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How Does My Home Heating and Cooling System Work?

Home Heating and Cooling | Fox Marin Blog

Before You Buy: Understand How the Home Heating and Cooling Works

Do you know how your home heating and cooling works? This is especially important to ask about before you buy. Here’s why – I recently took a client to see an older condo building that has water-based radiant heat, in the form of long baseboard style radiators under the windows. Wisely, he asked what the heat source was for the building. It was easy to see that he had concerns that this apartment used electric baseboard heating, which most people know to be expensive – it didn’t. However, this led to another conversation about radiant heating. There are no ducts, and without ducts, you cannot have central air conditioning. You can have a window unit or a Mr. Slim wall unit. But I digress…

As someone who lists properties for sale, there are a lot of details that we as salespeople have to be accurate about when creating an MLS listing. One of the details some agents tend to misunderstand and misrepresent, is how the house or condo is heated and cooled. If you are a buyer, you’ll want to know how the home heating and cooling works. Why? Because you this will tell you about your ongoing energy costs. If you are a seller, you’ll want your listing agent to know how to properly create your MLS listing so as to not misrepresent your property to potential buyers.


How to Check for Home Heating and Cooling in a MLS Listing

When a new MLS listing is created, there are two fields where home heating and cooling information is placed.

  1. Heat Source: options are electric, gas, ground source, oil, other, propane, solar, wood; and
  2. Heat Type: options are baseboard, fan coil, forced air, heat pump, other, radiant, water.

We can choose any combination of these two, or nothing at all.


Toronto Real Estate Market: Home Heating and Cooling Right Now

As of writing this on Sept 13th 2018, there are 5885 condo and freehold listings in the Toronto area (not GTA). When it comes to home heating and cooling, this is what we’re looking at right now:

Number of Listings Type of Heating / Cooling
91 Electric / Baseboard
7 Electric / Fan Coil
106 Electric / Forced Air
43 Electric / Heat Pump
5 Electric / Other
37 Electric / Radiant
4 Electric / Water
18 Gas / Baseboard
52 Gas / Fan Coil
4,835 Gas / Forced Air (Obviously, the most common due to efficiency and cost savings)
168 Gas / Heat Pump
9 Gas / Other
114 Gas / Radiant
187 Gas / Water
2 Ground Source / Forced Air
26 Oil / Forced Air
4 Oil / Other
7 Oil / Radiant
9 Oil / Water
5 Other / Baseboard
4 Other / Fan Coil
26 Other / Forced Air
9 Other / Heat Pump
15 Other / Other (Note: 6 of these are parking spaces. Some are multiplex listings, some are empty lots, etc.)
9 Other / Radiant
6 Other / Water
1 Propane / Forced Air
0 Solar
1 Wood / Forced Air

….and I am still missing a few. But, I think you can see just how many different and sometimes confusing combinations of HVAC (Heating Venting and Air Conditioning) there are. As a result, there are many opportunities for agents to get this information wrong or just leave it out altogether. And, there are many opportunities as a buyer, to walk into something that is much different than you anticipated when you signed your purchase agreement.


Home Buyers: Find a Real Estate Agent Who Will Tell You These Things

A good agent should be able to help you understand how the property you’re interested in purchasing is temperature controlled. In addition to your agent’s knowledge, a home inspection report, if available, should have information detailing the HVAC and its age/condition. Some properties have rented furnaces or heat pumps as well, which come with monthly fees in addition to the energy costs.

Don’t be shy about asking your real estate agent to look into these details for you if you have concerns. Often the listing agent is able to ask the sellers for their utility costs. This way, you can take a look at the last 12 months and calculate your potential expenses. If they won’t get that or share this information with you, that may be a red flag. You may wish to also contact an insurance company before you place an offer on a property with a ‘unique’ detail, like oil tanks or wood burning stoves. This is because you may be asked to update or remove these items, or pay a hefty premium.


Ask Us

With everything else you will have to pay for with your new property: mortgage, property taxes, maintenance etc., finding out that the home heating and cooling bills or equipment upgrades are a lot higher than you thought can be a slap in the face. Work with a real estate agent who understands what you are buying. If required, make sure they can explain these details to you. This could save you from making a costly mistake! Better yet, ask Fox Marin – drop us a line.


This article is written by Fox Marin Sales Representative, Ian Busher. With an extensive background in carpentry and contracting, Ian is our resident “Renovations Expert”! He takes pride in his ability to assess the quality and condition of a house. This, in tandem with his talent for speaking to the feasibility and cost of potential renovations, and his eye for the aesthetic details of a property, makes him a powerful partner for anyone looking to buy a home in the Toronto real estate market.