Many of us love the character and personality of older homes. Gorgeous woodwork, wrap-around porches, arched doorways, ornate fireplaces and sweeping, carved staircases. However, there are risks and additional expenses of buying an older home; therefore, you need to protect yourself against these risks.
It is all in the inspection. Inspect, inspect, inspect. I recommend two inspections: the standard home inspection, and a structural inspection. Never allow yourself to be blindsided by repairs you could have discovered during the due diligence, negotiating period.
Here are some of the unique problems that might appear in older homes:
Foundation and Structure
Even the best built homes can shift over time, causing cracks in foundations and walls. Doors and windows may jam, chimneys may need realignment, stonework might need attention, and moisture can cause dry rot or corrosion. Older homes have a higher risk of termite damage, effecting floors, structural supports and drywall. Therefore, it is paramount to have a quality inspector examine the structural integrity of the home.
Homes built before 1978 often contained lead based paint inside and out. Old lead pipes can bleed into the water system. Asbestos was commonly used for insulation and fireproofing until the mid-1970’s. None of this should scare you from buying an older home, because it can all be fixed. However, there is a cost. You just need to make sure those costs are factored into your price.
Unsafe Electrical System
Know the age of the electrical system. If it is still old knob-and-tube wiring, you will want to replace it. Insulation for the wiring needs to be intact, and the electrical panel and circuit breakers should be up-to-date. If the wiring has already been replaced, make sure it is all up to code.
Old Appliances and HVAC System
Kitchen and laundry room appliances, air conditioning systems, furnaces and water heaters all have expected lifespans. Your home inspector will check the age of every unit and determine the typical remaining operational years. You will want to figure that into your purchase price.
Trees, Leaves and Roots
One of the attractions of buying an older home, is the beauty of an older neighborhood with towering trees and mature flowering shrubbery. However, these items come with a price. Trees need to be trimmed regularly or you risk costly problems when they are covered with ice in the winter. Autumn brings bushels of leaves to be removed. Old trees have long roots that can crack foundations and sidewalks or grow into plumbing systems. Check to make sure the Seller has stayed on top of keeping tree roots out of the plumbing systems. Have the sewer lines inspected for roots or cracks.
Older homes are beautiful and full of character. They can be a great purchase. This list is simply here to make you aware of hidden costs when you find that perfect antique, dream home. Just make sure to eliminate the surprises, and you will be very happy!