Debbie Caniff's Blog
When you’re thinking about purchasing a home, an old house versus that new one is something to ponder. If you’ve thought about buying an older home, consider each of these areas before making an offer. Have your agent write contingencies into your contract, and by all means, don’t forego an inspection.
Say what? A lot of folks don’t realize that over the years, materials routinely used in homebuilding fall out of favor and become potential issues when you decide to renovate or remodel your older home. Some examples of hazardous materials are:
- Lead pipes. Once used for standard plumbing, even sealed lead pipes can eventually allow toxic lead to leach into your water. Replacing all the plumbing in your home is an extensive and expensive process entailing removing floors and walls, tearing out concrete, and digging up landscaping. Before making an offer, have the water tested for lead.
- Lead pipes aren’t the only problem. Older homes often have lead paint as well. Although it may be painted over with a non-hazardous paint, if paints chip and reveal the older materials, you might be exposed to higher concentrations of lead than you realize.
- Asbestos. Homes built before the 1980s often had asbestos in the ceiling texture and insulation. Removing asbestos is an expensive side cost to any renovation. In addition to interior asbestos, many homes have asbestos siding and roofing materials that require HazMat removal as well. If the existing materials remain in place, there’s no law against them, but if you disturb them to install an addition or reface your home, they require proper mitigation.
A common issue with older homes is damage to the foundation from years of shifting ground, water seepage and expansion, and improper additions. When more weight sits on a home, from a new roof installed over the top of the old one, for example, the extra weight puts stress on bearing walls and the foundation. Footers exposed to erosion from running water might not continue to carry that weight. You won’t notice it at first, but eventually, you’ll find yourself repairing cracks in the plaster more frequently. An experienced home inspector will detect potential problems, so pay attention to the inspector’s report about potential, future issues with a home.
Lastly, older homes have long-term exposure to pests. Termites, carpenter ants, and other wood-damaging pests can hide their damage from you, but an inspector knows where to look. Along with disclosure of asbestos and lead issues, insist on pest control mitigation in your contract for an older home. Let your agent know how old a home you’re willing to purchase to avoid these issues.