Older homes are full of charm and character, but before you buy you should think about the costs that can add up. There is the potential for issues with any home, but older ones can have all kinds of unpleasant surprises beyond the obvious ones.
- Prior Renovations: Renovations seem like a good thing, but they can also be a source of hidden problems. My parents bought a beautiful house in a great neighborhood 30 years ago. About 15 years ago, they decided they wanted to do some updates and add and addition – only to discover an entire wing of the house was unpermitted and built by hand by the previous owner. Not only could they not do the addition, they couldn’t touch the added rooms at all because they were too close to the property line (and also built by and therefore didn’t meet code.
- Poor Insulation: In my experience older homes are pretty well insulated so this is only an issue when there has been an addition. My condo in dc was converted from an old house into 8 units and the master bedroom was all a new addition. This room was about 5 degrees hotter in the summer and 5 degrees colder in the winter, forcing me to sleep with my door open in an effort to steal the heat or air from the living areas. Not ideal!
- Outdated Wiring: Unless the wiring in your home is faulty and/or poses a major fire risk, it will likely come up during your home inspection as simply a soft recommendation—e.g. “We suggest you replace the current electrical system” or “We suggest you have an electrician examine your wiring.” This may give you false sense of security, since it wasn’t a big enough issue to cause a hitch in the home buying process, but it’s wise to heed the advice.
- Weird Smells: Sometimes old houses just have an “old house smell” which isn’t indicative of any major issues. Sometimes its the sign of something bad, like mold or a dead raccoon rotting in the wall (true story). Typically weird smells have a source, and they can cost big bucks to fix.
- Lead Paint: File this under “deal-breakers you foolishly ignore if your home inspector doesn’t seem too concerned.” If your home was built before 1978, the odds are decent that you could have lead paint somewhere beneath the surface of your walls in an old layer of paint. Although this is typically only a problem if the paint starts to chip or you sand or strip walls with lead paint, it’s still a good idea to buy a cheap lead paint testing kit from your local home improvement store. Then you’ll at least be prepared, mentally and financially, if at some point you have to spend the tens of thousands of dollars lead paint abatement costs.
SOURCE: Apartment Therapy