Older Homes Need Close Look


Buying an older home for future renovation can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Aged brass doorknobs, ornately carved banisters, fine wall moldings, natural wood beams and trim are just a few of the features that attract many buyers.

Yet along with their charm and style, older homes often have serious problems and limitations--many unapparent to the untrained eye.

For example, new paint could hide persistent flooding. Heavy carpeting may mask a rotting floor, and that attractive wainscot may be home to thousands of wood-eating insects.

Buyers can also feel cheated when they discover local zoning and building ordinances prohibit the planned remodeling and improvements.

It definitely pays to hire a professional to evaluate a home's structural and mechanical condition, and about how much it will cost to fix up, before you sign on the dotted line.

The inspection should cover roofing, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundations and basement slabs.

An inspector will determine whether main structural components are sound, free from rot and insect damage, and strong enough to support the weight of the house. He or she will check out all exposed water and waste pipes, faucets, drainage, water heaters and connections to appliances; The overall condition of the electrical system will be evaluated to see that it's adequate for current and future needs.

Grounding connections and exposed wiring will be tested for overload protection as well as the efficiency of heating and cooling systems.

A home inspection typically costs one-tenth of 1% of the cost of the house, with a minimum charge of about $150.


The importance of a home's location cannot be stressed enough.

You'll probably want to be close to main roads, mass transit, good schools and shopping centers and be removed from major commercial sites and airports. In addition, you'll want to find a location where real-estate values are rising or are likely to rise, in case you decide to sell the house in a few years.

Surrounding areas should also be investigated. Make sure a garbage dump, industrial park or other unwelcome facility isn't planned for a nearby undeveloped parcel.

To get this information, you may want to have an appraiser develop a feasibility study of the prospective property. This report will examine such trends as appreciation rates, population growth or decline, average income and employment base. It may also examine traffic patterns, convenience to transportation, stores and schools.

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