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Buying an old house, Fixer-upper house, Old house pros and cons

10 Red Flags When Buying and Old House

 (modified Jan 10, 2020)

As soon as you walk in, you know it’s the beautiful old home from your dreams. You can feel the decades of joy its people have brought into it over the years.

The original tile work, crown molding, and smaller rooms make this the perfect home for your young family.

But underneath all the vintage beauty are lots of hidden dangers you may not have even considered. Buying an older house comes with its own set of rules.

If you’re wondering what to look for when buying an old house, in the next 5 minutes you’ll be clued in on the 10 most common red flags when it comes to home shopping.

Run away if you see any of these:

1. Asbestos

If you’re buying an older home built before 1980, chances are there’s some asbestos hiding somewhere. For the most part, asbestos is harmless until it becomes airborne.

Asbestos insulation around furnaces and pipes often break down, leaching their toxic particles into the air.

The only way to be completely sure your home contains asbestos is to send a sample of the material in question to a lab.

So what can you do if the home of your dreams is built with asbestos? It depends on the condition of the material. If it is “friable” meaning it crumbles into dust easily, it’ll need to be removed right away.

However, if the asbestos-laden material is nonfriable it will only release toxic particles into the air if sawed or damaged. Most of this kind of asbestos is tightly bound and not a threat to your health.

The most cost-efficient solution for homeowners is to repair or isolate the asbestos material from allowing it to become airborne. While removing asbestos sounds like a good idea, it can get expensive to do it correctly. Incorrect removal can lead to tons of airborne asbestos in your home. Not good.

2. Electrical Problems

If the lights in the home your prospecting flicker when the wind picks up, you could be dealing with frayed wires. The power lines coming into the house may be damaged and can quickly ignite and start a house fire.

Older homes weren’t built for the high amount of electricity we use now. The dangers of faulty wiring and other electrical problems are magnified when you consider how much energy you use on a daily basis.

What’s worse is most homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover houses that still have the old knob and tube wiring method. This was how almost all homes were wired from the 20s up until it began being replaced with better methods in the 50s.

All you need to know is it’s extremely inefficient and can cause a fire so easily it won’t be covered by your insurance.

3. Lead Paint

Is the house you’re looking at built before 1978? If so there are probably multiple layers of lead paint on the walls. A few states outlawed lead paint before this, but in 1978 lead paint became federally illegal to sell to customers.

Lead paint is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning. The older the home, the more likely it is to have lead-based paints throughout. In fact, 87% of homes built before 1940 are contaminated with the stuff.

If you plan on remodeling your newly purchased old home keep in mind that just like breaking down asbestos can lead to toxic airborne particles, so can breaking up surfaces covered in lead paint.

4. Roof Leaks

A leaky roof can cause all sorts of other problems. Leaky roofs give you the worst of both worlds because not only do they make your home vulnerable to moisture problems, like mold, your electrical wiring may be exposed to this moisture and could cause an electrical fire.

You’ll end up paying more to heat and cool your home because of the loss of energy. All homes need roof repairs throughout their lifetime but make sure to get a quote from a contractor before going all in. A new roof on a large home may not be in your budget.

5. Termite Damage

If you’re looking around your new home and see any of these signs, there are good chance termites are nearby:

  • buckling ceilings or walls
  • water damage marks
  • maze-like holes inside wooden features
  • mud tunnels the foundation

Termite damaged homes are expensive to fix because most of the wood will need to be replaced. If they have been eating away at the foundation and structural parts of the home this creates extra instability.

6. Mold

One of the most understated problems in old homes is mold.

"Mold should not be the determining factor in the demolition of a house," says the director of the New Orleans Health Department, "but it can be a criterion in deciding to gut a house—because if you have mold behind your walls, it's very difficult to get rid of."

Even if you don’t have black mold, children and the elderly need to be extra cautious about living with mold.

7. Well Water Without a Filtration System

If you’ve never lived in a house with a well water system you’ve probably never put much thought into how your tap water comes out totally drinkable.

“I would never in a million years have guests over,” says Susan Brinson, “the smell was gagworthy”. When Susan and her husband decided they wanted an older home, they had no idea well water requires an expensive filtration system to get out all the contaminants.

10. Old Windows

Old windows let out a lot of that heated and cooled air you pay a lot of money for. This is one of the least expensive updates to make to an old house but it can result in significant energy savings

What to Look for When Buying an Old House

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