Older houses have history and character that are often hard to find in newer builds. For buyers with an eye for potential, updating an older home can be very rewarding, but it can also be expensive – especially if there are big issues or problems to correct.
Here are 12 things to look out for when buying an older home:
1. Previous Renovations
If a home is previously renovated, make sure that you complete a full home inspection to determine if the updates were done right and to code. Some contractors or DIY-ers may cut corners, which can create problems for you down the road.
Cracks in walls, floors or ceilings can be a sign of structural problems with the foundation. These cracks can appear on the exterior and interior of a home and should be inspected by a structural engineer to determine the root cause of the problem and if it can be fixed.
3. Sticky Doors and Windows
Another sign of structural damage is doors and windows that jam, get stuck or won’t latch properly. Once again, it is recommended that a structural engineer complete a full inspection to help you address the problem.
4. Single-pane Windows
Many older homes have single-pane windows, which may look charming, but they are not efficient at all. Replacing these windows with double or triple pane windows is expensive and time-consuming, so you’d need to know what you are getting into before buying an older home.
5. Old Electrical
Old electrical systems pose a major fire risk and they may not be covered by home insurance policies. They can also deteriorate over time and not withstand the demands of modern-day appliances. Replacing old electrical is very costly, so it’s best to have a home inspection completed by a certified electrician before purchasing an older home.
6. Lead Paint
If you suspect an old home might have lead paint, especially homes built before 1976, invest in lead testing to ensure that there aren’t high levels of the toxic metal in the home.
Asbestos was used for insulation and fireproofing in homes built before 1990. It can also be found in building materials, like tiles, house siding, cement and plaster. This cancer-causing natural mineral and carcinogen is linked to other serious illnesses, as well, and should be remediated by a professional asbestos abatement expert.
8. Musty Smells
Older homes usually have a distinct smell to them, but a musty smell can be a sign of mould or mildew, which can cause respiratory ailments and allergies. Mould can also cause structural damage and must be remediated by a professional mould removal expert.
9. Water Leaks and Damage
Bubbles and brown spots on walls and ceilings are common signs of water damage in a home. Leaking water can cause serious issues and excessive moisture will encourage mould and mildew growth. When buying an older home, hire a certified plumber to inspect the plumbing to ensure that it is in good working order or to find out what improvements are needed.
10. Outdated Mechanical Components and Appliances
Mechanical components, like furnaces, air conditioning units and water heaters, should be inspected by an HVAC professional to ensure they are in good working order to avoid unexpected replacement costs. Older household appliances can also pose a fire risk and are inefficient, which you’ll pay for with higher water and utility bills.
11. Old Roofs
Broken shingles, crumbling roof cement, ice damming, pests, sagging gutters, ineffective waterproofing and moisture in the attic are all signs that a roof should be replaced. Different roofing materials have different life expectancies, but if a roof is more than 20 years old, it is likely due for replacement.
12. Heritage Designations
If you are looking to buy a home with a heritage designation, just be mindful that these homes have higher renovation costs and longer timelines due to design and architectural requirements set forth by local governments. A real estate lawyer can help determine what is permitted under municipal by-laws when making improvements to a heritage home.
This list of things to look out for when buying an older home isn’t exhaustive and every property will have its quirks. That’s why it’s best to work with an experienced realtor who can navigate you through the home buying process to ensure you make a sound decision when purchasing an older property.
To learn how I can help, please contact me, Deborah Clerk, Real Estate Sales Representative and ASA at Keller Williams Realty Associates, Brokerage, in Mississauga, Ontario.