When It Comes to Repair and Upkeep, Your Home’s Age Matters


“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
While most people apply this old saying to people, it could describe buying an older home, too.
Older homes have character, charm, and personality, writes Melissa Darcey, a frequent contributor to The SafeWise Report at www.safewise.com.

Often, they are located on larger lots in areas considered prime real estate and in many cases with a lower price tag than newer homes in the same area. Homes built before 1930 may be constructed with lumber from old-growth trees, making them more resistant to insects and decay. Mature trees, decorative fences, and ornamental ironwork might be part of the package, too.

With all these appealing features, older homes can be a great investment for the right buyer. So when you consider all these benefits, it would seem that if you don’t mind, the home’s age doesn’t matter. Right?

Unfortunately, the answer is not quite so simple. A home’s age can reveal a lot of important information about the construction and condition of the home—aspects that really matter when you are considering a major financial and time investment.

So what do you need to know before purchasing an older home? Experts suggest several tips, but here are five that we believe are most important.

Home inspection. One of the most important steps a buyer can take before purchasing any home—older or not—is to get a thorough home inspection from an independent home inspector. As a potential homebuyer, you will benefit from an independent home inspection because you will be better informed about the current condition of the home you are considering, says Bill Craig of Affordable Home Inspections and Services in Carrollton.

Year of construction. As with most things, building trends of the past were not always lasting, according to Austin Chase, a California-based home inspector who has been featured on HGTV’s House Detective. For example, houses built between 1900 and 1950 may have knob and tube wiring and glass fuses, which is inadequate to power the heavy electrical load a modern home requires.

Houses built during and immediately after WWII may have Orangeberg sewer piping. Essentially a paper-mache pipe, failure of the sewer line is inevitable, which is why a video sewer pipe inspection is critical in a home from this period, Chase says. In homes built between 1984 and 1990, defective ABS piping may be present, requiring a total re-piping job—a costly renovation. That brings us to a major system sometimes overlooked as part of a home inspection:

The plumbing system. Home inspectors agree that one of the most common defects in a home is leaking or outdated plumbing. Sometimes repairs can be made, but in some cases, an entirely new plumbing system is necessary.

Even in a newer home, if the plumbing has sat empty of water for too long or under the right conditions, fixtures like valves and gaskets can dry out and become brittle. In some cases, pipes can also dry out and crack. Even newer pipes like CPVC, commonly used for hot water pipes, can crack with age. Regardless of the cause, the effect is the same—once the water is turned on, a leak or a flood results.

To make sure the plumbing is sound, ask your REALTOR or the homeowner to turn on the water and pressurize the system several days before your home inspection. That way, your inspector can determine whether any leaks are present and allow you to negotiate any needed repairs before the final sale.

Hazardous Materials. Just as plumbing pipe materials have changed over the years, so have other building materials. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, lead and asbestos were used in home construction. Both materials have been proven to cause serious health problems, so they are no longer used. However, older homes may have lead in the paint or plumbing systems and/or asbestos insulation.

Removing these substances can be costly and may not be necessary if the contaminated materials are left undisturbed. Still, it’s best to identify their presence and determine whether you can live with the potential risks.

Biological damage. Termites, beetles, and fungus are three major categories of insects that can cause serious damage to a home’s wooden structure. Mold and mildew resulting from moisture issues (like those mentioned above) can greatly impact interior surfaces, including wood, drywall, and grout. Older homes have had more time for damage to occur. They also have had more opportunities for updating and repair. Knowing your home’s ownership and maintenance history, including important dates of repairs and renovations, can be invaluable information as you make your purchasing decision.

In the end, purchasing a home, whether an older home or a newly constructed one, is a decision made by weighing many factors. If you are considering the purchase of an older home, contact Duffey Realty today. Our REALTORs will guide you through the process of ensuring that you receive the information you need to make an informed decision. Our agents also are experienced in listing older homes and new construction and will be glad to help you if you are ready to sell your home. Call us today.