Ron Wynn: Nasty home surprises could cost $10,000 if you fail to do THIS simple thing

Sewer pipes can get clogged or strangled by tree roots, and once the main water line breaks, it can cause a flood or a sewer backup. You'll have a big, expensive mess on your hands.

Your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system can cost anywhere between a couple hundred bucks and over a thousand to fix, depending on the problem. Replacing a fuse or circuit breaker, for example, may only cost you a couple hundred bucks. Replacing a circuit board is a bit more expensive at several hundred, and replacements for other things, like the compressor, can cost you over $1,000. To replace the entire system altogether, you'll spend anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000.

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The easiest thing you can do to maintain your HVAC system is to replace your air filter regularly, ideally every 90 days. Beyond that, you can inspect the unit itself every six months. There are a few maintenance items you may be able to do yourself, but the Environmental Protection Agency recommends hiring a contractor to check the air conditioning system in spring and the heating system in the fall.

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The inspector will lubricate the system's moving parts, tighten any electrical connections, clean the system's coils, replace any necessary coolant, check for leaks and check all of your gas connections. To check the system yourself, here are a few tips SFGate recommends:

-- "Start with the thermostat and check all functions for correct operation. Make sure that both the heating and cooling systems turn off at the preset temperatures.

-- "Turn off the circuit breakers that power both the furnace and air conditioner. The circuit breakers are in the electrical service panel. Leave both units off until after the HVAC inspection.

-- "Check for loose electrical connections.

-- "Listen for any squeaks or noises when manually inspecting moving parts.

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-- "Find the condensate drain and check for clogs. Condensation that builds up during HVAC use must drain properly to prevent rust from forming on internal parts. Clogged condensate drains also contribute to bacteria and mold growth in the home. ...

-- "Smell for gas leaks near all gas fittings, if your home uses gas. Inspect heat exchangers or burners for cracks, abnormal discoloration or deterioration.

-- "Review the system for dirt and debris. A buildup of debris and dirt affects the system's efficiency. Use a small portable vacuum to remove any dust buildup.

-- "Look at the air-conditioning coils for an accumulation of dirt or dust. Vacuum the coils to improve cooling efficiency."

It typically costs $50 to $100 for a full professional inspection, and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America have a useful search tool to find an inspector in your area.

Inspect Old Pipes Every Year to Prevent a Sewage Backup

Sewer pipes can get clogged or strangled by tree roots, and once the main water line breaks, it can cause a flood or a sewer backup. You'll have a big, expensive mess on your hands. Sewer backups can cost upwards of $10,000 to clean up, depending on the extent of the damage.

Especially if you have an older home, it may be worth inspecting your sewer lines every year. Find a plumber in your area who will inspect your lines. He will run a camera down the pipes and tell you if there are any clogs or obstructions. This typically costs about $150. According to Roto-Rooter: "A sewer inspection video camera allows the service technician to see any problems with the pipe. This might include root intrusion, cracks, punctures, corrosion, or misaligned pipe sections. The camera will also identify grease buildup, leaks and obstructions. A follow-up video inspection can be conducted after service is performed to verify that the pipeline has been properly cleaned or repaired."

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It's not just older homes, though. If you have certain types of trees in your yard, you may want to conduct an annual inspection, too. Bougainvillea, bamboo and fig trees, for example, can cause a lot of damage near sewer pipes. We found this out the hard way when our sewer line clogged, and the plumber told us the bamboo roots in our yard were growing into the line.

You might also look into water and sewer line insurance. Sure, it may cost you $150 a year (plus deductible), but you're covered in case of the worst. For example, American Water Resources charges a $50 service fee, but there's no deductible, and you get coverage for thousands of dollars' worth of damage. Again, if you have an older home, this might be a smart option.

Ron Wynn has been among the top 100 agents in America for over 10 years, as noted on REAL Trends/Wall Street Journal. Ron has represented over 2,200 sales totaling over $1.5 billion in sales volume in his 30-plus-year career as a real estate broker in California.

He is a noted speaker, trainer, advisor and writer affiliated with Compass, and previously affiliated with Coldwell Banker for 20 years. He also provides weekly coaching articles for over 3,000 real estate agents worldwide and online. You can email him at Ron@RonWynn.com.

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