Buying an older home can be extremely rewarding, but can also be fraught with danger. Before purchasing an older home, there are certain aspects of older homes that should be aware of. Here are some of the more important issues relating to old buildings that you might want to consider before taking the plunge.
Check the Roof
Check the roof of any old house, both inside and out. Look for loose or missing slates or tiles. Is the roof covered in moss or lichen, and are the lines straight or sagging? Also check from the inside – is the timber in good condition, and are all the beams present? Some people tend to remove supports in order to make more room for loft conversions. Also check for signs of dampness.
Check the Walls
Older homes can display cracks due to gradual subsidence. It can be expensive to beef up foundations or even underpin the structure. There are reasons for cracks other than subsidence, but if you spot any at all, either interior or exterior, then you will need a surveyor to determine the cause.
Damp can be a problem when buying an older home. Many older buildings have no damp-proof course, and while this is easy to rectify, rising damp can lead to other problems such as dry rot, discussed next. Dampness can also penetrate walls, particularly those without an internal cavity.
Buying an Older Home – Rot and Decay:
Dry rot and wet rot are caused by damp. They are very invasive, particularly dry rot, and can render a structure very unstable. The best treatment is to remove and replace all affected timber, plus the remaining good timber for about 3 feet from the affected area. Treat all other timber with an anti-fungal liquid.
This can be another problem, and you can detect live activity by a fine powder round the holes and surrounding area caused by larvae (woodworm.)
When buying an older home it might be necessary to rewire the property to modern standards. Some will still have the old wired fuses rather than circuit breakers, and this can be difficult to detect. Your surveyor will be able to check this for you, but if you ask to see the main distributor panel or fuse box, this will give you a clue. It is easy to check if RCCBs or similar have been installed.
Drainage and Sewers
Old pipes can crack, and not only lead to seepage of foul waste, but also undermine the foundations. Check for tree roots close to sewage pipes and drains, since they can disrupt and crack old piping. Newer plastic piping is fine, but iron can rust and clay can crack.
When buying an older home you should pay careful attention to the plumbing. Make sure there are no dripping taps and that everything works as it should. It is also important that you make sure your plumbing is not lead – many older American homes still have lead plumbing which is a serious health risk. Always use a water filter until you are certain your water is safe to drink.
Older homes are generally not insulated to modern standards. Figure on having to install loft and wall insulation, and perhaps even double glazed windows. Alternatively, be prepared for higher fuel bills, particularly in winter.
The security features of older properties may not be up to modern standards. Check out window locks and door security. You might also consider the need for intruder alarms and external motion-activated lights.
These are several aspects you might want to keep in mind when buying an older home. You should use the services of a qualified building inspector or surveyor to make sure you have no nasty surprises waiting for you a few months down the road. Be present during the inspection so you are aware of every issue.
In spite of all of that, the vast majority of people never regret buying an older home. Your dream home can become a reality, but make certain that you have had the property thoroughly inspected prior to signing the contract.