Buying an Old Home? 10 Common Problems of Old Houses

21-07-2018 | Ramona Jar |

Two and a half years ago we decided to buy a country house. An old one.

Our budget didn’t allow us to purchase a new one, not to mention having an old one, built on a century old oak beams, with everything still ‘historical’ really appealed to us.

While I’m all for getting an older house, beware of some common issues with them:

Structural issues

In our case, the house has an excellent stone foundation (yep, that old style foundation) and an oak beam structure with the walls from bricks. It was easy to see what you get, since the house has been in ‘red’ for decades, so there’s nothing hidden from view.

There are many houses that look ‘ok’ and, on close inspection, you find out there are huge issues with the foundation or the walls. Consolidating an older house is a pretty expensive tasks, so you’d better get one that’s still in great shape.

Roofing issues

Most old houses have bad roofs, after all these years.

Unless it has been recently repaired, you’ll have quite a lot of work to do. In our case, the roof is approximately OK, we can use it now, as it is, but in 1-2 years we’ll have to repair in thoroughly.

Electrical problems

When we bought the house, it had a small distribution board, the system was ungrounded and had maybe 2 sockets.

Hello … it’s a new age, we need a LOT of electricity nowadays, so my husband immediately removed everything old in the wiring and rewired the entire house as it should have been.

A big distribution board, proper grounding and many wires and sockets as we need them for a modern home.

Mold and mildew

In our case, there’s no such problem, since the entire house rests on a stone foundation and the walls are properly built. Not to mention that we are currently insulating as if it was a new house, so there’s no reason for us to worry about it.

Husband is a civil engineer and knows how to do the best job for our small home.

In many old homes though, mold and mildew are an issue and you need to be prepared for it.

Lead and asbestos

We’re getting into deeper issues here, as many older homes were insulated with asbestos and painted with lead paint. Both these are very hazardous materials that are no longer accepted in construction work.

Your older home though will most likely have these, so beware.

Plumbing issues

We were once again lucky, since there was no plumbing there anymore, so we had to do all the work once and for all.

Of course, ideally, we’d have found some decent plumbing, but with old houses this is almost like an unicorn – impossible to find.

If you want reliable and modern plumbing, chances are you’ll do a lot of repairs, but it’s worth it.

Inefficient windows

We have some old style windows, that look pretty nice, but they are horrific, when it comes to properly insulating our house.

Hence the reason we are planning to remove them entirely and put new modern ones. Of course, they won’t be as beautiful as the older ones, but at least we won’t pay a fortune during winter, when it comes to heating the house.

Floors and walls in bad condition

We had only one wall that was painted and it was so badly done, we had to scrape it back to bare bricks. Oh, the joy, of removing all the debris and the never ending dust that took weeks to get removed entirely.

This is why I say we were lucky to have only the brick walls in most of the house, at least we’ll do all the plastering and painting properly. Not to mention it allows us to insulate even further.

Bad flooring is another issue with most older houses, so inspect yours properly and see if they can be repaired or will have to get removed entirely.

Termite infestation

Well, at least it’s not something common for us, since there are no termites in Romania.

Yet, many old houses might have been infested with termites at least once. Even if they are no longer ‘lurking’ there, the damage remains.

Bigger home insurance costs

Many home insurance companies might refuse to insure your house, if these main issues are not taken care of. Otherwise, you’re either not getting homeonwer’s insurance or it will be way too costly.

Of course, knowing what to expect from a older house allows you to be better prepared and make all the repairs needed, because, at the end of the day, we are talking your health and safety first.

Don’t get discouraged though, an older house is still a wonderful acquisition, especially when you know what it entails and can even get a better price.

In our case the house came almost for free, if we think about the huge land we got with it and the price we paid. And we still talk a well built home, that’s spacious enough and can be repaired to our needs.

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