There are many reasons why people prefer buying older homes. For example, they can be more affordable than newly-constructed homes, they’re often located in established neighborhoods with mature trees and green spaces, and they also tend to have sturdier construction and larger lot sizes. What’s more, many older homes have a charm and distinctiveness that sets them apart.
1. What kind of electrical wiring does the home have?
Knob and tube wiring were widely used in homes that were built between about 1880 to 1950. It refers to a wiring method in which single wires are wrapped in a cloth sheath. Since there is no ground wire, it is widely considered unsafe, and many insurance companies won’t issue a policy until it is replaced. Selvan Puvaneshwaranathan explains that the existence of knob and tube wiring doesn’t need to be a deal breaker. Instead, you should factor the costs of replacing the wiring into your offer, and also keep in mind that it may take some time and as such might delay your desired move-in date.
2. How good is the insulation, roofing and windows?
The condition of the insulation, roofing and windows all have an impact on how much energy it takes to cool a home in the summer and heat it in the winter. This information also lets you know if you should be financially prepared for significant repairs or renovations in the near future.
Contrary to what some people believe, many older homes are quite energy efficient. However, it’s important to know if work is going to be required. If so, and depending on the time of year, you may want to have the insulation, roofing or windows upgraded before you move in.
3. Does the home have cast iron plumbing?
A few older homes still have cast iron plumbing, which can rust from the inside. However, most older homes — and virtually all of them that have had plumbing upgrades in the last 30 years or so — have copper, PVC or PEX plumbing.
4. Does the home have lead paint?
The bad news is that many homes built before 1978 used lead paint. However, the good news in many of these homes, the lead paint has been remediated. Selvan Puvaneshwaranathan says that the existence of lead paint in a home should be disclosed in the listing, but it’s still worthwhile to ask.
5. Are there any local planning laws regarding renovations?
If you plan on fixing up an older home by adding fencing, extending the home, constructing an outbuilding, and so on, then you should check with the municipality to see what is and is not permitted. It is also important to understand the rules and process if you’re planning on creating a basement apartment.
Selvan Puvaneshwaranathan’s Final Thoughts
There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with older homes. But just as with any prospective big ticket purchase, you need to do your homework. Working with a realtor who has in-depth experience with older homes is incredibly important. They know what questions to ask, and how to ensure that buyers are informed and protected.