5 things to watch out for when buying an older home
Marketers and MTV may think the young are where they are at, but often the old is in it. And undoubtedly, this has never been so true as when it comes to houses.
“Every house has problems, but sometimes the older they are the better they are built,” says Kristi Hughes, public relations manager who, along with her husband, bought a 300-year-old Georgian colonial house in the suburbs of Philadelphia. about two years ago from his parents. Hughes says that although the house has been in the family for about three decades, they knew the house was in need of major renovations and made around $ 150,000, mostly emptying rooms to replace electrical wires. Hughes says there was no surprise when they opened the walls and ceilings.
But it doesn’t always go so well.
If you buy a house that has been going up there for years, whether it’s 300 or just 30, you can run into problems. “Homes from the 50s, 60s and even 70s can be deceptive,” says Rob Anzalone, co-founder of Fenwick Keats Real Estate in New York City, which owns a house built in 1956. “They share many of the same issues. [as really old homes] but just seem to be newer. “
Here are some common issues with older homes that you will want to watch out for.
Termites and other bugs. Termites, known to eat away at wood, floors, and even wallpaper, are certainly a problem for owners of older homes. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause approximately $ 5 billion in property damage each year.
Termites love to nibble on soft wood, so if your potential home has had a lot of leaks over the years, you may want to hire a professional termite inspector, who is more likely to uncover problems than a conventional home inspector. .
Of course, older homes can also be ravaged by other insects. Brenda Greene, a communications professional in Providence, Rhode Island, recently found out that a house she wanted to buy had a problem with powder pole beetles, which can literally reduce wood to a pile of powder. The house was built in 1842, and Greene and her husband went so far as to secure a purchase and sale contract. But then they found out that the house had suffered significant damage from the annoying bug.
“Our mortgage could not be accepted unless the seller could prove that it had been processed. She wouldn’t, ”said Greene, who eventually pulled away.
Lead paint. If your home was built before 1978, when lead paint was banned, your home may contain lead paint. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed if your house was built in 1977. For decades before the ban, the country realized that living with lead paint was deadly. Even if you look at a house built in the 1940s, it is possible that it never had a drop of lead paint in it.
Lead poisoning can hurt adults – enough exposure can lead to cardiac arrest – but it really does do quite a bit on a young child’s brain development, and it can cause a miscarriage in a pregnant woman. Usually you will find lead paint around windows, doors, woodwork, and painted floors. But in fact, it is not easy to find it. You can buy lead paint detection kits for typically under $ 100, but they are not easy to use properly. If you’re worried about lead paint, your best bet may be to pay a few hundred dollars to have a certified lead inspector examine your home. You can find more information at www2.epa.gov/lead.
Prices vary depending on what it may cost to remove lead paint, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average lead paint removal project costs $ 10,000. And do-it-yourselfers need to be careful when dealing with lead paint because you can expose yourself to lead poisoning if it starts to flake off and turn to dust – which could well happen if you remove it. yourself.
Ineffective windows. They might not be building them the way they used to be, but that’s not such a great feeling when it comes to the windows in your house. “Typically, the oldest windows are single-pane windows,” Anzalone explains. “They are not energy efficient or heat resistant. Leaks often, and windows and sills often rot.”
If you have an old heating system and old windows, Anzalone says, that can triple your heating bill.
On the other hand, Greene points out that if you are “concerned with preservation and restoration, it is always a plus if the original windows are still in place.”
She adds, “If you live in New England or another part of the country with cold winters, historic windows won’t do much to lower your heating bill, but that’s the tradeoff for authenticity. “
Obsolete heating systems. This is especially a problem with homes 100 years and older, Anzalone says. “Many homes this age are oil-heated,” he says. “Oil was very cheap when these houses were built.”
Today, it’s a different story, but even though oil was cheap, many older oil burners are just inefficient, he says.
And if the home’s heating system hasn’t been maintained properly and isn’t in good repair, that’s another red flag and a “serious fire hazard,” Greene says. This was yet another reason why she and her husband decided not to buy the house they were considering.
“The house had a central stone fireplace with openings in three rooms, including a large one with a beehive oven in the main living room,” says Greene. She says they also wanted to find out if there were any cracks in the chimney flue before it closed, but the seller wouldn’t let them check it out.
Problems of foundation and structure. The older the home, the more important it is to find “the top rated home inspectors in your area,” says Leslie Piper, Housing Specialist at Realtor.com. (Of course, if you find an issue with the foundation or structure at any age in the house, that’s a good reason to leave, Anzalone says.)
Additionally, Piper says that “the soil issues surrounding the house are things the buyer should be very careful about.” If you’re looking at an older house in an area prone to landslides, or if there have been “movement issues” with the foundation, she says, repairing this “can be costly, and the expense of these. problems don’t necessarily go away. “
But in general, if you’re having major issues with an older house, don’t get mad at the house. Blame all the owners who have come before you.
As Piper says, “The challenges of buying an older home depend on how well the home has been maintained and updated by previous owners.”