What to Consider when Buying an Older Home

Buying a single family home in Boston, Newton, or Brookline can seem like an enormous task. In general, the home-buying process can be arduous, confusing, and anxiety-provoking, but when you add into the equation the fact that many of the homes built in this area are of the 1900-era, you have another level of worry for most buyers. You do need to pay special attention if you plan to buy an older home, as they can come with some unanticipated surprises. To avoid any headaches down the road, learn about the following issues before offering on a home if you have the chance.


Hazardous Materials

When looking at older houses, ask about the construction date of the homes. If the homes you are considering date to years before the 1980s, they may contain materials such as lead paint and asbestos. When ingested, lead paint can cause developmental issues. Asbestos has been linked to cancer if it is disturbed and becomes airborne and is inhaled.


Electric Wiring

Knob-and-tube wiring is an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s. Modern home buyers often find that existing K&T systems lack the capacity for today's levels of power use. First-generation wiring systems became susceptible to abuse by homeowners who would replace blown fuses with fuses rated for higher current. This subjects wiring to higher levels of current and risks heat damage or fire. As existing K&T wiring gets older, insurance companies may deny coverage due to a perception of increased risk.


Insulation Quality

Proper insulation can help you keep your home cool and warm. You’ll want to check to make sure the house you plan to buy has proper insulation. Otherwise, you could spend a small fortune to insulate it, heat, or cool it every year.


Pest Infestations

If you see any signs of infestation when you’re looking at an older house, take the problem seriously. Dealing with unwanted animals, such as mice, termites, powder post beetles, or carpenter ants can be a hassle--and an extra cost.


Plumbing and Leaks

Many older houses still have original cast-iron pipes. Over time, these pipes tend to corrode, which results in leaks and low water pressure. If the leaking is severe, you could also have a moisture problem, which can cause wall paint to peel and stain and contribute to mold growth. Wet areas can also be a safe-haven for some rodents. Or, your home may have lead water lines, which can present contamination issues.

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At the end of the day, older houses can be stylish and cozy. However, getting these features sometimes comes with a price. In an area such as ours, you may offer on a home that has a number of these issues, and at the end of the day most of them are not deal-breakers, but you always want to be educated going into the process of buying so you are not caught off guard with a costly repair down the line.

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