Your Need to Know Guide to Buying an Older Home
For a lot of homebuyers, buying their dream home means choosing an older structure that has passed the test of time. These grand places have an undeniable charm about them, with classic styling that can be adapted to nearly any taste. Older homes can be incredible places to live and love, but no home is perfect. The history of your older home may include skeletons in the upstairs bedroom closet.
Five Amazing Reasons to Choose an Older Home
Buyers who are into the details are going to love owning an older home. Not only do you get all those little bits of period hardware, real wood floors and intricate trim work, your home has a real history that you can trace should you be so interested. Older homes can become a real love story really fast.
There are a lot of reasons to choose an older home, here are five to get you started:
The neighborhood is established. You may not be giving any thought to this particular item right now, but when you’re living with the sound of bulldozers, skid loaders and other heavy equipment nearby as they add even more streets to a newer neighborhood, you might wish you had gone another way. Established neighborhoods don’t give you a lot of room to move, but you also know exactly what to expect day to day.
Mature landscaping! Even if you’re not a gardener, you can appreciate that 50 or 80 year old shade tree that protects your house like a giant leafy umbrella. If past owners put in plants, you may also have bought into a hedge or foundation plantings that will give you lots of green without lots of effort.
High ceilings. Although the types of ceiling treatments that are in modern homes rarely pop up in older homes, you may find high ceilings in older homes (this will depend on how old of a house you’re looking for). Before air conditioning, those high ceilings helped keep occupants cooler in the summer. Today they give you a more spacious atmosphere and more room for vertical storage.
Lots of natural light. One of the best features of many older homes is the sheer number of windows that have been installed. So many windows means so much more light inside your home. When you’re buying a glass house, though, make sure that those windows have been replaced or brace for high winter energy bills.
You become part of the story. Older homes tell the story of the lives of past owners, in small and large ways. Every owner left a mark somewhere in that place, just like you will. For example, you may decide you’re not so fond of the carpets, instead choosing to recover the wood floor underneath. Your fingerprint was just added to the collection.
Owning an older home can be a home ownership dream come true. But don’t fall headfirst yet. Read on so you know when to walk away.
Five Reasons to Reconsider That Older Home
Although older homes can be charming and even decadent with the details, there’s a lot more to them than history and natural light. Every house is the result of its cumulative care over its lifetime. The longer the house has been around, the more care (or neglect) it receives. Even so, there are many reasons to be wary when it comes to buying an older home.
Vital systems may not be to code. When that house was built in 1940, there weren’t really building codes to adhere to. In fact, that house might have come from a catalog and was shipped in pieces for a homeowner to build like a giant Lego set. The fact that it’s still standing is probably a good sign, but you’ll want to have a very thorough home inspection before you get your hopes up too high.
Owners adding defects when trying to repair things. Homeowners regularly make repairs without the proper permits or inspections, leaving you to wonder how good the work really went. Whether the repair was made in the 60s or last week, discovering that a closet light was wired using lamp wire is a terrifying discovery that should leave you wondering what other “repairs” are hiding behind the wall, in the attic and under the floor.
So many windows means thermal leakage. All that natural light is awesome, until it gets cold or hot — then you’ve suddenly got a major issue with thermal leakage. Even the best weather seal isn’t much on a single pane window when compared to modern engineered double and triple paned windows with Low-E coatings. If you like a drafty house, by all means go for it. If not, at least look for a place with upgraded windows.
Add-ons should get the side eye. Above we discussed how each owner touches a house in a unique way. One of those ways is to add more square footage. There are good add-ons that flow seamlessly from the original structure to the new part without it being obvious. Then there are the others. Does this place have something that’s akin to a shanty attached to the back side and called a bedroom? Run away.
Infestations. Another gift former owners may leave you is pest infestations. From bats to cockroaches and mice, older homes are accidental havens for all sorts of creatures. Along with a termite inspection, you definitely want to have a pest control expert out to look for signs of other things that you’d probably rather not be sharing your home with.
Living in a remodeling zone is not a party. Some people gravitate toward older homes because they believe this will save them a lot of money. There’s certainly a chance of that, but market forces are finicky, so you definitely want to talk to some pros before putting the numbers together. Even if you do find that you’re sitting on a gold mine, consider what this is going to do to your life and family. Living in a construction zone means that you never get away from the destruction and that you’re potentially dumping a lot of money into upgrades and fixing old “repairs.”
Is an Older Home Right for You and Your Budget?
It’s one thing to dream a little dream and yet another to turn that dream into a reality that may have unforeseen results. This is why it’s really important to talk to your Realtor and other home pros before making an offer on an older home.