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  • Writer's pictureZac Bales-Henry

3 Things to look for when buying an older home

Older homes can be beautiful. The charm of vintage style and finish is often an appeal to those who prefer their home to have more charter. There's just something special in knowing that your home has a history to it-- stories written on the walls of time. However, it's essential to remember that while older homes have a charm that is often unmatched by new(er) homes. Some downsides come along with owning an older home. These come in the shape of big-ticket items such as: Roof, Windows, Foundation, Electrical, etc.. That's why I've created a list with the three most important things to look for when purchasing an older home. These items could be costly-- so it's important to note them when you're touring a home.

  1. Foundation: This is the top of the list and the most important thing to look for. Older homes (especially those before 1980) will have foundations that are drastically different than today. The best thing to do is first identify what kind of foundation you have. Is it concrete block, clay block, brick or limestone? All of these will come with varying degrees of maintenance (or, in some cases, issues). Important things to look for are things like bowing or settling. Or simply put, is the wall moving. This could be a sign that structural integrity is failing. Next, look for any moisture penetration or calcium buildup (a chalky white powder on the wall). This could mean that the basement is prone to taking on water. Major cracking is also a sign of movement in the basement walls or floors. If you see any of these, talk to your agent, inspector, or consult a specialist.

  2. Windows: While old windows are charming, they can sometimes leak heat or even take on moisture. When looking at older windows, see if there are past signs of moisture buildup. Staining around the windows can also be another sign that the window is letting in water. See if the window is functioning, locking, or staying in place. Sometimes older windows can have a weight system that allowed them to remain in an open position. Check to see if those are still functioning. Make sure that there isn't any deterioration of the wood. Does the window still have the original storm window? If it doesn't, it means that the home could leak more heat than you want. Old windows aren't always bad-- and if maintained can still be used today. If you see room for concern, talk with your agent or a specialist.

  3. Electrical: This is going to be harder to spot -- but there are a few things to look for when you're trying to tell if the electrical needs to be updated. First, check out the breaker box. Older boxes like (Federal Pacific) have been known to have issues. If the box is older doesn't always mean it's terrible. But like anything mechanical-- it should be something to consider changing out if it's outdated or doesn't have enough power for the house. Things like "double-tapping" can overload a breaker and cause a "pop." Other things to look for are outlets and light switches. A sign that an outlet isn't grounded is a two-prong vs. a three-prong. This means that some of your devices might not work in the home. However, one thing to consider -- sometimes previous owners will change out a two-prong outlet to a three-prong without adding the grounding wire; this can be really bad. You likely won't be able to test fo this. But it's something to remember for inspections. Also, if the light switch is a push-button, it could mean that the electrical is old.

These are just a few things to consider when looking at old homes. It's important to remember that just because some of these issues arise-- it doesn't mean the house isn't a great place to live. It just means that it needs some repairs in order to make it last longer. Homes need work just like us. Updates should happen over time-- and maintenance is to be expected. Making sure you know what you're getting yourself into if key.

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