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Ask an Expert: Is central air necessary in a high-end renovation?

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Q: Is it necessary to install central a/c in a high-end renovation? How much does it cost, and what’s the premium on resale?

A. Most buyers expect central air in high-end renovation unless it’s technically impossible to install, according to our experts.

“Window units are decidedly down market,” says real estate broker Gordon Roberts. “In general, luxury climate means comfort which is state-of-the-art, efficient and felt, but not seen or heard.”

Real estate broker Deanna Kory says central a/c seems very important “for mint renovations of $3.5 million and up. Some buildings won’t allow it so through-wall is second choice.”

If you’re still not sure, consider the potential competition when it’s time to sell. “Are there other units in the building with central air?” says Roberts. “Then you should probably follow suit. And if you’re already thinking about resale, what are the comparables in your neighborhood? Is central air the norm in properties you’d hope to be commensurate with?”

Even if it’s the norm, it’s hard to identify the premium it might “add” to your sale price. “It just becomes part of the package,” says Roberts. “It may lend a valuable selling advantage over the competition, or compensate for some other perceived weakness.”

As to the cost to install central a/c, Roberts said he checked with an air conditioning specialist for a ballpark estimate on installing central air in a 10-room prewar apartment he’s currently trying to sell. The estimated cost was $40,000-50,000, plus electrical upgrades of about $1,500 per floor—in Roberts’ case, about $12,000.

(Note: Buyers considering purchasing an apartment with central air should know that not all systems are created equal and it would behoove them to have it inspected in advance.)

As to when it's impossible to install?  Architect Marc Spector says the basic requirements include access to a window for fresh air intake and a closet to stow the air handler. 

Related posts:

The big chill: Putting central a/c in a prewar apartment

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