Advice on purchasing 1820's home...

quilt_mommyMay 13, 2009

An early 1820's saltbox home has recently come on the market in my area, and appears to be updated. It has a new roof, and many additions, and looks well kept from the photos. We are hoping to go see it this week and I'm really hoping the inside lives up to the pictures. It is not an inexpensive fixer upper, but fairly affordable for a home of it's age and condition...can anyone offer some advice as to what my Husband and I should be weary of? I love the house so far, but of course our first thoughts are, "what's wrong with it?!?"

Right now my concerns are:







Anything else we should be cautious of or ask about? Everything inside has been painted and LOOKS to be even has skylights so I don't feel I need to be concerned about lead (we have small children and I noticed from the photos the current owners do too...)


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    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 12:38AM
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LoL* Besides ghosts. LoL*

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 8:56AM
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You've covered the major points, we purchased a 1830's greek revival in pretty much updated condition 5 years ago and still love it. One word of caution, the inspector said the 3 fireplaces were not safe to use and since it was listed as them being functional we asked to PO to address that. She hired the cheapest workmen she could find and they DESTROYED the look and structure of the fireplaces by tearing out the firebox and replacing with modern large firebrick. I would recommend that anything your are unhappy with be escrowed or reduce the price by the estimated cost so you can hire quality work that will not leave you with any sub-par work. Be aware, living in an old house can have it's short comings- small closets, uneven floors, no "master suite" but the sense of history and solid structure can more than make up for that. If you wanted to post the link to what you are looking at someone may be able to spot other potential things to be aware of. Good luck, it sounds wonderful.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 11:48AM
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The roof and quality of the work done. Check on the condition of the roof. Huge expense and a pain. Did I say check on the roof? LOL. I'm dealing with that now. Unless it has municipal water, the quality of the water is also an issue. Same with the septic. Insulation is a big issue.

Good Luck. P.S. I still love my old house.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 3:16PM
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I live in a house of the same era. Ours was not in the least updated, and in some respects, that made it easier on us because any major flaws were more obvious.

Is the major part of the house brick? That can be an issue in a house of that age. If it is, is it covered so that you cannot see the condition of the brick itself? Or maybe vinyl over wood? Are the walls to the original structure covered over with sheet rock, or paper? You may have a continual issue with cracks around doors and windows as the house forever settles. Are the doors and windows in square? Or are they more trapezoid? LOL. That didn't stop us from buying ours, but it is a diary to how much shift this house has had in 200 years.

Floor joists and their condition. Are you able to see them from a cellar?

We have dealt with those sorts of issues in addition to all the obvious ones you have mentioned. A lot can be done to make a house look good 'for awhile'. Wallpaper and carpeting can cover many sins. We did it for awhile until we had the time and money to address them in very permanent ways.

That's the only advice I'd give you. Look past the paint/paper/carpet and pay particular attention to such structural integrity because sooner or later, if there are any issues with it, you'll address it and it will not be cheap. Houses this age usually come 'as is' and for a reason. I'd sell my house with that caveat, despite the fact we have dropped a fortune into it. It's been here nearly 200 years, and likely shall be here another hundred or two, God willing. But, only if you keep the very major things addressed.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 10:50AM
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Well, here's one thing you don't think about right off... sewer. Our WWI era sewer pipes simply collapsed about 4 years after we purchased our home. This was the sewer pipe from the house to the main, running through our yard. So, it was the part of the sewer infrastructure that was on our property and was our responsibility to replace, not the city's.

When our neighbor started to restore his 1880's house down the block, he was digging up the sewer line from the house to the main (he thought) and the sewer pipe just ended in the yard, probably in what was an old cesspool, and it wasn't even hooked into the sewer main! (His was the first house built in the neighborhood and had been a lone house on an acreage, originally).

So, you may have new plumbing in the house, but watch out for the sewer connections in the yard! :-)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 2:34PM
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Regarding the lead paint. I'm not sure what having skylights has to do with lead paint, but do not assume there is no lead. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't buy the house, but just learn about how to manage it if it is there). We hired a lead inspector (about $350) and got a very detailed report about where the lead is. We then removed or covered over areas as needed and are waiting on major demolition work until the kids are older. This is not to persuade you against it -- we have a house built in 1888 and love it, but just know what you're getting into. Start with a good home inspector (who knows old houses). And, one clue that it is lead is that the paint will start to "alligator" over time and look like alligator skin in window area, particularly. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: lead paint

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 10:58AM
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