Tips for Buying an Older Home

Posted by Gurpreet Ghatehora on Sunday, October 25th, 2015 at 9:52am.

Buying an older home has a lot of appeal.  You get the charm and character that doesn’t get put into the architecture of the modern-built home, and you gain the opportunity to provide restoration and unique touches so you can fix the home up your way.  That said, there are also a lot of things you need to watch out for when buying an older home to ensure you aren’t just throwing a mortgage at a money pit.

Here are a few tips to follow to help you ensure that isn’t the case.

1) You need support.

Or rather, your house needs support.  The first thing you need to look at is the foundation.  If you see crumbling cement, you may be looking at something called sulphate attack, a chemical reaction between cement and soil that occurs in the foundations of older homes.  You also need to look for cracks and fissures, and you need to check to see if the centre beam is sinking.  This can cause a lot of problems, including a sagging roof, bowed walls, and sloping floors.  A shaky foundation can lead to a lot of problems—and an expensive fix.

2) Electrical wiring.

Make sure you have your home inspector look at your electrical wiring before you buy your house.  Some older homes used aluminum wiring because it was less expensive than copper wire, but it poses a serious fire risk.  If the house has aluminum wiring, make sure you find a quote on what it will cost to rewire the home and negotiate that with the seller when you make your offer.  You’ll also want to make sure the outlets can meet your modern power demands without overloading the circuit.  The wiring can be fixed, but you’ll want to be aware of it before you buy so you can factor in the cost—and you want to address it before you begin any of your renovations.

3) Asbestos and lead paint.

Many older homes used asbestos and lead paint, which have both been proven to be harmful.  Checking for these before you buy can save you a lot of money after the fact.

4) Plumbing.

You’ll also want to take a look at the plumbing system of the house to make sure things are working properly, and that no pipes have rusted through.  Once again, this is repairable, but can be costly, so you’ll want to negotiate on the offer if you need to address these issues post-buy.

There are a lot of structural issues to look for when you are looking to buy an older home.  To be on the safe side, hire a home inspector and a structural engineer to walk through the home with you before you make your offer.  This can save you a lot of grief—and money—in the long run.

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