3 Things to Check When Buying an Old House

New things are great, but there’s a certain charm about old homes that new builds simply can’t compete with. If you’re one of the many people that are drawn to older houses, you might jump at the chance to buy a charming old home that’s just bursting with character. But in situations like these, it’s important to remember to “look before you leap.” Behind those beautiful wood built-ins and exposed brick, there could be a lot of issues hiding. Here are three things you should check before you buy an older home.

Condition of the Roof

Roofs are made to last for decades, with some materials lasting nearly half a century. Because of their durability, many homeowners don’t give much thought to the condition of their home’s roof. But as a homebuyer, you should be giving that roof a very careful inspection. When you’re buying a home that’s only a few years old, odds are very low that there will be major roof problems. As the home gets older, however, you’re much more likely to see missing shingles, roof leaks, damaged flashing, and other problems.

If the problem is severe enough, you could be looking at a total roof replacement on your new home. That can cost you close to $8,000, on average—and your charming old home might look quite a bit less charming after serving you up with that bill.

Hazardous Building Materials

In the last 50 years or so, many building materials have been outlawed as scientists have discovered the health hazards they present. For homes built prior to 1978, lead-based paint and asbestos were relatively common in their construction. Before 1955, paint could be composed of up to 50% lead, making it extremely toxic. If your home was built before 1978, ask for records that indicate hazardous building materials have been replaced; an inspection may also reveal if there is asbestos or lead-based paint in the home.

Deleading a home can cost you around $3,000. Basic asbestos removal costs about $2,000, but a full-home remediation will cost anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000. Odds are, that’s not something you want to invest in a home you’ve just purchased.

Outdated Plumbing

The paint isn’t the only place where your old home could be hiding lead. Lead pipes were also commonly used in the plumbing for older homes, and they can leave lead deposits in your drinking water as they get older and begin to decompose. Other outdated materials like galvanized steel and cast iron are also prone to corrosion and deterioration, and the former can even deposit rust into your water. At the very least, old and outdated plumbing is more likely to leak, causing water damage in your charming little home.

Replacing the pipes in your home will vary in cost depending on just how much needs to be replaced. A small plumbing system (or replacing only a portion of the system) might cost you a few thousand dollars, while a total repipe plumbing in a Sacramento home with several bathrooms and a kitchen can cost you as much as $15,000.


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