Older Home Buyer? Be Aware of Potential Old-Home Issues

Are you an old home person?  We love older homes too!  They are often built with high-quality, custom materials and have loads of character.

We have many older homes in our area, appreciate them, and are happy to help old-home enthusiasts make them their own.

If you're planning to purchase an older home, there are some things you should pay attention to.  For starters, you should always attend the home inspection so you can see what the inspector sees, ask questions, and get maintenance tips along the way. Here are some of the more common potential issues found in older homes that you should be aware of before making a purchase commitment.

Depending on the age of the home, it might predate important safety standards, for instance:

  • Homes built prior to 1978 may have lead-based paint, which could result in a number of negative health defects with extended exposure.
  • Homes built from the early 1940s to the 1970s may have asbestos pipe insulation or flooring containing asbestos, which will need to be removed or encased.
  • Wiring that predates the 1950s was often made with a rubber compound that becomes brittle over time, which can pose a fire hazard.

Signs of aging are inevitable regardless of the quality of the materials and workmanship put into a home. Cracks, leaks and other seemingly superficial defects may lead to further trouble down the road. These items should be repaired as soon as possible to avoid having much larger issues.

Houses that hail from an era before energy efficiency was prevalent might lack the kind of insulation found in homes today. Beyond replacing existing insulation, you should seal air leaks and drafts like those found around electrical outlets, the foundation, siding and doors/windows. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a homeowner may save anywhere from 5-30% per year on energy costs by plugging leaks.

In many older homes oil was used for heating, necessitating oil tanks either above or below ground. Not only do oil tanks take up space, they can also leak and produce an unpleasant smell. If the oil tank is buried in the ground, contains oil, and is leaking, it can be an expensive undertaking to remove the tank and clean up the oil.

You should check with your insurance agent to make sure you won’t have any issues insuring the property.  Insurers may demand that an outdated electrical system be upgraded before they’re willing to insure it. Likewise, the potential environmental impact of a leaking oil tank may be an issue with your insurance company.

If you love older homes, by all means buy one, but be aware of potential issues, have the home inspected by professionals, and make your purchase contract contingent on these inspections so you are as informed as possible before making the final commitment.