There are many of us who dream of owning an older home, full of character and personality. We imagine gorgeous woodwork, wrap-around porches, arched doorways, ornate fireplaces and sweeping carved staircases. All those dreams can come true, but be careful to evaluate the work and expense that can go along with owning an older home.
Inspect, inspect, inspect -- did I say inspect? I can't emphasize enough the importance of having a thorough home inspection. For an older home experts recommend two inspections; a standard inspection and a structural inspection. Being informed of any problems can put you in a position to negotiate repairs with the Seller in case significant or dangerous problems are discovered. Here are some problems that might be discovered.
Foundation and Structural Issues
Even meticulously built homes can shift over time, causing cracks in foundations and walls. Doors and windows may jam; chimneys may need realignment and stonework might need attention. Moisture creeping in over time can cause dry rot or corrosion, which can lead to mold or mildew. Older homes have a high risk of termite damage which can devastate floors, structural supports and drywall. This is where having a structural inspection is key. The inspector will discover whether or not the home has any of these problems.
If the house was built before 1978, it may contain lead based paint inside and out. Professional paint removers can be hired if you are uncomfortable living with lead paint, especially if you have young children. Old lead pipes pose another issue. A water filtration system for the entire house or at least the kitchen faucet is the most cost-effective fix, but you might be faced with replacing all your pipes.
Asbestos was commonly used in insulation and fireproofing material until the mid-1970's. Old popcorn ceilings probably contain asbestos too. Removal costs vary greatly depending on the size of the project. If you are planning to remodel, asbestos removal is recommended.
Unsafe Electrical System
Find out the age of the home's electrical system. If it is still the original knob-and-tube wiring, you should get a quote 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 original wiring has already been replaced, it must be up to code to be safe and efficient. Check for code with updated plumbing as well.
Old Appliances and Mechanics
Kitchen and laundry room appliances, air conditioning systems, furnaces and water heaters all have an expected lifespan. Your home inspector will check the age of every unit and determine how much longer it should be operational so you can create a reasonable replacement schedule. Figure that into your household budget for the coming years if you decide to purchase the home.
Trees, Leaves and Roots
The beauty of a long-established neighborhood is usually a big plus when buying an older home. Towering trees and mature flowering shrubbery have great appeal, but keep in mind the price that comes with them. Trees need to be trimmed regularly or you risk dramatic problems when they are covered with ice in the winter. Autumn brings bushels of leaves to be removed -- not to mention the smell of burning leaves in the air. Old, tall trees have long roots that can crack foundations and sidewalks or grow into plumbing systems. Be sure the Seller has stayed on top of keeping tree roots out of the plumbing systems. Have the sewer lines inspected for any roots or cracks.
Additional valuable resources:
- Problems to Look For When Buying an Old House by Bill Gassett
- How To Purchase And Renovate A Fixer-Upper by Kyle Hiscock
- How to Budget for Home Renovations by Wendy Weir
- Don't Miss Out On How To Handle Common Home Buying Pitfalls by Lynn Pineda
The purpose here is simply to make you aware of hidden costs when you find your perfect antique dream home. There are plenty of excellent reasons to buy older homes. They are usually in wonderful locations close to downtown cores. You are likely to find a long-established, close-knit community with lots of history. Old houses are in limited supply and if you have a gem in a desired part of town, it will likely always be in demand when you decide to sell.
This Real Estate article “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Money Pit Home” was written by: Maria Mastrolonardo. Maria is a Realtor with RE/MAX of Naperville and has been selling Homes in the West Chicagoland area including Naperville, Wheaton, Lisle, Downers Grove, Aurora, and Winfield for 20+ years. Call or text Maria at (630) 248-6077 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding real estate.