Updated December 3, 2016 . AmFam Team
Whether it’s an art deco bungalow or an old farmhouse on a sprawling piece of land, living in an older house has its perks. Beautiful craftsmanship, unique characteristics, and character galore means you’ve got a great opportunity to make your home uniquely yours. But before you start browsing the classifieds for your dream home, it’s important to brush up on the things to look for before making an offer. That way, you’ll be prepared to take on your home — quirks and all.
Structural issues. The older the home, the more important it is to get it checked out by a home inspector — or two. A problem with the foundation or the structure of the house is a huge problem, and often the priciest expense when it comes to fixing up an old home. If your inspector finds any issues, it’s important to make sure you have the funds to have it fixed ASAP — or, know when it’s time to walk away.
Pesky pests. Older homes are pretty susceptible to bug and rodent problems. Check for mice, bats and squirrels, and then have any holes patched and the area treated by pest control. Insects are often a tougher issue to handle — especially termites. They love to munch on soft wood, and can create significant damage in older homes.
Window pains. Original windows are beautiful and add a ton of character to the house, however, they often have some drawbacks. Many older windows are single-pane, aren’t as energy-efficient and often have leaks, which can mean a really big heating bill. If you live in a colder climate, consider sacrificing your home’s authenticity for the sake of your wallet. Read up on the signs your windows need replacing.
Old fashioned heating systems. Many old homes — often 100 years old or older — were heated with oil, which was inexpensive at the time. How times have changed! Not only is it expensive, it’s inefficient. Even if there isn’t an old oil drum in the basement, it’s important to check that whatever heating system is in the house, it’s been properly maintained and is in good shape.
Water woes. When it comes to water, there’s three things to watch out for: filtration, a leaky roof, and mold. If your area has a high sulfur concentration, your home’s water might have that rotten egg smell. While it’s not dangerous, it can be a nuisance and can usually be fixed with a water filtration system. Next, check for water getting into your home. Two common problems: moisture in the roof and mold in the basement. While both have fixes, they’ll most likely cost a pretty penny.
Walls and floors. While the home inspector may deem them sound, it’s important to take a close look at the floors and walls. Does the hardwood need to be refinished? Is the carpet unsalvageable? Next look at the walls — is there wallpaper or 70s paneling that will need to be removed? Both can add up. It’s also important to look for lead paint, which carries serious health risks — especially for children and pregnant women. If you suspect lead paint, you can either buy a lead paint detector kit, or hire a professional. Keep in mind that lead paint removal can be pretty steep — so factor that into your final costs as well!
While this list might seem daunting, an old house can be a joy to spend your life in. Talk to your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and check out our homeowner coverages to make sure your new hard-earned dream never goes unprotected.