Some like buying brand new homes, filled with the latest amenities. Others prefer the charm of an older home, with its unique nooks and crannies and old-world craftsmanship.
If you fall into the latter category, keep in mind that charm can come with unexpected landmines. While you are tempted to focus on the design elements that make an older home appealing, it’s important to consider structural issues as well. No matter how much you love those quaint arches and unique built-ins, a cracked foundation or leaky roof can douse your enthusiasm faster than a sudden rainstorm.
Before buying that older home, RIS Media suggests you check out:
Electrical issues: Old wiring and electrical panels may not be up to code or able to handle the large amounts of electricity we consume today. Furthermore, “don’t just assume the previous owners updated things the way they were supposed to,” notes RIS Media. Have an electrician inspect the wiring and make sure everything is up to code before sealing the deal.
The roof: Roofs generally last 10-20 years, so be sure and ask when and how the roof was updated. “Some homeowners try to save money by adding new shingles on top of the old roof, which is not the best way to replace an entire roof,” warns RIS Media. Also, look for signs of aging, such as loose shingles and leaks, and consider the design: A steep roof can be harder (and more expensive) to repair or replace than other roofs, and clay tile or slate roofs are more expensive to replace than composite shingles.
The foundation: With time, a home’s foundation can settle and sink, causing it to crack or become uneven. If your home inspector finds any indication of a structural concern, be sure a structural engineer gives the thumbs up before committing to the house, as repairing foundations can be extremely costly. In the worst cases, they might irredeemable.
Plumbing: If the home’s original plumbing system is still in place, it helps to know what materials were used to construct it, in order to anticipate possible future problems. For example, says RIS Media, until the 1950s and even into the ‘70s, clay sewer lines were often used; these tend to crack and collapse. In the 1980s, polybutylene (PB) piping was common; this plastic (different from PEX, which is used today) “degrades at a rapid rate and can lead to burst pipes.” When in doubt, hire a professional to advise you.
In sum, always get an inspection when purchasing and follow up as appropriate with professional specialists.