an increase of from $200,100 in 2019 to $239,000 this year.

Look for more upward movement in the months to come as inventory continues to lag demand.

One new development that will help the environment while causing headaches in the real estate world is the banning of R22 by the Environmental Protection Agency. R22, also known as Freon, has been found harmful to the ozone layer and can no longer be produced or imported into the United States after 2020.

Old HVACs are wreaking havoc on the real estate world.

In 2010, the EPA implemented a ban on the import or production of R22 except for uses in serving existing air conditioning systems. With the new ban in effect, the product cannot be purchased at all. This could prove problematic as most air conditioning systems purchased in the last 10 years use R22.

Home inspectors are required to cite the new regulation when they encounter an old HVAC system that uses the R22 refrigerant.

“This means equipment using R22 may not be serviceable (or very expensive to service) and may need to be replaced in the event of the refrigerant leak or other refrigerant failures,” one inspector warned after explaining the ban. “Repair/replacement costs are likely to be significant.”

HVAC contractors, however, scoff at the report. They say that they have anticipated the ban and they have stockpiled enough of the R22 to last a lifetime. Some have mentioned there is a synthetic R22 and that refrigerant is free of HCFC, or hydrochlorofluorocarbons, the substance in R22 that actually harms the ozone.

The alternate- or synthetic- freon is R241A, while the new refrigerant that is safer for the environment is R-410A. The R421A does require conversion.

It would seem likely that, as inventory of R22 in exhausted, its price would increase. Additionally, if an air conditioning unit fails in midsummer with temperatures in the high 90s, HVAC contractors are able to charge higher prices, a reasonable practice incorporated into most business pricing.

Additionally, if a buyer is paying asking price or more for a property, and the property has an air conditioning system that an inspector has said uses refrigerant that is obsolete and that its repair will be expensive, the buyer is going to demand a new system.

Some familiar with the situation feel replacing a system because of the R22 ban is drastic, again citing the availability of inventoried freon and the production of synthetic freon. They suggest waiting for the unit to fail before replacing anything.

That advice is good for homeowners who intend to reside in their homes for extended periods, but an HVAC system can go at any time.

In most cases, Realtors will advise buyers to demand new systems. And buyers will gleefully follow that recommendation, especially after the inspectors have planted the seeds of fear in the minds of the buyers.

It is the dawning of the age of refrigerants. Many have ignored it for the 10 years since the ban was announced.

Sale of the Week

The property at 617 26th Avenue North was marketed solely as a short-term rental and sold for $378 per square foot at $699,000. Included in the 1,847 square feet are four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and one half bathroom.

617 26th Avenue North

Listing agent Sean Shariati says the unit sold fully furnished and is in the development known as Endeavor at City Heights.

In the movie “The Outlaw Joey Wales,” Chief Lone Watie, Wales’ traveling companion, once described meeting with the politicians in Washington. The chief told the officials of how the Native Americans’ land had been stolen and that there people were dying, and the government representatives responded by shaking the hands of the Native Americans and telling them to “endeavor to persevere.”

The chief said, “They took our picture and put it in the paper with the headline ‘Indians endeavor to persevere.’

“We declared war on the Union,” he added.

Many in the Nashville community are waiting for the day that the city declares war on the short-term rentals.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark Realty, LLC and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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