There are a few reasons why buying an older home can be an appealing prospect. For one thing, older structures tend to come with a smaller price tag than their new construction counterparts, all things being equal. So buyers that want to make every dollar count will appreciate the fact that they can afford a large home in their target neighborhood, even if it was built during the Prohibition era. And of course, older homes tend to feature the architectural elements of their time, lending an air of charm and visual appeal that some newer (ahem, tract) homes seem to lack. Unfortunately, there is a downside: older homes may need a lot of repairs to make them livable and/or allow for the modern features that many homeowners require. So you need to be prepared for upgrades, replacement, and renovation when you purchase an older home. Here are just a few common problems you’ll want to keep an eye out for when you’re viewing properties for prospective purchase.
The easiest issues to spot will be cosmetic, and many older homes will require simple remodeling projects, like updates to surfaces that make your home look outdated. Warped wood, chipped tiles, and peeling wallpaper are not uncommon, but they’re relatively easy and affordable to replace. What you want to be on the lookout for are issues hiding under the surface. In some cases you can find telltale signs of underlying issues, but you’ll have to know what to look for, as well as what questions to ask when it’s not apparent if something is wrong or not. But first you need to know what the most common issues with older homes are.
The main things to look out for are outdated and deteriorated materials. For example, plumbing and electrical components in older homes may be problematic if they’re outdated or they don’t meet modern building codes. But how can you get a look inside the walls before you buy? Well, you can’t take a sledgehammer to the house, that’s for sure. But you can turn on lights and see if they flicker or surge. You can turn on all kinds of electrical components to see if a breaker blows. And you can turn on taps throughout the house to check for color or sediment in the water that might signal issues with the plumbing. You should also look wherever you’re allowed, including attics, basements, crawl spaces, and so on. Of course, a home inspector will also look into these things if you put in an offer on the home, but you might not want to get that far if you don’t have to. And you should definitely ask how recently plumbing, electrical, and other components were updated (if ever).
Other common issues could center on the roof of the home, although it should be easy enough to spot deterioration or leaks, or the foundations. Problems with the foundation of a home are also pretty easy to see if you know what to look for, including cracks around window and door frames, walls separating from each other, or uneven floors (try setting down a marble to see if it rolls). You might even want to check vents for mold or other issues – you’re not looking for a dirty dryer vent, but rather any potential issues with the HVAC system. A good real estate agent should be able to help you when it comes to finding an older home that suits your needs and presents the fewest potential problems. But it’s best to go into the process with appropriate expectations and an eye for details that could clue you in to issues before you buy.