Print Posted on 23/08/2017

Things to look for when buying an old house

Things to look for when buying an old house

Got your eye on a fixer-upper? Old houses have a certain charm, however there are a number of things you should look for or ask about before taking the plunge and signing on the dotted line. Doing so may help you avoid unexpected expenses and heartbreak as the renovation moves forward.

Thanks to Safewise, here’s a list of the top 4 things you should look for before purchasing:

  • Old or substandard electrical and plumbing - rewiring and updating plumbing are both expensive and extensive projects, which is why many older homes still have their original knob-and-tube wiring and cast-iron pipes. Both pose safety risks, as an old electrical system can cause a fire, and corroded pipes can result in leaks and weak water flow. Evaluate the age of the wiring and pipes and ask when they were last updated. If the home still has the original systems, get a quote to see how much they would cost to replace. If the sellers have updated the electrical and plumbing, make sure the new wiring and pipes are up to code to ensure they’re running safely, efficiently, and legally.
  • Hazardous materials - older homes are more likely to contain hazardous materials, including lead and asbestos. Lead was commonly used in exterior and interior paint up until 1978 and within plumbing systems built before the mid-1980s. This lead can leak into the environment and the water system, causing significant health issues. Asbestos was also used in gas fireplaces, insulation, roofing, and wallboard patching compounds up until the 1970s, when officials became aware of the health risks. If you’re considering a home built before 1978, you should be aware that the home likely contains these hazardous materials. Before purchasing, you may want to investigate lead paint removal services and costs for eliminating popcorn ceilings and other materials that potentially contain asbestos.
  • Foundation or structural concerns - over time, even the most solidly built homes can form cracks and unevenness in the foundation slab. This can cause corrosion, dry rot, moisture damage, and other risks. When inspecting an older home, check for doors and windows that jam easily, visible wall cracks, cracked tile, and uneven floors, as these are common signs of foundation problems. 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 a home has foundation concerns but you still want to move forward with the purchase, consider negotiating the repair costs into the purchase price, or account for the extra repair costs in your budget.
  • Dysfunctional smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors - in many states, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are required on every level of a home. But even if a home features both, they may be outdated or not working properly. As smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors usually aren’t a priority when house hunting, it’s easy to forget to make sure they are present and test to see if they are working properly. Check the alarms and detectors throughout the home and consider upgrading to a newer and smarter option that connects with your phone via an app so you can monitor the security of your home from any location. Place a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, and a smoke alarm in every room for optimal safety.