At the thought of buying an older home, some buyers may run far, and fast, with the notion that every older home is a "fixer-upper" and a "money-pit". Alternatively, some buyers may be wooed by an antique home's whimsical charms: the huge wood-burning fire place, the ceilings with rustic beams, the nooks and crannies, and built in shelving; without considering the needed upgrades to the knob-and-tube wiring. If the homes that you're considering have a nostalgic appeal, go into the process with realistic expectations that while upgrades may be necessary, every home, not only older homes, should have a thorough investigation period before purchase. With that, there may be "must-fixes". There will also be things about the house that could be modernized, yet, those are the very things that give the house it's character. Here's some of the top items on our list to think about when considering purchasing an older home.
Older homes were built with older technologies and materials, and were built to last (probably why they're still around!). In many cases, they are custom hand-crafted, and one-of-a-kind. The older methods of building would apply to all of the "systems" of the home, the plumbing, heating, electrical, windows, roofing and insulation would all be reviewed at a typical home inspection. If there are any areas of concern from the home inspection, immediate or in the future, take the extra step to consult with a contractor or engineer to give estimates for improvements so that you know what you're getting in to. Having to refit an entire home with new wiring from that knob-and-tube for instance? Could be a pretty hefty price tag.
The charm of an older home is what most fall in love with; the stone fireplace in the kitchen that was once used for everyday cooking, the wide plank flooring, the wrap-around front porch. Certainly these items can be replicated in a more modern home to give the "feeling" of it's antique counterpart. What can't be replicated is the 150-year-old maple tree in the front yard. Often antique homes are in antique neighborhoods with mature landscaping and foliage that just can't spring up overnight.
Wants and needs were different for families 100 (or more) years ago. Remodeling might need to be considered for the modern family. The home may have one very small bath, two if you're lucky. The bedrooms may be very small and may require expansion for today's needs.
When considering your home purchase, you should also consider the cost of home insurance. Sometimes older homes are more expensive to insure, typically coming with more risks; older wiring, older plumbing or a concrete foundation that may pose flooding or structural concerns. When calling around for quotes for upgrades needed noted on the inspection? Call around for insurance rates, too. Better to know ahead of time.
The top two updates noted for most older homes are roofs and windows, and should be put to the top of the priority list. An older roof will leak and crumble and may cause more costly repairs to the interior of the home. Most older windows are single pane with low insulating properties, meaning that the house is drafty in the winter and sweltering in the summer.
You can certainly mix the "old" with the "new" in an antique home. You love the antique claw-foot tub, and really want to have a stand up shower, too? Add it! Sometimes we think that because we buy an old house, "everything has to look old". Consider this instead: just because we buy an antique home, doesn't mean it has to be filled with antiques.
With that said, before signing on the dotted line for your dream antique home, you may want to find out if there are any historical society or neighborhood restrictions on remodeling. Some older homes and neighborhoods have restrictions as to the type and style of remodeling that can be done. There sole purpose is to keep the history of homes intact, so drastic overhaul may not be allowed.
Remember that older homes were built when household items were much smaller. Everyone seems to forget that one, until moving day when they attempt to move in their double door stainless steel fridge. The doors and entryways were much smaller in days-gone-by. Be sure to measure to make sure that you can get your belongings inside. Doorways can be resized, though it would be another items for the every-growing repair list.
Be realistic when you're considering buying an older home. A complete overhaul could consume you, your time, and your wallet if you let it. Complete modernization could be done, but are you sure you want to? Surely complete the "must-dos" like the roof and the windows, though consider the reasons that you fell in love with the house in the first place: the squeeky floors, the sticky doors. Those may be some of the "character" items that you leave alone. Remodel what you absolutely have to, though consider keeping some of the nostalgic appeal.
Melissa Rolland is a real estate salesperson and realtor and an accredited home stager. She lives in Tolland with her husband, Todd, an associate broker and realtor. Together, they manage the Rolland Realty Group at Keller Williams Realty. You can connect with them at www.RollandRealtyGroup.com, www.facebook.com/rollandrealtygroup, or 866-408-8059.