Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Scare Factor: Old Houses


Well it's been one crazy week. Seriously. I was suppose to take my bar exam...well today. I'm now sitting at my in-laws house. My husband's car broke down on Friday morning (the day I was scheduled to leave for the test). We couldn't track down a rental car due to a recent snow storm. Finally got one after driving two hours out of the way. Then, I got stuck in a hotel room during a snow storm and missed the start of the test. Thankfully I can transfer my test to next test date.

I do get to look at two houses tomorrow. One of the houses is kinda my soul-mate. I'm hoping when I see it in person, I will love it just as much.

My husband and I looked at houses previously and have had many long talks. We've looked into building or buying a new house. We decided after much talk that we are pretty sure we want to buy a historic home. Historic homes are beautiful. The natural wood work is one of kind. Craftsmen used to make moldings by hand and fit them together on site. The wood isn't even found anymore! A old home is one of a kind. There are generations that have lived there and raised families. Old houses are just love to me.

However, old houses can be scary investments! Once you Google "problems with old houses" you start to go down the rabbit hole of the "what ifs." What if there is bad electrical? What if there is still old plumbing? There are hundred different concerns. I thought I would share a simple 5 item check list when you're looking at a house. A good home inspection will help answer your questions and concerns, but this is a good checklist before you even get to that step. Now, don't completely walk away if you find a terrible problem. If the price is right and you've got a good team, you can deal with problems as they come up.

U.S. News has 5 questions to ask before buying an old house:

1. Is the foundation solid?

Old homes often have foundation issues, which are incredibly costly to fix. When you're looking at a historic home, leave the living room and bedrooms for last. The most important information you need to know is down in the basement. First, check the foundation for signs of cracks or shifting. Also detect and test for mold in the home, as it can be a sign of a weak foundation and other problems. You'll likely need to get a thorough home inspection service to tell you for sure if the foundation is solid, but if you see signs of crumbling or cracks then it's best to move on to the next house.

2. How old is the electric wiring?

Many old homes still have the original knob and tube wiring. Although it works, it can pose a fire hazard, especially in the attic (where it's likely to be covered in insulation). Evidence of the knob and tube wiring will be in the basement. If the home's wiring is outdated, then make sure you consider the cost of updating it. It's a huge, expensive job. I know, because I had to rewire my entire home after I bought it.

3. How old is the plumbing?

If the house still has the original cast-iron pipes, then you might need to replace them eventually because of mineral build up, corrosion, or leaks. Make sure you closely inspect any exposed pipes in the basement to see if they're in working order. Mineral buildup in the pipes won't be noticeable until you're trying to take a shower and realize that very little water is coming out. And if you're wondering, yes, I had to replace all my plumbing too. It wasn't fun.

4. How is the house heated?

Old radiators may add character, but they're an expensive way to heat the house. Make sure you carefully analyze how much fuel oil you'll need to heat the house and stay warm in the winter. If the home has central heat, then check to see how old the furnace is. This is another expensive replacement.

5. How's the roof?

Replacing a roof is one of the most expensive home repairs you'll make. I replaced mine recently, and I could have taken a plush Euro-vacation on what I spent. Make sure you check the roof and the attic carefully for leaks. If the roof is more than 10 to 15 years old, then realize you might need to replace it sometime during your ownership of the house. This is another potential cost you need to tack on.

Hopefully my search tomorrow will prove that the house I love is in good shape and give me a little more peace of least until I have the house checked for lead.


1 comment

Unknown said...

Looks like you've had quite a day ahead of you. And I'm sure it would be splendid. Nothing like spending one's time on a bit of house hunting. This kind of property is really a wise investment. Young or old, what matters is that you continue to push for real estate that scores good points in value.

Jamie Hooper

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