What to Look for When Buying an Older Home

Amanda Flitter

Historic homeIf you have been looking to buy, you may have found yourself pulled in by the unmistakable charm of older homes. Maybe you think you would love to be one of those people who refurbish an older house, put in sweat equity, and make it beautiful again.

You could be in for some hidden surprises if the home you buy has some years under its belt. There are things you need to look at, learn about and consider before you buy.

Without a doubt you should hire a licensed, professional home inspector to uncover any serious issues before you close on the sale and use qualified professionals if you need to do some fix-up work.

Here are some good questions to ask about an older home:

  • The condition of the roof should be on your checklist, even for moderately older homes. How old and what is the condition of the roof? What material is used?

  • Are the windows in good condition? If they are original (which if you like older homes you may want original finishings), are there modern storm windows to increase efficiency and for additional comfort? Do windows open and close as they should?

  • Are the walls made of original plaster or have they been replaced with sheet rock? What about the exterior walls – what are they made of? Is there insulation inside the walls? Are there cracks in the walls?

  • Is the attic insulated, and can you easily access it?

  • Do exterior doors have any large gaps around them when closed, and do they open and close as they should?

  • Do the main structural beams show signs of termite damage?

  • Are the floor joists in solid condition? If the home has a stone foundation, do the joist pockets look solid? (With older houses a notch in the stone foundation often is made to hold the joist, and it is a typical place for failure and repairs.)

  • Is the electrical panel new or as old as the house, and are there service tags to show it was installed by professionals? Are wires in plastic insulation, older two-wire in sheathing, or knob & tube? Is there a combination of these?

  • How old is the furnace and the water heater?

  • Is the sewer stack original, and is it made of old cast iron or new PVC?

  • Are the water lines copper (which is preferred), pex (still good), or galvanized (less desirable)? How is the water pressure?

  • Are outlets in each room grounded or ungrounded? Do the bathroom and kitchen have GFCI outlets?

  • Is there evidence of water damage, particularly around chimney runs or venting systems?

  • Do any of the floors seem to sag? How does the ceiling below it look?

  • Are the soffits (the roof overhang) showing signs of rotting wood? Are they vinyl/aluminum or wooden?

  • What is the condition of the gutters? Where does the water go?

The older home you buy may be a gem in need of a little polishing, but doing this will cost money. This is why it pays to ask these questions and have a professional evaluate the condition of the home before you buy it so you have a clear idea of what you must budget for repairs.

Check out these helpful House Hunting Tips to get you in the home that is right for you!

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