If you have found your dream home and it has more than a few years under its belt, there are some extra things to consider in the home-buying process. Your potential new home might be a gem, but you sometimes have to knock the dust off to find the truth about a home's condition. Hire a licensed, professional home inspector to uncover any serious issues before you close on the sale and use qualified professionals if you need to do some fix-up work.
A concern with old homes is long-term stability. Older homes sometimes were not built with the same foundational stability as newer homes. Plus, over time, foundations shift because of weather-related erosion and climate factors such as moisture, mold and natural disasters that slowly affect your home's foundation. In her April 2011 U.S. News & World Report article "5 Questions to Ask Before Buying an Old House," Heather Levin advises home buyers to check basement foundations for cracks and mold. These are clues to instability in the foundation, and foundation problems can be costly to repair.
Longtime professional home inspector Tom Kraeutler says it's important to know what kind of electrical wiring is in older homes. Wiring became standard in the 1920s, he says, but the wire itself and wiring processes have advanced greatly since then. You need to find out if and when the electrical system has been updated. If the answer is "Never," you can expect that a vast overhaul of the electrical wiring will be needed for safety reasons. An overhaul also can be needed even if it has been updated, depending on when the updating happened and what materials were used. The total cost for electrical wiring varies.
Utilities should be included in your inspection checklist. Plumbing, heating and cooling systems have all evolved over time. If plumbing systems are outdated, faulty pipes could burst and lead to flooding and major damage. Old furnace systems are not only dangerous, but inefficient. If you have to update to a more modern and efficient central heating and cooling system, consider these expenses when preparing an offer on the home.
The condition of the roof should be on your checklist even for moderately older homes. Levin suggests that any roof older than 10 to 15 years probably will need to be replaced during your ownership. Roof replacement typically costs several thousand dollars depending on the size and shape of the roof. Old roofing can cause leaks and the potential exists for a cave-in if the entire roof structure is weak and a serious weather storm takes place.
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