When searching for the next house to call home, the options can be daunting. Location, size, amenities, and price all play major factors in the decision process. Opening the home search to older constructions can increase your options. However, the older a house is, the likelier it could be harboring issues beneath the surface. We’ve compiled the top seven things to keep in mind when considering purchasing an older home.
Foundation and Structural Issues
Issues with the foundation or structure have the potential of costing a lot to fix. Since the foundation and structure are what is keeping the house upright, it is crucial that they are stable and sound. Cracks or unevenness in the foundation can lead to moisture damage, dry rot, corrosion, and shifting of the house. Signs of foundation or structural damage can be found in doors or windows that don’t open and close easily, cracks in the wall or flooring, and uneven floors.
According to Safewise, “Foundation repairs can escalate to over $10,000, depending on the extent of the structural issues- and homeowners insurance won’t cover these costs.” If foundational issues are suspected, be sure to hire a quality inspector or contractor to check out the home. Consider getting a quote for repairs and negotiating the cost into the purchase price of the house.
Electrical and Plumbing Issues
Many older homes have their original plumbing and rewiring, as updating these systems can be costly. However, keeping the original knob-and-tube wiring or the original cast-iron pipes can be a safety hazard. Old electrical systems can cause a fire, and old pipes can cause leaks or weak water pressure.
Beware of older homes whose electrical and plumbing systems have been updated by a do-it-yourself homeowner. Be sure to ask if the work was done by a qualified professional.
If the home has original electrical and plumbing systems or has been updated by an unqualified individual, ask an inspector to evaluate the systems. If they need to be replaced or repaired, consider getting a quote and negotiating the cost into the purchase price of the home.
The older a home is, the more likely the chances are of it containing hazardous materials, such as asbestos and lead. Lead is commonly found in paint applied before 1978 and in plumbing installed before 1985. The lead can leak into the water supply or the surrounding environment, causing a potential health hazard. Asbestos can be found in gas fireplaces, roofing, and insulation that was installed before 1980.
The breakdown of uranium in the environment can cause a carcinogen known as radon. If radon gas gets trapped in a home, it can be dangerous. Homes built before 1970 were not built with this risk in mind, so they are more susceptible to a gas build-up that could potentially be harmful to its inhabitants.
Outdated Heating and Cooling Systems
Older homes were likely designed for a different type of heating system than what is common today. One hundred years ago, houses were heated with oil. After that, it was common for houses to be heated with coal or wood. Even in a home with a more up-to-date heating system, if it hasn’t been maintained well, it could be inefficient, unsafe, or both.
Houses with cooling systems are likely to be a bit younger than oil-heated homes, however, cooling systems are known to have their own issues. Five common problems with older AC units include wear and tear, improperly working fans, reduced efficiency, refrigerant leaks, and electrical problems.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are important safety devices in any home. When looking at an older home, be sure that both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are present and in working order. Although not necessarily expensive to replace, asking homeowners to replace unsafe alarms will save the homebuyer the hassle later, and could potentially save someone’s life in the meantime.
Termites and Bugs
Depending on where the home is located, termites and other bugs could be a major issue. The National Pest Management Association claims that termites alone cause around $5 billion in property damage yearly.
The older a home, the longer it has been exposed to the chance of infestations. Termites especially enjoy soft wood, so a home that has had water damage over the years could be especially susceptible.