Many homebuyers like the idea of living in an old home because of the craftsmanship, unique layouts, and overall yesteryear charm. However, one challenge of shopping for an older home is what you see on the surface might not reflect the problems the house has. When you are shopping for real estate in your area, here are some things you can look for as you tour older homes that can indicate larger problems.
1. Peeling paint on siding and moldings.
Many older homes were finished with lead-based paint before it was banned in 1978. While you will not be able to tell if paint in the home is lead-based on sight, you can look closely at painted surfaces to see if there are several layers of paint -- layers can mean that lead paint lies under the surface. If the paint is flaking or peeling and the absence of lead is not listed on your seller's disclosure, just know that you might need to pay for lead testing and abatement, especially if you are purchasing the home as a rental property.
2. Old light and electrical fixtures.
Generally, the presence of original electrical fixtures in an old house means that the electrical has not been updated thoroughly. You can expect to find knob-and-tube wiring in your house, which will eventually needs be replaced. Also, original fixtures can also mean that outlets in the house are not grounded, so the chances of electrical shock are higher. These unresolved electrical issues can lead to high home insurance rates.
3. Outdated plumbing.
It can be hard to open the walls and look at the plumbing, but the seller will often advertise if the house has updated plumbing. Older plumbing systems can have lead or a type of plastic that corrodes in the presence of bleach. Look under sinks and in the basement (if there is one) for exposed pipes. The appearance of visible pipes can inform on the quality of the hidden ones. Updated kitchens and bathrooms in a older house are nice to see because it means that the fixtures and pipes may have been updated in the renovation process.
4. Structural damage.
You won't be able to see all types of structural damage, but there are some red flags that point to larger issues. As you go through the house, be mindful of how the floors feels. Floors slope in older homes -- this is normal from settling. However, if floors seem to sag or if they are bouncy, this indicates that floor joists or structural beams may not be in good condition. Other signs include cracking concrete in the basement, doors and windows that do not close or open (try them all when you go through the house), or visible moisture problems in the basement.
As you view listings with a local real estate company, such as Trust Greene at eXp Realty, keep these ideas in mind.