Some people like new construction and others prefer homes with a few decades of history. And if you’re in the market for a new house, you’ve probably come to realize that you have to keep your options open and consider everything. The more willing you are to consider a variety of homes, the more likely it is that you’ll get an offer accepted. But if you’ve never owned an older home before, there are some things you need to know.
The Case for Buying an Older House
In today’s market, it’s common for homebuyers to get so caught up in the shiny appeal of new builds and recently remodeled houses that they ignore the value of the many older homes in their area. But this is a big mistake – and here’s why:
- Cheaper. Generally speaking, an older home is considered to be a house built prior to 1970 – though there’s not necessarily a rigid definition. On average, you can expect to save roughly 10 to 20 percent per square foot on older homes (when compared to newer, more updated properties). This makes them significantly cheaper – especially for someone who is handy and can apply a little elbow grease.
- Better construction. Back in the day, older homes were typically built with better quality materials and superior craftsmanship. They used old-growth trees, plaster, and brick, as opposed to cheap lumber, drywall, and vinyl. This produced stronger, longer-lasting houses that can withstand decades and decades of use.
- More character. Many of today’s newer homes are built from a basic set of house plans that are replicated hundreds or thousands of times over. Older homes, on the other hand, were often built using original floor plans and interesting features. They simply have more character.
- Larger lot sizes. Today’s neighborhoods are built so that houses are practically stacked on top of one another. This allows the developer to put more houses on a single plot of land, thereby maximizing the return. In previous decades, this wasn’t the practice. Homes were built on larger lots with more emphasis on yard size and privacy.
- Established neighborhoods. If you’ve seen a new neighborhood development recently, you’ve probably noticed how few trees are left behind. Perhaps you’ve also observed how most of the lots look identical. But again, you won’t find this with older homes. By definition, older homes are in more established neighborhoods. This means more natural landscaping and plenty of unique features to boot.
5 Things to Consider With Older Homes
When you consider all of the perks that make buying an older home so great, you might think someone would be foolish not to buy an older house. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. There are plenty of potential risks and concerns. Here are some things to consider:
Unsafe Construction Materials
Research has revealed a lot over the years about which building materials are safe and which ones pose a risk to our health. Unfortunately, we now know that many older homes contain unsafe construction materials, such as:
- Asbestos. For many decades, asbestos was commonly used in building applications as a flame retardant. However, it wasn’t known at the time that, when airborne, these fibers can be inhaled and lodged in the sensitive lining of the lungs. Eventually, exposure to asbestos can lead to a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. The EPA didn’t ban the use of asbestos until 1989 and most homes built prior to 1980 have some asbestos present. Left undisturbed, asbestos is fine. But removing it can be costly.
- Lead paint. It wasn’t until 1979 that lead paint was banned in home applications. If you have a home built prior to this, it’s possible that lead paint is present. If you have children under the age of six in your home, federal law mandates that the lead be removed.
Over time, houses incrementally settle into the ground. This means even the most solidly built home can experience foundation issues decades after they’re finished.
Older homes are prone to issues like major cracks, unevenness in the slab, dry rot, corrosion, and moisture damage. They’re especially common in regions with unstable bedrock, high soil moisture content, and/or seismic activity.
Older homes have more basic electrical and plumbing systems – including things like ungrounded outlets, lead pipes, and undetected leaks. If you’re buying a house with original electrical and plumbing, you may find it challenging and expensive to get the proper homeowner’s insurance. You’ll either face higher than average premiums or be required to update the home in order to obtain a policy.
High Energy Bills
There tend to be a lot of inefficiencies in older houses. This includes things like poor insulation, gaps and cracks around windows and doors, and single-pane windows. If not properly dealt with, this lack of energy efficiency can lead to high utility bills. The only way to solve this issue is to address the underlying problems and replace them with newer, more energy efficient upgrades.
Lots of Upgrades Needed
Many people buy an older house because it costs less than a newer home. But it’s important that you look beyond the list price when purchasing a house. Consider, for example, the following two homes:
- Home 1 was built in 1953 and is priced at $275,000
- Home 2 was built in 2014 and is priced at $315,000
If you’re on a strict budget of $300,000, Home 1 seems like the obvious choice. (You’re even saving money!) But if you dig a little deeper, you may discover that it needs roughly $50,000 in upgrades just to make the house modern and livable. Home 2, on the other hand, is a turnkey property that won’t need any major upgrades for at least five years. Is Home 1 really a better deal?
Buy Your Next Home With Green Residential
At Green Residential, we want to help you find the perfect house for your family. Whether it’s in downtown Houston, Katy, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, or somewhere in between, we can help you find the right property at the best possible price. To learn more, please reach out and contact us today!