By Leonard Baron

Home Heaters - Central Heating or Wall Unit Heater

Q. I'm going to need to replace my wall heater soon, it's gas fired, and was wondering if I should switch to a full house furnace. What are the basics? Mike R., Portland, OR

A. Replacing your wall heater probably will run you about $1,000. Installing a new house furnace with the air ducts, gas line, etc., is probably around $5,000 - depending on the size and configuration of the house. The biggest issue most people have with wall heaters is that they are unsightly. So is it worth spending the extra monies to remove that.

The central heater will obviously distribute heat around the house better, but some people don't like the hot air blowing around. In fact, I have a central heating furnace and I wish I had a wall unit because I don't like the air blowing around the house.

First, get some bids from a local HVAC contractor. Then, overall, it's really a decision for you, and whether the cost is worth the benefits.

Investment Property Reserves for Repairs

Q. I was wondering about your thoughts about cash on hand for property investors. I know everyone always says keep some extra cash around for emergencies if you own rental properties, but how much is prudent as reserves? How is best to make this judgment? Tony N., Singapore

A. We should keep reserves on hand and segregated from our other savings, but no one does it. If you want to do it though, you're ahead of the curve! However, there really isn't a set amount of reserves. It totally depends on the type of property, the condition of the property, the size of the property, the age of the property, etc. A reserve study by an expert might give you a good schedule of money that should be saved for remodeling and maintenance, but that won't cover any needs if the property is vacant or suffers some type of uninsured damage. Your best bet is to just pick an amount to save and put it away. Over the years you'll figure out what is the proper amount and hopefully you won't be caught without funds in case of an emergency. Good luck.

Leonard Baron, MBA, is America's Real Estate Professor® - his unbiased, neutral and inexpensive "Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101" textbook teaches real estate owners how to make smart and safe purchase decisions. He is a San Diego State University Lecturer, blogs at Zillow.com, and loves kicking the tires of a good piece of dirt! More at ProfessorBaron.com. Email Your Questions to: Leonard@ProfessorBaron.com