From 1920s bungalows to Victorian homes and rustic farmhouses, the charm of older properties is undeniable. You might dream of sipping coffee on a wraparound porch or hearing the quaint squeak of planks as you walk across original wooden floors.
The prospect of owning your own piece of history can be alluring, but old houses also present potentially significant challenges. While some issues are immediately apparent, expensive problems are often tucked away inside the walls or under the floors, endangering both your health and your finances.
How old are we talking about?
While you are likely to hear people call houses anywhere from 10 to 25 years "older," this term can mean different things in different areas of the country. In many cities and states, only homes over 50 years old are considered truly historic.
As a rule of thumb, the dividing line between "old" and "too old" is the mid-20th century.
If you are a first-time homeowner tempted by the charm of an old house, those built 80 to 100 years ago tend to have sturdier construction than ones constructed more recently, generally speaking. However, just because these houses were built well does not mean other aspects of the property are not outdated and even potentially hazardous.
Older homes have outdated types of plumbing that could potentially threaten your health as well as your bank account. Lead is one of the oldest metals used in piping, most commonly used for sewer lines and main water lines. Although the US restricted the use of lead back in the 1920s, it was not entirely banned until 1986.
If lead pipes are present in your older home, it is critical to replace them since lead is highly toxic, especially for children.
Galvanized pipe is another common type of outdated plumbing found in older houses. Galvanized steel drains rust eventually and can no longer be cleaned.
To do away with these outdated types of plumbing, you often have to break into finished spaces in the house, which can get expensive.
Another issue to keep in mind: in older homes, the homeowner is often responsible for the drain line going out to the city sewer. A lot of people are not aware of that.
Fixing any drain line issues can mean digging in your yard or tearing up the street, which can be a four-figure expense.
Old houses usually have a knob and tube wiring. Unlike today's electrical wiring, knob and tube systems lack a ground wire so that an overloaded circuit can heat up and cause a fire.
Not only is this a safety issue, replacing wiring can cost a lot of money. Rewiring a house can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000, with most homeowners spending an average of $2,100. Pay attention to other indications that you need to rewire your older home, like blown fuses, tripped breakers, and lights flickering or burning out quickly. Sparks from an outlet, hot switch plates, and loose outlets can also be warning signs.
Inspecting the Chimney Is a Must
Just about every older house features a masonry chimney. While few things sound more appealing on a cold evening than curling up by a crackling fire, the mortar and brick of masonry chimneys often deteriorate, leading to water leaking into the chimney.
It is crucial to have an inspector check out the inside of the chimney before using it.
Older chimneys often lack lining, which means they can be very drafty and even leak harmful gases into the living space. If the chimney is used for wood burning, the condensation can form tar and creosote, which are flammable substances. In this case, your chimney can become a fire hazard. Chimney repair can cost as little as $90 and as much as $1,800.
With older homes, charm can be costly
Many people dream of buying a historic fixer-upper to put their own stamp on, but the character comes at a price. While some problems are obvious, other issues are often tucked away inside the walls or under the floors, threatening both your safety and your financial wellbeing.
Before purchasing an older home, it is crucial to consider if you are prepared to invest time and money into the property. The cost of fixing some of these problems can be overwhelming.
Did you inherit a historic money pit? Did you buy an older home that turned into more of a burden than a joy? Are unforeseen repairs stacking up and stressing you out? If you no longer want to spend the time or money to fix your old house, at Simply, we can help!
We buy houses as-is for cash, allowing you to close on your timeline and move on with your life. It is simple: just enter your address, and we will let you know if your property is a good fit for us. You can receive your free, no-obligation quote in just 30 seconds, so do not delay!