When you're looking for a single-family home to buy, you'll come across two kinds of older homes. One kind is the type of older home that is in excellent shape but is selling for a steal because it's no longer fashionable or updated in the way that most people enjoy. The other type of older home is one that is selling for a steal because it has some real problems or issues that may cost a fortune to fix, either now or in a few years. It's vital that you are able to tell the difference between these two types of homes. You want to end up in a home that's a good deal, not one that turns into a nightmare.
Here are some of the key things to focus on when looking at older homes.
First and foremost, look at the foundation. Venture down into the basement or crawlspace and give every wall a detailed look. If a wall seems to be bowing inward, that's a bad sign. Large cracks and vertical cracks are also an indication of significant damage. Pay attention to the door and window frames in the home, too. If they are uneven and some doors don't close, this is a sign of a shifting foundation. Issues with the foundation are very expensive and hard to repair, so a home with foundation trouble is likely to be a nightmare, not a steal.
Some missing shingles are one thing. You can have them replaced. If the roof is bowing or seems to dip in at certain points, that's another matter. A roof that is bowing has damage to the wooden underlayment and is at risk of collapse. Not to mention, replacing a roof in this bad of shape is expensive, and the job will also probably include repairing lots of water damage in the attic and upper floors. Walk away from a home with a warped roof.
Replacing pipes isn't terribly expensive, but the problem with old, damaged plumbing is that it could burst at any point, ruining the rest of the home as water spews all over the place. These are some of the top signs that the plumbing is in poor shape:
- It's made from galvanized steel: these pipes have not been used since the 1960s, and most are rusted and weak by now.
- It has mineral deposits near pipe joints: this indicates tiny amounts of water are leaking out of these joints.
- The water is rust-colored when you first turn it on: this indicates the pipes are rusting inside.
To avoid dealing with a potential flooding situation, say "no" to an old house with old plumbing.
If you manage to find an older home with a sturdy foundation, a good roof, and good plumbing, then it's probably a steal! Make an offer, and get ready to move in.
For more information about single-family homes, talk to a real estate agent.