Buying a home is an exciting milestone filled with choices. In addition to location, size, and price, one of the most important choices a homebuyer will make is whether to purchase a new model or an older home. Buying an older home is a desirable option for people who are on a budget, as well as for those who are hoping to find a house with a little more personality than your standard cookie cutter. If you opt for purchasing an older home, it is critical that you get an inspection. While an older house might be your future dream home or golden investment opportunity, it could potentially have some major issues that are impossible to see in a standard walk-through.
Check on Your Electrical System
A thorough inspection on the electrical system of the house is not something to be omitted. Many older homes were built before modern electrical safety codes were implemented. Improperly wired outlets, corroded or damaged wires, and lights that exceed the maximum wattage are all fire hazards that will be caught by a qualified home inspector. It is vital to know the inner workings of a home’s electrical system so that repairs and replacements can be made before occupancy. Doing so minimizes the risk of power loss, shorted circuits, and even house fires.
Identify Structural Damage
While a house may look perfectly sound to an untrained eye, it is important that someone qualified to find structural damage inspect any older home you are considering for purchase. Serious structural damage could be hiding from your view. Sinking piers can hide under carpets and rugs. Serious foundational shifting can hide behind quick replaster jobs and over-paint. And wood-boring insects can be eating away at wooden supports in crawl spaces. You do not want to be caught off-guard by this kind of damage, as it can become a huge, unexpected expense to repair.
Make Sure Your Plumbing is Safe
Plumbing issues are not only costly to repair, but they are hazardous to both the home and your health. Leaky toilets and pipes can begin to warp and stain the floors and cabinetry around them, providing the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow. Old pipes can be made of lead, which can leak into and contaminate drinking water. Sewer lines can be partially clogged and lead to a slow drain. Dated water heaters can be full of sediment, diminishing productivity and efficiency. Internal leaks are impossible to detect in a brief walk-through, as they are behind walls, steadily damaging drywall and flooring. Plumbing issues are some of the hidden dangers to a house that only a skilled inspector can discover.
Discover Energy Inefficiencies
Major costs can accrue through simple energy inefficiencies. A home inspector can locate these inefficiencies for you. Typical energy wasters are old air conditioning units, poor seals on windows, thin or hollow doors, insufficient insulation, improperly maintained furnaces, and clogged appliance vents. Old homes are especially at risk for efficiency problems, and you may need to repair or replace one or more of these items. In particular, replacing your home entry doors can save you money by reducing your energy bills.
Ascertain the Condition of the Roof
A roof is not something that most home buyers are able to inspect, and yet it is one of the most important structural aspects of a house. A home inspector will look for signs that the roof is not in good condition, which can lead to destructive leaks. Water damage on the ceilings is one indicator. Another is missing or broken shingles. Older houses might need a new roof, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is something to know before purchasing a home.
Check for Health Hazards
Older homes have potentially accumulated mold and radon, both of which are dangerous for your health. Mold grows in damp, dark areas such as basements, leaky windows, and crawl spaces. Mold can flare allergies and exacerbate asthma. Black mold is notoriously toxigenic. Mold can be difficult to spot, but needs to be removed when found. Radon gas is formed when radioactive metals break down in soil and rocks. Radon can become trapped in air pockets underneath the house, causing radioactive gas to leak in through pipes and air ducts. Overexposure to radon can cause lung cancer. A home inspection can detect the presence of both mold and radon in a home, allowing you to take proactive protective measures.
Ensure a Lack of Lead Paint
Another health hazard that is often associated with older homes is lead paint. If you are looking to purchase a home built before 1978, an inspector can help to identify lead paint in the home. Lead in paint is slowly absorbed through the skin and lungs, leading to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can limit growth and brain development in children and cause general malaise in people and pets of all ages. One cannot simply paint over lead paint. Lead paint must be carefully removed, which is a timely and costly process that you will want to know about before you buy.
Test Home Appliances
When looking for a home, appliances are often overlooked. While sellers must disclose nonfunctional appliances, they do not have to disclose poorly functional appliances. A home inspector checks every part of every appliance that will be staying in the home, making sure that it works correctly and efficiently. Old homes sometimes mean old appliances that are in need of repair or replacement. Because purchasing new appliances can be a major expense, it is important to know if the current appliances will meet your needs.
Getting a home inspection before buying an older home will save you both time and money. Home inspectors come with a wealth of knowledge, instructing you on needed repairs, possible pitfalls, and even maintenance tips. More importantly, it will allow you to rest easy, knowing that your investment will last a lifetime and that your dream home won’t come with any nightmare surprises!
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