I really need help...

anon_girlDecember 6, 2009

To make a long story short, DH, my three children and I are wanting to embark on something new. We live on the West Coast, and have fallen in love with a 30 acre horse farm, & home built in 1784 (on the East Coast). Since we are on the opposite coast, we want to do as much research as possible before making an offer.

The big question is what do we need to think about?

The seller disclosure states that there is no known lead... but should we still have the home tested?

The house has a new septic system, and a new well. THe roof was replaced in 2002. Forced Hot Air was added in 2001 (tho I do not know if it is upstairs and down or just downstairs). It has 2 lined chimneys and 8 fireplaces. Copper pipe for the plumbing. The attic and exterior walls have blown in and fiberglass insulation.

Its extremely well maintained, and has everything I have ever dreamed of in a home. But, I am afraid of taking on a home that is this old, and winding up having problems in the future.

Is there anything else we should be thinking of? Thank you all so much for your help/

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A 225 year old house has lead paint in it as sure as the sun shines unless every painted surface has been recently stripped back to bare wood (metal, whatever). If your children aren't going to be chewing on the woodwork, it's really not an issue. All the disclosure means is that the current owner hasn't bought a test kit.

There's probably asbestos too.

Old houses are always a labor of love, there's just no way around there will always be an issue or two or three. What you should try to find is a good contractor that really knows his way around old houses. Have him give the place the once over.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 12:13AM
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As Mike mentioned, there will always be issues with an old house. Everything in it is really old, so although it's well maintained, that doesn't mean that all of the parts that are 225 years old will continue to last. Also, if it is well maintained, you might be sad at some of the innovations of the prior owners. However, as an owner of an old home, if you walk into that with your eyes open and your pocketbook not depleted, you'll be fine. Each day I am more happy that we have our old home, and more happy that we live in a place with such character- and my house is only 100 years old, a youngster compared to yours!

When I looked at your post, I initially thought that the least of your worries for the move is the house. It's moving across country. You can be moving to the best house on earth and if you don't love your job, have a support system around you, like the area you live in, etc, you will be miserable. So, when doing your homework, don't focus on the house, focus on everything around it. You can find out if the house is structurally sound and accept that things will go wrong with it. You'll have to do your homework to see if you like the town and if you'd be okay living so far from the life that you were once a part of.

Best of luck to you, regardless of your path. But if you do move to that home, please post pictures, it sounds amazing!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 8:37AM
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Thank you for the replies!
I had not thought of asbestos. Where would it be? All the floors are hardwood, and there are no "popcorn" ceilings. Would it be in insulation? The house is an old New England colonial. I would post pics, but they are on Realtor and I am not sure I can link a listing from here.

As far as the area, I know it well as its where I grew up. Thankfully, we've got quite a few cross country move under our belt, so we know what lays ahead.

It looks like all the electrical has been updated too... as there are pot lights in the kitchen.
The other thing that is making us think that this home has been well updated is that the owner recently added a 2 story, 6 stall horse barn complete with a heat source. Why would you do that if your house needed insulation or had plumbing issues.
Thanks again everyone!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 9:53AM
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It sounds like you are head of heels and making lots of assumptions based on what you can see.

A 200 year old house is going to have issues. It just is. If you don't want to deal with old house issues, then you shouldn't buy an old house.

Re: electrical update??? Pot lights do not mean the electrical has been updated. Cosmetic alterations do not mean that the real "guts" have all been improved. That could be a huge expense, so check into it.

Heating- Does the house have heat and A/C upstairs? My 100 year old colonial only had heat downstairs and no A/C. Putting a whole new system including ducts etc can get quite expensive, especially if you are trying to keep as much of the home intact as possible.

Plumbing - where the does the copper start? At my house, the prior owners hooked copper to the old pipes. This caused the old pipes to deteriorate. Also, what about the drain pipes?

Horses - they are expensive! Heating a huge barn is expensive. Have you thought those expenses through?

Land - 30 acres is huge. Are you ready for all the upkeep?

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:07AM
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With time and money "almost" anything can be fixed with the exception of location. Have you kept up with the area since you went west or still have family in the new area? You don't want to find that they are in the process of putting a waste treatment plant next door, found ground contamination etc. Check some of the local paper online if you can. That said, there will always be maint. items, are you guys handy? Having everything done for you is expensive and tiresome. Review your budget, your tolerance for things needing work. Have the major items like foundation, roof and systems checked out by an independent party and make your decision then. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:37AM
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Thank you Bill..
We have no intentions of having horses. I have three kids, thats enough. We plan on turning the barn over to the kids. As for yard upkeep, much of the property is wooded, and both my husband and I know how to mow grass.

I appreciate you insight into the electrical and plumbing. I will have to research that more. We are fortunate, this is a town of 1,500 and my childhood friends mother was the only realtor for the town for over 30 years. She has sold this property twice and knows it extremely well. I do know that over the past 30 years it has had updates done to it twice..so thats a start.

Do you have any idea on how expensive it would be to run heat upstairs? Expensive is such a relative term.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:45AM
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Expenses completely depend on the house. We redid heat and a/c with separate systems upstairs and downstairs for a total cost of about 15k. We had access from a basement and attic though and several walls already open to run lines through. It also cost about 2k to upgrade the electrical service to handle the new equiptment. If you have to start running lines and plumbing through existing walls, the costs can escalate quickly.

For upkeep of land - I suspect you are going to find it much more involved than just mowing the grass. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great, but when you start doing things on a large scale, there are always unexpected obstacles. eg lots of trees are great, but eventually, a storm is going to "mostly" knock one over and you will have to do something about it before it falls on one of your kids.

I don't mean to be negative about this purchase at all. 30 acres and a 200 year old house might be the dream life for you. It will require work and expense to keep it all up though, so just go into it with your eyes open. This is a board full of old house enthusiasts who consider the upkeep a labor of love, but it is definitely still a "labor" sometimes.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 1:59PM
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Based on your description, you probably don't have much to worry about regarding asbestos. The most common places for asbestos in an older home are:

1. Vinyl floor tiles or seamless flooring (both the materials and sometimes the adhesive). Are there no areas in the house that have this? And, if you do, they're not an issue if you don't tear them out or otherwise disturb them.

2. Popcorn ceilings...not a concern for you.

3. Duct insulation for the furnace. This is not a problem unless it is deteriorating and crumbling, or you disturb it to update the heating system...in which case you should have professionals remove it.

4. Vermiculite insulation (the stuff that looks like cat litter) can contain asbestos, but is not generally a problem if it is in an unoccupied space, like an attic, and you don't dig around in it or disturb it by remodeling.

5. Asbestos siding. Again, not usually a problem unless you're disturbing it.

There are a few other possibilities, but I've listed the major ones.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 2:52PM
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Thank you so much Kudzu. Most of the homes in this area are old, many of my friends grew up in them, so I am not overly concerned about asbestos. I know the house siding is asbestos free..so that's good to know.

Bill, I thank you for bringing all these things up, but the upkeep of the yard is the least of our worries. We've both lived on property before, and thankfully this home has a wonderful yard, then trees/woods then river front. No tree's to fall on the kids, cars, home etc... The house is far back from the river, so no flooding issues, and there's fencing too... so no need to worry about the kids falling into the drink.

A labor of love is no problem for us, tho I do believe most of the labor has been done. I feel like our last thing to do is see the house for ourselves. Thanks again everyone.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 3:27PM
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If your blown-in insulation is cellulose, chances are for no asbestos.

New heat upstairs can be electric rather than hot air, less expensive to install, maybe more expensive to run.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 3:29PM
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For those interested, here are a few photos of the house

Here is a link that might be useful: NE Colonial photos

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 5:29PM
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What's the condition of the barn? It looks ok in your picture, but if it's not stable, then restoring it properly can be another large expense. Do all the windows open and close? is the wood on the windows all in good condition? Are the floors level? If not, why not? Is it normal settling or did some clever previous homeowner do things like cut into joists? How many electrical outlets in the rooms? Yes, electric may have beeb upgraded, but do you have enough outlets for your lifestyle? How much power is running into the house? Will it be able to handle washing machines, diswashers, refrigerators and a couple of hair dryers running at the same time?

If I was considering this house, I'd find a really good old home inspector to look it over. I would not even both talking to an inspector who primarily looks at new construction.

Very pretty house and property.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 7:20PM
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Thanks Lido, the barn was built in 2006, so I can't imagine that there are issues with it. Thankfully, this is an old area of NE, and many, many of the homes are of this era, so I will take your advice when it comes to finding the inspector, I don't imagine it to be too big of a problem. I also appreciate the comments on how much electricity goes to the house. (Although our plan is to eventually go off the grid) We are not big consumers of electricity, so that works in our favor. As for extension cords, I just dont use em because I hate the look.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 7:29PM
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Definitely do as others suggest and find a reputable home inspector as well as find out as much as possible from the realtor. Assume NOTHING. People in small towns like to talk - maybe some locals could give you some background on the house or possibly some of the work done on the house was done by local contractors that could give you some insight. (?)

Yes, there may be issues with an old house, but there may be some pleasant surprises also. Below is a brief comment on the recent experience we've had with our old home:

Our house was built in the 1790s. We've lived here since early 1980's and put in a new kitchen before & added an upstairs bathroom before moving in. Over the years we redid other rooms, but the only room that had been gutted down to the studs was the kitchen. When electric work was needed we hired someone that didn't cut corners. This spring we completed a 3-room complete gut and remodel project of the kitchen, living room, dining room plus work on the stairs. I was concerned that they would find major problems (structural, electrical, etc.) and our project cost would skyrocket, but fortunately that was not the case. The contractors and carpenters marveled at how structurally sound our house was. The biggest obstacle was jacking up the main floor and then adding 3 steel posts into poured concrete squares in the cellar, which is a dirt floor. (This was necessary because one side of the house had settled a few inches over the centuries and the other half had not because it is supported by an arch cellar.) We ripped up several layers of flooring and found a well-preserved wood floor that only needed sanded and refinished. The carpenters commented that the floor,which the flooring guy estimated to be 100 yrs old, (the original flooring is underneath) was straighter and better than most they see in much newer homes. We also replaced our heating duct work that contained asbestos and had to deal with lead paint on the stairs.

We understand and accept the fact that changing or fixing something in a house this old will most likely be more costly than if it were a newer home. But, you can't build 2 centuries into a new home - which is just one reason why old homes are so unique.

Again, research and don't go into anything blind or naive. I've heard horror stories about old homes that are nothing more than money pits.

Good luck in finding answers to your questions about the home!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 9:16PM
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I knew a couple who in their retirement bought a partially updated mid-19th Century farmhouse and barn on twenty acres. Space to breathe in after a life in the city.

Admittedly, they were handy. They boarded horses in the barn and rented out the fields to adjacent farmers. Their only persistent problems were beavers damming a stream. Mr. 16-Gauge usually solved that one. They loved it. And the home outlived them all.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 9:19PM
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you can go to the home to check what want to replace,you can buy the new one to replace them ,and maybe there are still some item can work normally,you can keep them,and according your practical condition,you may need something special design your hobby or other demand,you can add new item to the house.hope you have a nice home!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 4:43AM
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Unless the house is listed "as is" you can make an offer based on the information given by the realtor and then have your inspector make a thorough investigation of the house. Anything substandard that was not revealed by the realtor can be an issue for price negotiation or backing out of the deal. But follow your realtor's advice on this subject not mine.

Where is the property?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 1:34PM
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I just want to say "Good Luck". The home, barn and property look beautiful and I can see how you fell in love with it. I hope it is all you want when you see it in person.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 8:27AM
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It really is a lovely property. I hope it works out for you. We hired a structural engineer and a home inspector that specialized in old houses to check out our place before we purchased it. They gave us very valuable information, from which we derived a offer price. I would not consider buying an old house without the opinions of both of these professionals.

FWIW, our not-old-house was more of a money pit than our old house has been.
Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 12:31PM
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