There’s nothing more charming than the character, history and unique architecture of an older home. Unfortunately, older homes often bring unexpected issues and potential risks that you may not be prepared for.
It’s important to do your research before investing in real estate, especially if the property that you’re interested in was built over 50 years ago.
Here’s the top 10 things that Haas Insurance Group suggests doing before purchasing an older home. By doing these things, you’re helping to ensure that you will be able to receive affordable insurance coverage and minimal unexpected issues:
- Hire a Qualified Inspector
Home inspections are an important way for buyers to identify any major issues with the home prior to closing the deal. Inspections also enable you to add a contingency in your contract with the seller, providing you with some protection against large, costly issues. It’s important that the inspector you hire is experienced, qualified and incredibly thorough. A typical inspection should last two to three hours. If your inspection seems short or rushed, it may be smart to get a second inspection done as well. Once the inspection is complete, the inspector should produce a report based on their findings. The report should note whether an issue is minor or significant, items that need to be replaced or serviced, and items that should be monitored closely.
- Inspect the Electrical Wiring
The electric systems in older homes were not designed to keep up with the demands of modern usage and machines, such as HVAC systems, dishwashers, washers and dryers. One of the most common issues found in older homes is knob and tube wiring. Most insurance companies will not ensure homes with knob and tube wiring, and will instead demand you have it replaced. If copper wire is present in the home, it should be a minimum of 100amp service.
- Consider the Plumping
It’s very important that you inspect the home’s plumbing. In the 1950s, for example, many plumbing systems were constructed using cast iron, which corrodes over time. Plumbing should be all copper or plastic. It’s best to avoid houses that have plumbing systems made of steel or cast iron.
- Review the Roofing
Most roofs need to be replaced every 10-20 years depending on the quality of the materials used as well as the craftsmanship involved. We recommend inquiring about when the roof was last replaced and how it was done. Avoid homes in which new shingles have been added on top of old, depreciating shingles. You may also want to have someone inspect the roof for loose shingles, moss or potential leaks.
- Ensure HVAC Systems are Efficient
Bring in a professional to inspect the home’s HVAC system, including any air conditioning units or furnaces. Many older furnaces are not safe, nor are they efficient. We suggest avoiding homes in which the furnace is over 20 years old. Older furnaces can cause high upfront repair costs and costly, long-term bills. Plus, many older homes do not have air conditioning systems.
- Be Careful with Heritage Homes
While there’s dozens of beautiful heritage homes in London, Ontario, we suggest being cautious when thinking about purchasing one. Although heritage homes offer soul and heritage, they’re incredibly expensive to own and insure. Due to certain protections surrounding heritage homes, you will also be required to have any repairs approved by a committee beforehand.
- Test for Lead Paint and Asbestos
It’s crucial that you always test for lead paint in older homes. Exposure to lead can cause many serious health effects, particularly in women and children. It’s estimated that nearly 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint. Asbestos is also incredibly harmful, and is commonly found in many older buildings. When airborne, the barbed fibres can be inhaled and lodged in the lining of the lungs – a common cause of cancer. Asbestos is often found wrapped around basement pipes, used as insulation, or found in the flooring.
- Look for Problems with the Foundation
Older homes often have cracked, leaking, leaning or sunken foundation. Since everything else in the house rests on the foundation, it is critical that your foundation is stable and solid. Foundation issues must be addressed for safety reasons. Perhaps the most common issue found in the foundation of older homes is damage to the sill plate. As sills sit over time, they may be subjected to water and insects.
- Insects and Pests
It’s no surprise that older houses are often home to unwanted guests, such as insects, bats, beetles, and rodents. Not only are these pests inconvenient, but they can also pose a significant health hazard. Ensure that you inspect the property for these pests before purchasing it.
- Avoid Old Water Tanks
Generally, most water heaters older than 10 years old should be replaced. Time and consistent use wear down the tank as it ages, slowly breaking it down. If the hot water tank is older than 10 years, leaks, makes noise or produces discoloured water, it will likely need to be replaced.
There’s no denying that purchasing an older home can be an enticing and exciting opportunity. However, it’s crucial that you understand what you’re purchasing and what the associated risks are. Protect yourself, your investments, and your family by doing your research beforehand.