Buying an Older House? Watch Out for These Potential Problems

Why did people stop building houses the way they did in the past? The age of a house is subjective. But an unwritten rule is, it’s considered old if it’s older than 50 years, while it’s called “antique” if it was built before 1920. Many love old homes because of the character and charms they bring – exposed bricks, pocket doors, telephone nooks, and wood built-ins. Also, they have house features that surprisingly never go out of style.

Purchasing an old house has many benefits but be aware of some possible issues that you could run into. So before setting your heart out on a classic home, know the most common problems you can encounter in the future.

Most Common Issues with Old Homes

Several factors contribute to the condition of your potential home. Thankfully, they can be caught during the home inspection phase of the purchasing process.

1. Foundation Problems

These are very common with older homes, but they can be resolved to make the home livable again. It could be from minor settlement cracks or damaged support footings, which can be expensive. The biggest reason for foundation issues is the normal wear and tear, in addition to other causes, like seismic activity or tree roots from an established tree or wet soil. It’s best to call for a structural engineer or professional restoration company to assess the damage and give you advice on repair strategies.

2. Hazardous Building Material

A lot of older homes built before 1978 can contain asbestos and lead-based paint. Ensure to have your potential home checked if they contain these dangerous materials because they are invisible.

If it tested positive for lead, it’s always advisable to invest in a professional removal company rather than compromising your family’s health. Whereas asbestos has been proven to cause respiratory problems, sometimes even leading to lung cancer and death. Professional removal is also the solution for this.

3. Deteriorating Roof

Though there are different types of shingles with diverse lifespans for old houses, problems arise due to weather, installation quality, roof grade, and maintenance. Always look for bowing gutters, missing shingles, leaks, or moisture in the attic or top floor.

4. Outdated Electrical System

It’s a rule of thumb that you need to update its electrical system before moving into an older house. Fire hazards and shock can potentially occur with old wiring that has missing or deteriorated insulation. Furthermore, two-prong receptacles that lack grounding protection can cause electrocution or shock. On top of these, an old fuse box doesn’t have the same level of protection as modern circuit breakers that we use today.

Ensure to call a certified Mooloolaba based electrician to check and repair the electrical system.

5. Plumbing Problems

An old house’s pipes can also contain lead. And as years go by, they can decompose, and fragments can end up in your drinking water. Also, look out for pipes made of polybutylene because they’re prone to get corrosion caused by bleach and other cleaning solutions with chemicals, resulting in bursting. Finally, make sure that professional plumbers examine the pipes.

6. Old Mechanical Equipment

Water heaters, boilers, and air-conditioning units are essential mechanical systems in every American household to keep it going. Immediately check out the date of purchase of these appliances and average lifespan to know when to replace them. Look for unevenly heated rooms, humidity in the house, noisy furnace or water heater, and puddling around the water heater.

What can you do if you run into problems?

There is no doubt that you may encounter one of the above issues, especially if you are shopping for an older home. However, it does not need to be the end of the deal; rather, you can use these issues as negotiating points to get a better deal.

Buying an Older House? Watch Out for These Potential Problems

Having the homeowner fix issues vs. fixing them yourself vs. getting cashback.

There are three main ways to resolve issues from the inspection. First, they are requesting that the homeowner make the repairs and provide receipts, do it yourself after the sale (or not), use that as a negotiating point to lower the price, or request cash back after the sale to do them yourself.

All of these are potentially great options.

Have significant issues resolved by the homeowner before closing.

It’s possible to request that the existing homeowner take care of issues if they arise during the inspection process. We recommend this if the issues are significant, as it is likely to save you money in the short term.

What you define as significant may vary depending on your level of expertise and how handy you are. Still, we recommend that if there is a significant issue that will cost more than $5,000 to fix, request that the homeowner make the repair and provide proper documentation.

Minor issues and aesthetics can be leveraged and negotiation tactics.

Outdated kitchen? Old flooring? While certainly adding value to a home, these are aesthetic issues that are a great way to save money on the deal if they lack in an older home. Anything aesthetic-related we recommend referencing is why you are offering a lower price point for the home.

When the homeowner doesn’t fix significant issues, request cashback.

While this is a viable option, make sure you understand the implications. Depending on your lender, the cash you receive during a cashback scenario may be deducted from your mortgage rather than provided to you directly to do these repairs. This can lead to you having to front the bill for potentially costly repairs while moving into your new home.

Will You Walk Away or Move In?

After checking your potential home with this knowledge, you will know if you will move in or walk away.

If the inspector told you that there are many issues, this should not scare you. If the price is right and within your budget, you can do renovations and repairs to transform it into your dream house. But if you’re seeking a move-in ready home, you can move on and continue your search for a newer one.


Thank you for reading!

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