Old houses in America are never in short supply! The people who love them will do anything to keep them. Back in 2016, the average owner-occupied house was 37 years old. In many parts of the country, you’ll find a significant number of housing units are even older. For example, in states like Pennsylvania and New York, the average owner-occupied house can be more than 50 years old. Living in a piece of history is a nice feeling no doubt, but it comes at a cost! We’re going to show you what you need to know about all the requirements and hidden costs.
Generally, homes built after 1990 fall under the category of “new homes”. However, if the construction was complete anytime before 1920, the house is considered either “old” or “antique”. Before buying any property, please consider the following important factors:
- Architectural Style, Construction, & Quality: When assessing the construction quality of any house, it boils down to the quality of the building materials and the skill of the contractor building the home. As you study the housing market, you’ll find certain patterns. For example, mobile and prefabricated homes are usually not very well constructed. However, old traditional homes, such as Colonials, Tudors, and Craftsmans, usually stand pretty well. New custom-built structures also have a higher level of durability than most older houses.
- Renovations: Sometimes the renovations on an older structure can be so dramatic that it changes the identity of the structure itself. For example, you can tear down a house built in 1915, but still, leave the foundations and have a completely different house. But is it really an antique anymore? That’s something to consider!
- Physical Environment: When examining the physical environment of the house, you have to consider two factors, climate and geology. High levels of humidity, violent storms, and extreme temperatures can have negative effects on the structure’s durability and aging process. This is especially the case on the east coast. In addition, the aging process can also be accelerating with certain geological factors. This can include seismic activity, sinkholes, or limestone. Homes in California, for example, would have to face a lot of hardship due to the seismic activity in that area.
Hidden Problems When Getting an Old House
Don’t let the real estate agents fool you into thinking that an old house that they’re trying to sell you is in great shape. It should be enough that the house is “old” to expect that there’s going to be a host of updates that you’ll need to do. When you inspect the property as an informed buyer, then you’ll have a better understanding of whether a certain property really deserves your money or not. Take the following factors into consideration:
- Termite Damage: Termites are real pests! The amount of structural damage that they can do to old homes is immeasurable! Anything made out of wood is a potential victim of a termite attack. Before you buy any old home, inspect the property for any termite-related damage. You could be talking about repairs worth $10,000 or more, if there’s severe termite damage.
- Dangerous Materials: Your three biggest threats are lead, asbestos, and radon. All old houses may have these dangerous materials, especially if they are pre-World War II structures. If you find evidence that any of these substances are present, then make arrangements to have them professionally removed.
- Plumbing Problems: It’s important to know how old the plumbing system in any house is before buying it. This is important in determining how much trouble you could potentially be facing if you agree to buy the property. Take note the copper and brass pipes can last a bit more than 50 years, whereas PEX plastic pipes tend to be durable for up to 40 or 50 years. You definitely would need to be careful if the pipes are polybutylene. Cleaning chemicals containing chlorine easily corrode the pipes made out of this material.