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Should You Buy an Old Home?

Quick and Dirty Tips
Posted By Marketplace Homes in National Press on August 24th, 2015

Mike Kalis, CEO of Marketplace Homes, shares some of the expenses you should know when looking to buy older homes. The verdict? Do your research before jumping in

Older homes are charming. This charm led me to purchase an 1880s-era house, and this charm is probably what attracted so many rodents to its basement. Yes, my old house was all kinds of quaint …

Old homes tend to be cheaper than new ones, which is a huge part of their appeal. But this discount comes at a price. Keeping your eyes open throughout the homebuying process will prevent you from making a decision you’ll regret once the charm begins to wear off.

Here are some of the expenses you can expect to face after purchasing an old home:

  • Energy inefficiency: You won’t find many energy-saving features in old homes, and your energy bills will likely be through the roof, which might be why it’s leaking, but we’ll get to that later. Sometimes, you’ll pull back the siding and notice there’s no insulation whatsoever.
    Also, look out for condensation on the windows. This is a telltale sign that they aren’t insulating the home very well. On blustery days, you’ll be riffing Bette Midler while singing about the wind beneath your shingles, and when your utility bills come in, you’ll be hearing the cha-ching of cash registers, like the introduction of that Pink Floyd song.
  • Broken infrastructures: When things get old, they break. Don’t be ready to simply replace appliances like your furnace, water heater, or stove; expect to also have to deal with a leaky roof, flooding basement, or cracked foundation. These major fixes can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Redecorating urges: The house belonged to someone else for 100 years—it only makes sense that you’ll want to personalize it. You’re going to want to make the carpet to be your carpet and the paint to be your color. And if your kitchen looks like it’s straight off the set of “Leave It to Beaver,” you might want new cabinets and countertops.

These are some of the expenses you can plan for, but what about the surprise ones that rear their ugly heads when you least expect it? This is the fun part of older homes: the unpredictable misadventures that fuel a lifetime of dinner party conversations.

You may face some unexpected challenges, including:

  • Rewiring a century-old property that’s not set up for modern technology
  • Discovering a happy family of pests living rent-free in your basement, followed by plugging the holes they’re coming and going through
  • Replacing non-standard-sized windows and doors with more expensive, custom-made products
  • Resolving property liens from the previous owners’ unpaid water and home improvement contractor bills
  • Decades worth of mold and mildew polluting the air
  • Lead-based paint, asbestos, or any other relic of outdated building codes

None of these problems are insurmountable individually, but if you don’t do your homework, your older home can provide a costly combination of expenses that will have you swimming in a vast sea of bills.

Cutting those energy costs should be your top priority—many of the issues I’ve mentioned stem from leaks, holes, and other inefficiencies. Put insulation in the attic and walls, buy a new door, put new caulk around the windows, and insulate every area where air, water, or pests can get in and out.

Be sure to quickly address any foundation issues—these are also a root cause of water-related damage and structural issues. Make sure the home is thoroughly inspected and that you have a clear, accurate list of every single current and potential problem. Don’t forget to also check the radon levels of the home. You can even consider talking to people living nearby to see whether they have any insights on the house. They may know things about the house you’d also like to know.

 Old homes are like newborn babies. They’re cute and charming, and people love them, but they’re also high-maintenance and very expensive to maintain.

Like parenthood, make sure you’ve done enough research before jumping in.

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