There is much information that points to the benefits to buying an older home. Older homes generally have lower purchase prices relative to newer houses. They tend to be located in established neighborhoods with an existing history of schools, transportation and commercial center offerings. Older houses have mature landscaping and period-style architecture and craftsmanship. If this type of home-buying information is important to you, you may want to consider an older house. Still, older homes come with their own set of issues. In order to make the best home-buying decision, here are five information topics you may want to discuss with your real estate agent.
1) Structural Issues
The structural condition of older homes can vary greatly. It if has been maintained, the structure of an older house will likely reflect the quality craftsmanship of earlier times and will only need minor repairs, reinforcement or maintenance. More recent additions may have been built to a lower standard than the original home, and can need major repairs or renovations. If the original building has not been well maintained, you may be in for a serious structural overhaul. Neglected crawlspaces can have foundation and floor structure defects. Continuous water intrusion or past fires could have damaged structural areas that are now concealed. Be sure your home inspector investigates the structure of an older house thoroughly.
2) What is Involved with Remodeling
Many people purchase an older home with the intention of remodeling it in order to make the house more comfortable and raise the home value. Like many equations in life, the decision to remodel an older home boils down to time or money. If you decide to spend more of your time and less of your money, you’ll need to be handy and have your weekends free of other commitments for several months. If you prefer to save your time, but spend more money, your real estate agent can refer you to a contractor who specializes in raising house value by remodeling older homes.
3) Zoning and Use Issues
Before you purchase an older house with the intention of remodeling and raising the home value, be sure to investigate the zoning and use regulations. Many older homes come with restrictions, including pre-determined setbacks from property lines, limits on roof height, etc. If the home is on a municipal historic register, regulations will likely be even more stringent in order to preserve the house’s historic character. If you’re considering alternative uses for your older house, like turning it into a commercial office, building an in-law apartment, etc., be sure to ask your real estate agent about zoning specifics.
4) Cost of Operations
Higher repair and maintenance expenses should be factored into the budget when calculating the total cost for purchasing an older home. Renovations, repairs and even pre-purchase inspection costs can be considerably higher than if purchasing a newer house. Also, the lack of modern insulation materials means bigger gas and electric bills in order to heat and power the house. And, major appliances, plumbing and heating systems will likely need maintenance within the first few years of your ownership.
In an older home, it’s possible that termites and other wood destroying insects could have damaged timbers and structural supports for years before they were detected. It would be highly unusual for a house to survive for 100 years in the tropics without any kind of termite/ant/beetle infestation. It’s important to determine whether there are any signs of current infestation, and the extent of the damage of past infestations. If a wood destroying insect has eaten away at the structural support of a house for a significant amount of time before being discovered, you may need to add some reinforcement to the beams and posts in the basement. It is also very important to protect against future infestations. You may want to consider having a pest control company do preventative treatments as well as periodic visual inspections.
Older homes have character and great potential, but be sure and use the services of an experienced local Realtor to thoroughly investigate the property.