The dream of owning an older home is one clients tell us about often. Not surprisingly, the greater Portland area offers many opportunities to own such a property. For example, in Cumberland County there are currently 314 single family homes for sale that were built between 1800 and 1900. In Portland alone there are 59, with the most expensive listed at $2,300,000.
When considering purchasing one of these home, there are some issues to consider:
Without a full renovation, older homes usually come with a certain level of necessary repair. The electrical wiring may be dated, ungrounded, or made of undesirable material no longer in use. The telephone wiring may not accommodate high speed data demands. Underground materials used for plumbing may have eroded, compromising the safety of water, or the structural integrity of the foundation. The foundation itself may not be as thick or rigid as newer structures. After all, the specifications for tension, and cement composition have advanced in the last several decades. Although many older homes have had their roofs repaired or replaced, some have gone decades without any care or maintenance.
If the home was built prior to 1978, there is a high likelihood the walls contain lead paint.
Drafty perhaps? Many older homes do not adhere to the current energy efficiency standards. These homes typically have single pane windows, minimal or trampled down insulation, leaking ductwork, and inefficient a/c units, water heaters and appliances. On the positive side, many older homes benefit from the shade their larger trees bring to the overall structure, thereby decreasing energy costs if other factors are also remedied.
Quality of Work for Renovations
If someone is looking at a fully renovated home, the concern is often times whether the renovation came with any warranties. More often than not, the work done was not provided by a general contractor, but a multitude of independent sub-contractors managed by the previous homeowner. Even if a general contractor was involved, there's no guarantee he/she is still in business or willing to warranty the work when it passes ownership.
Still the Right Home
Even considering this potential problems, an older home may still be a perfect fit. In order to protect your investment, its wise to be aware of certain issues – even before you bring in your own inspector.
For example, discoloration of walls can signal internal water damage. Top to bottom vertical cracking of the drywall can be evidence of a cracked or compromised foundation.
If initial water running out of the pipes is rust or dark brown in color, it’s very likely the pipes have eroded. Lights flickering or dimming while testing out appliances may signal a substandard electrical source.
The absolute best way to navigate these waters is to get a thorough home inspection by a seasoned and well regarded inspector. The cost of the inspection will be nothing compared to the potential cost of missing a critical defect. Also ask the homeowner for all city permits and records of any renovations. This can provide assurance that the work was performed by licensed professionals and within the framework of current city codes/restrictions.
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