Buying a newly-built home isn’t everyone’s dream. In fact, many people like the charm and character that older homes offer. Think butler pantries, telephone nooks, and sleeping porches. These character traits and historical features are attractive to some and provide a unique aspect to your home that isn’t common in today’s modern architecture and interiors. It’s all very romantic; wood-burning fireplaces, ornate trims and moldings, rustic wood beams on the ceilings.
However, not all the characteristics of an older home are charming. Some are just downright problematic. There are a couple of essential items to be aware of to ensure there are no severe issues plaguing the old home of your dreams. It’s necessary to do extensive research before agreeing to the sale. You don’t want to be left with a house that looks good on paper but is crumbling on the inside. It can cost an arm and a leg to fix up some of these issues too.
So go into the purchase with your eyes wide open and with an inspector at your side. Not all problems are big problems, but they all need to be considered.
Let’s have a look at what to inspect when considering an older property:
Inspection of the foundation of the home is vital. Can you see small settlement cracks, or are the support footings damaged? These issues are often caused by general aging, or they can be from constantly wet soil or even tree roots. Signs that you have foundation problems include cracks in the interior or exterior walls and uneven flooring.
Ensure the structure of your new old home is looking good by checking the waterproofing, roof insulation, how the windows seal, and the gutters and downspouts. Make sure the gutters and downspouts aren’t blocked or sagging and the joints are all intact. Additionally, make sure the gutters drain water effectively and direct it away from the house to prevent pools of water collecting near the building which can cause water damage.
Windows and doors
Check for rotten seals around the frames of windows and doors inside and outside. Failing seals is a leading cause of water damage in a home. Is the caulk peeling? Is the wood discolored or soft? While old and tired windows aren’t a deal-breaker, be sure to repair and replace any of the damaged wood in order to prevent water damage down the line.
Water damage and damp issues
Older plumbing pipes have likely rusted or burst at some point. Can you see any tell-tale signs of leaks, or have any areas been touched up with fresh paint? Pay special attention to discolorations on walls, warping on floors or drywall, and cabinets that look ‘bloated’. The reason it’s imperative to identify water damage is that there may be a hidden mold infestation along with the water damage and many of the previously wet building materials may need to be replaced.
Mold forms from all sorts of events, like cracks in a damp foundation, flooding, leaky or broken pipes, and pooling water around the home’s foundation. When inspecting your older home, look at the direction of the slope either to or from the house, the condition of the gutters, damaged roof shingles, water rings on the ceiling or walls, warped floors, watermarks in the cabinets under sinks, and the smell of mildew. All of these items may be indicators of a past or future property damage issue.
The roof is in a poor condition
This is a common issue with older homes. The roof’s condition will depend on the weather experienced in the area where you are buying, whether the roof was well maintained throughout the years, and any initial installation problems. Take a look for missing shingles, a bowing gutter, or leaks in the attic or top floor.
Depending on how old the home you intend to buy is, it’s almost a given that you may have to update the electrical system and check or add smoke detectors. An old electrical system won’t keep up with the daily demands of a modern home. Have a lookout for ungrounded outlets and change to grounded wiring. If you have knob and tube wiring, this should be updated too. Get a certified inspector out to check that everything is in tip-top condition. Are there smoke detectors? If not, add this to the list of upgrades that need to be made immediately.
Unfortunately, many older homes still have lead plumbing pipes. The problem with this is that the pipes decompose as they get old, seeping lead into your drinking water. Polybutylene pipes on the other hand, corrode quickly and can eventually burst. Be on the lookout for low water pressure, leaks, roots growing into your underground sewer system, and slow draining water.
Don’t romanticize buying a house. Take note of all the facts and make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into. Pay attention to the issues your home inspector identifies and figure out what the costs will be to fix any critical issues. You don’t want to make the purchase and find out it will cost you a fortune to repair all the aging property issues you are faced with.
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