If you are a romantic, nothing beats the charm and appeal of an older home. From finish details that can be breathtaking to their solid constructions, an older home could be everything you are looking for. The catch? It’s old. But, what does that mean for your house hunting? It means that, no matter how well restored the house appears to be, you want to inspect it for some hidden issues before you say “yes” to your realtor.

Here are a few of the essential items to consider when looking into purchasing an older home.

Condition of Foundation

Typically built with thick stone foundations, historic homes were built to last. However, the mortar used between the stones deteriorates over time which may cause the foundation to crack and result in structural problems such as leaks. The same can happen to homes with concrete block foundations. How do you know if the foundation is compromised? If you smell any mildew in the basement, that should be your first red flag.

Type of Framing

Unlike newer homes that are constructed of engineered lumber or kiln dried, most old houses used real wood for framing such as heavy timber and the like. Have the inspector check posts for any past beetle or termite damage. Insects can wreak havoc on a home.

Hazardous Materials

If you are checking out a house built before the 1960s, chances are there are plenty of layers of lead paint hidden under the fresh coat of paint you see. Some owners have the lead paint removed by a professional before they put the house on the market, but not everyone.

You should also look out for asbestos, as one of the materials most commonly used for plumbing pipe insulation in old houses. Asbestos was in floor tiles and wall and ceiling plaster. Even though asbestos is a fantastic fire stopping material, it can be tremendously hazardous if it is airborne or crumbly. Inhaling asbestos is poisonous and leads to cancer called mesothelioma.

If you suspect these materials are present, ask your agent to recommend a hazardous materials specialist to inspect the home.

Mechanical Systems

Majority of older homes have tube or knob wiring which aren’t that durable. It is due to the paper insulation around the wires that, in time, become exposed, creating a potential fire hazard.

Plumbing pipes in older homes could make your supply water dangerous to drink, but you can’t be sure unless you hire a professional to inspect and identify pipe material. In case the plumbing’s is deteriorated, do the necessary calculations to see if it pays off to invest in changing the entire plumbing system in the house.

The heating system is the simplest thing to check. Make sure the radiators are in excellent condition by inspecting them for leaks and making sure the system is still working. Have an inspection on the chimney for any soot build-up and deterioration. If there is a boiler, it shouldn’t be more than 20 years old.

When shopping for a new home, be a smart buyer. Know what to look for and don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. If you need a professional to help guide you through the process, talk to a real estate agent.  

If you’re looking to buy or sell in Southern CA, let’s talk.