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If you are considering buying an older house, there are a number of things to first consider. Whether you are buying a historic home in a more established part of town or buying a fixer-upper at a fantastic price, you need to do your homework before making the purchase. This post will walk you through some of the questions you should ask before buying an older home.
The foundation is arguably one of the most important parts of a house. If there are foundation issues, it can make the house unsafe. If it is leaning, cracked, or sunken in, it probably is in need of repair. A damaged foundation can cause the walls, doorways, and windows to also have issues. Not only can it be hazardous to occupants, but it can be extremely expensive to repair. A few cracks due to settling can be normal, but it requires the expert eye of a licensed home inspector and in some cases a structural engineer to determine the severity of any foundation issues.
While some roofs have been known to last up to 50 years, that is not the norm. A standard composition shingle roof will usually last 15-25 years before needing to be replaced. If the roof has premium-grade shingles, they can last up to 50 years. Terracotta can last up to 100 years, and metal roofs vary but usually will last over 30 years.
A leaky roof can lead to major interior problems if it is left unfixed. You can sometimes make repairs to a damaged roof but if there are severe defects, you will have to replace the whole thing, which can be very pricy. It is important to ask when the roof was replaced or if it is the house is historic, in which the roof will likely have been replaced several times.
If it is the original roof, or if it’s been about 20 years since being replaced, know that it’s very possible that you will have to replace it not long after moving in. If the roof is on the older side, it is also smart to get an estimate of how much a new roof will cost before committing to buying the home.
Something else to note is that a roof can only have two layers of shingles. Any more than that, and you can run into problems. An inspector can sometimes tell if there are more than two layers of shingles.
A very old plumbing system can lead to a number of needed repairs and upgrades. Not only can some old plumbing systems have lead pipes, but a broken water line (due to aging pipes) can also lead to possible mold issues or water damage. If the original plumbing is still in the house, you will need to factor in the cost to replace it.
We use a lot more electricity than people did 50 years ago. The older systems just aren’t equipped to handle our laptops, big-screen TVs, big appliances, etc. A lot of them also don’t have 3-prong outlets. If the outlets in your new house only have two prongs, you won’t be able to use most of your electronics that require a 3-prong outlet. You can get an adaptor, but adaptors aren’t suited for long-term use. You will need to have an electrician convert your 2-prong outlets to 3-prong ones.
Termites may not pose a threat to humans, but they may pose a threat to your house. They can compromise the structural integrity of your house and make it a danger to live in until it is repaired. Termites eat wood from the inside out, so you may not even know you have termites until it is too late and there is substantial damage.
An experienced termite inspector will know what to look for, and they can find evidence of past or current termite infestations. Some homeowners may have termite contracts, which you can transfer to your name once you buy the house. A termite contract is an agreement with a termite company, ensuring that the termite company will cover treatment costs if termites are discovered. Some contracts even include repairs if termites damage the home.
When left untouched, lead paint usually will not cause harm. However, when you have an older house, you are likely to do renovations and upgrades. This is when this material can be very hazardous. Most older houses have lead paint, even if they are extremely well-built.
Lead paint was banned in 1978, but, until then, it was an extremely common paint used in many houses. Lead paint can be dangerous to both children and adults but is thought to be more threatening for children. Even the smallest amount can cause nerve and brain damage in a child. In adults, it can lead to hypertension, a major risk for heart disease.
Lead paint testing is not a part of a standard house purchase, so if it is concerning to you, make sure to ask for a professional lead paint inspection.
In prior years, asbestos was a common material used in wall and pipe installation. When asbestos is disturbed or deteriorating, it can release particles into the air, which can then be swallowed or inhaled. Even short-term exposure may lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Because of the serious issues that asbestos can cause, it’s important to ask about asbestos testing in an older house, especially if you will be renovating it. If it is detected in the house you are purchasing, know that removing it requires professional remediation
Homes in the city are typically on the public sever system. However, some houses outside of the city may have a septic system.. This is something that can be easily overlooked in the home-buying process. It can also be a money pit if something goes wrong. Make sure to get a sewer inspector to do a thorough examination of the septic system to make sure everything is in working order. For homes on a septic system, you may want the main sewer line inspected to avoid expensive and disruptive repairs.
READ MORE: The First-Timer’s Guide to Buying a Home in Memphis
Marx-Bensdorf has a number of REALTORS® well-versed in the sale of older and historic homes in the Memphis, TN area. It’s extremely important that you work with a real estate agent who knows what to look out for and who can be your guide through the home-buying process. It is also important that your REALTOR® is a skilled negotiator, as it is likely needed repairs will come up after the home inspection.
For a real estate agent who is on your side and looking out for your best interests, call the experienced REALTORS® at Marx-Bensdorf. We will walk alongside you throughout the entire process, from first looking for your home to closing day.