6 Aug, 2020
Questions to Ask When Shopping for an Older Home
There’s just something special about older homes. They offer character traits and features that are missing in today’s modern dwelling with amenities like wood-burning fireplaces, ornate moldings, rustic touches and solid construction. Plus, there’s a special feeling knowing that you live within a house that has some history behind it. However, homes that have withstood the test of time do require special love and care. So, before you purchase an older home – anything forty years or older – here are some questions to ask and a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of yours.
Is the wiring up to modern standards?
Houses built before 1940 may still be wired with what is known as knob and tube. Instead of three wires,
knob and tube only has two – hot and neutral. Without a ground wire and in the event of a short, excess
charge has nowhere to go, increasing the chance of a fire.
How else does this impact you? Even if the old outlets have been upgraded to three-prong, your
appliances still won’t be grounded. Additionally, when (or if) you find an insurance company that covers
a knob-and-tube home, your rates will surely be more expensive than a house with new wiring.
All that said, knob-and-tube wiring isn’t inherently unsafe, but improper modifications, cracked and
brittle wiring and the demands of modern power loads create safety hazards.
How does the mortar look?
You’ve fallen in love with the brick construction of your potential new home. However, the mortar
between those bricks has eroded over the past several decades. That means it’s time for
This process cosmetically enhances masonry and preserves the structural integrity of brick structures. While you may feel that you can do this job yourself, tuckpointing is a complicated repair best left to the experts.
Will you have well water?
While well water may sound like a great selling point for your new potential home, some areas could
have high concentrations of minerals like sulfur. It may be safe to drink, but it definitely isn’t fun to
smell. A water filtration system is expensive, as is maintaining it. Keep this cost in mind before you
purchase your new home.
Has the home been inspected for insects, rodents and – we hate to even say it – bats?
Beyond checking and double-checking your inspection report, check for yourself for any animal waste
left behind. Older homes are more likely to house pests due to less modern construction standards –
and the natural settling and breakdown of construction materials over time.
Keep your eyes open for any sign of termites or other insects, including sagging floors, pinpoint drywall
holes, peeling paint or wood supports that sound hollow when you knock on them.
What kind of paint was used inside the home?
Many older homes were painted with lead-based paints. If you’re a DIYer, chipping, cleaning and
repainting a room or two seems simple. But an entire home? Judge for yourself if you want that much
work. How do you know if you’re dealing with lead paint? Look for chipped, cracked or flaked paint on
window casings and door frames. If you’re concerned, consider getting some of the paint chips tested.
Note: Lead may also show up in the water pipes of your home, particularly if it was built before the
Are you ready to deal with the two m’s?
Mold and moisture. These insidious issues often go hand in hand. Untreated mold can lead to health problems, and moisture can make even the sturdiest of homes structurally unsound.
Basement water issues are also the bane of many a homeowner’s existence. You should look for signs of
appropriate drylocking. For example, if completely dry items sitting are sitting out in the basement,
that’s a positive sign.
Is the home properly insulated?
Depending on how cold your area gets, a home with improper insulation can be expensive to heat throughout the winter. You should also check to see how well the windows of the home are insulated by noting any condensation on the inside of the window glass.
Is the home structurally sound?
Older homes often come with foundation and structural issues, which may include corrosion or moisture
damage to the foundation, cracks or unevenness in the foundation wall, damaged support footages and
moisture damage or dry rot in the outside studs.
What signs should you look for? Doors that jam that won’t latch, visible cracks in walls and floors and
floors that are visibility off level. If you’re satisfied with no obvious structural problems and move
forward with purchasing, a reputable home inspector should find any hidden structural problems.
Don’t get discouraged!
There are so many benefits that make owning an older home a noble endeavor. And keep this in
mind: even brand-new homes still require upkeep but without the nostalgic feel of a classic dwelling.
While we can’t possibly cover every single thing to look for in your “new old” home, we hope that it
encourages you to pay attention to your home inspection. Some experts even advise having two
inspections for an older home.
Would a 203(k) loan make it easier for you to purchase an older home? Read more about FHA 203(k) Streamline Loans.