In America, the homeownership rate currently rests at 65.5%, with many people drawn to older homes. Purchasing an older home is relatively common and according to statistics roughly 10.5 million homes in the U.S. are between 20-30 years old, and only 10% of homes are built after the year 2000. People are attracted to older homes because of the rich history and style they represent, however when purchasing an older home, there are several factors you need to consider including:
- Structural Integrity
- Energy Efficiency
- Plumbing and Electrical
- Risk of Lead Paint
- Risk of Asbestos
- Roof Condition
- Foundation Condition
- Past or Future Pest Infestations
- Resale Value
This article will help guide you through each item, to help make sure you are prepared and informed should you decide to purchase an older home.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “location, location, location”? While it may sound cliché, it’s something that reigns true. Location matters in real estate, especially when purchasing an older home. Older homes tend to be in more established neighborhoods, and while there are some positive aspects to that, there can also be some limitations. You’ll need to take into consideration the type of neighborhood you’d be moving into. Ask yourself:
- Is it safe?
- Are there neighbors in a similar age group as you?
- How long is your commute to work?
- What is the public school system like?
- These important questions are almost entirely dependent on location. If you don’t like the answer to any of the questions above, then you might want to consider looking at a different home in a different neighborhood.
Additionally, the location of your home can also directly impact its resale value. That’s why another step in your research should be to look up the value of similar homes in the area and review their transaction history. This will help give you a better idea of how valuable your home could be if you decide to sell it in the future.
Another item to consider when purchasing a home, especially an older home, is its structural integrity. Many older homes were built during the baby boom of the post-war 50’s, and as times have changed and society has advanced, so has the material used to build a home’s structure. So, it is paramount to thoroughly examine and inspect the structure of an older home before purchasing it. A Full Home Inspection will help determine what, if any, renovations or maintenance need to be done. And if maintenance is required, that should be factored into your overall housing budget.
During your Full Home Inspection, a certified, trained and insured WIN Home Inspector will examine over 300 items in your home, including a thorough examination of the structural integrity like the walls, ceilings, foundation and interior framing. Should maintenance or repairs be needed, your inspector will outline them in a detailed inspection report as well as walk you through possible next steps, give you recommendations, and help you prioritize tasks.
Recently, we have made major strides in increasing energy efficiency in homes with inventions like energy star appliances and energy-efficient windows, but older homes often lack in this department. That being said, it’s important to consider energy efficiency when looking to purchase an older home; in fact, according to Kingfisher.com, 44% of home buyers say energy efficiency is something they consider when purchasing a home.
To get an idea of your potential home’s energy efficiency, a good place to start is by looking at the average cost of utilities like electricity and gas for the home in comparison to newer homes in the same area which can usually be done by contacting local energy providers. If there is a large discrepancy in the price, the home may be energy efficient.
Another step you can take is to schedule an Infrared (IR) Thermography Scan. An IR Scan uses infrared thermography to detect changes in temperature within the walls, floors and ceilings of a home, which can indicate insulation, moisture or electrical issues. Insulation issues are especially common in older homes as the integrity of the insulating material decreases over time.
Plumbing and Electrical
Plumbing and electricity are important items to consider when purchasing an older home. According to eyeonhousing.org, 80% of homes in the U.S., and most built before 2000, were built with copper pipes, whereas most homes built after 2000 were built using a type of plastic pipe called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. While copper pipes may seem heftier and sturdier than their plastic counterparts, they have their own set of defects. Copper pipes are more prone to bursting, cracking, leaking and rusting, all which can cause water damage and mold inside the home. Even if there are minor leaks, repairing them now can save you from major headaches in the future, and research shows it can even increase your home’s value by up to 10%.
One way to examine the condition of your home’s plumbing is to have a sewer scope done. During a Sewer Scope Inspection, a WIN Home Inspector will run a high-tech flexible camera through the sewer line of your home checking for backup, cracks or damage. We recommend all homeowners have this service done because many people don’t know that they are actually responsible for the portion of the sewage line that is on their property. So should any issue arise, they are the ones who have to foot the bill.
Just like plumbing, electrical panels are another item that can be outdated in homes built before 1970. Codes and safety standards have changed a lot over the years and some of the older electrical panels are no longer compliant and can pose serious fire hazards due to old or faulty wiring. An IR Scan can help detect inefficiencies in your electrical panel and help provide you with a roadmap for repairs or renovations.
Lead paint is commonly found in older homes. According to the EPA, over 40% of all homes in the U.S. have lead paint residue in them. When safely adhered to the wall, lead paint does not pose a threat. However, over time, the paint chips away and deteriorates, releasing lead into the air. Prolonged exposure to lead can be detrimental to one’s health, especially to children.
A child’s growing body absorbs more lead than an adult and ingesting a large quantity of lead can cause serious health complications, including problems with the central nervous system and behavioral tendencies as well as stunt brain development. That is why any home built before 1978 should be tested for lead. You should still have your home tested even if it has been repainted or remodeled as it’s still very possible for there to be lead remnants in your home.
WIN Home Inspections offers a Lead Test, where your local home inspector will collect samples from around the home and send them off to an accredited lab for analysis. Your levels of lead concentration will be outlined in a report received 24 hours after the test Is conducted. If lead is found in your home, your inspector will work with you to help determine the appropriate next steps.
Asbestos is a carcinogenic material that was commonly used for heating, tiling and insulation prior to 1980. In fact, according to 2022 U.S Census data, over half of the homes in the country were built using asbestos as one of the main building materials. Asbestos can commonly be found in heating ducts, pipes, flooring, insulation, pipes, interior surfaces, exterior surfaces and electrical equipment.
When asbestos is intact, it does not pose harm, but over time it breaks down and releases dangerous chemicals into the air and can lead to malignant mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer. In addition to mesothelioma, prolonged asbestos exposure can also increase the risk of contracting various digestive system cancers.
If you are planning on moving into an older home, it is important to have your home tested for asbestos. WIN Home Inspection offers an Asbestos Test, which will help homeowners determine potential areas where asbestos might be an issue. If asbestos is detected in your home, your home inspector will walk you through the potential next steps while providing recommendations for mitigation.
The average lifespan of a roof is 25-50 years, so it’s important to understand the current condition it’s in. If the roof is damaged or close to needing replacement, you should factor that into the cost of your home. Full roof replacements can cost up to $12,000. As part of a Full Home Inspection, your WIN Home Inspector will examine the roof, if it is safe to do so, and provide you with feedback on its condition.
Additionally, some of our inspectors are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified drone pilots and can conduct a Drone Roof Inspection safely from the ground. This allows the inspector to capture detailed images of the roof, giving you a full 360-degree understanding of its condition.
The foundation is arguably the most important component of a home, new or old. The foundation is what everything is built upon and in order to ensure your home is safe you need to make sure the foundation is in good shape. Some things to look for in the foundation are signs of cracks, gaps, uneven settling or sinking. Any one of these signs could indicate a serious issue with the foundation and immediate action should be taken.
The cost to fix a foundation is dependent on the size of the issue and the material of the foundation. However, research shows that homeowners can expect to spend somewhere between $2,500 - $7,500 on foundation repairs. If you are concerned about the health of your home’s foundation, schedule time with a WIN Home Inspector and they will address your concerns and help you determine the next steps should any issues be found.
As homes age, the wood used to build the structure tends to dry out, making it a haven for wood-destroying organisms and insects. Additionally, cracks and gaps that come with aging invite pests and insects into the home. In the U.S., homeowners spend roughly $5 billion per year on pest and insect repairs and prevention. However, much of that spending could be avoided by scheduling a Wood Destroying Insect/Wood Destroying Organism (WDI/WDO) Inspection with WIN. Additionally, a WDI/WDO Inspection can also show traces of past infestations and provide tips on how to prevent them from recurring.
During your WDI/WDO Inspection a trained, qualified and insured home inspector will carefully examine all accessible areas of the home looking for signs of pest or insect damage. This can be as simple as finding droppings or the pests themselves, or as complex as using a high-tech flashlight to look for trails in the paint. If evidence of infestation is found, your inspector will help you decide the best way to proceed.
Finally, be sure to consider the home’s potential resale value. While it is impossible to predict the housing market if or when you go to sell the home, there are certain characteristics you should consider when trying to assess the future resale value of your home including the:
- Location, including neighborhood, school district and proximity to shopping
- Curb appeal
- Floor plan
- Age of appliances
- Proximity to transportation
In addition to these factors, there are further measures you can take to help you predict the future resale value of the home, including several online tools and calculators.
These ten steps are all critical to address before buying an older home, especially getting a thorough home inspection. In fact, a Full Home Inspection, paired with a few health and safety inspection services, will address the items on this list in addition to 300 other components both inside and outside your home. To schedule a Full Home Inspection, please reach out to your local WIN Home Inspector. Whether your home is old or new, we wish you nothing but health, happiness and safety.