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Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Posted by lyfia (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 4, 06 at 8:20

We are going to look at a few properties with older homes this weekend. Some say in the description that they have been updated. What are some of the things to look for that hasn't been updated.

I'm guessing my main concerns should be the plumbing and electrical wiring and fuses. If it has been insulated. What has been done and what hasn't in upgrading. I know one we looked at had new panel, but wiring wasn't upgraded.

Anything that you would recommend to look for?

BTW I don't mind if it hasn't been upgraded, but I want to make sure I take the cost of it into account as the prices of some of these don't seem to make sense as compared to others. We would want to be able to put in central ac/heat as we are in TX where it is hot and humid.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Not sure how you guys heat your houses down there (do you use heat??) however if you don't have ducts running through the house, which is often a problem in older houses, then putting in AC will be very expensive. So you should think about this.

What type of heating system is in the house and how MANY ducts are there? Are they suitable for AC? Converting an older house to AC is often both expensive and frusterating.

I live where forced hot air heating with ducts is very common however we have very few ducts and I doubt that AC would be very effective. If I was thinking that I NEEDED AC when I bought a house I would have brought in a HVAC expert for sure. They should be able to tell you if they can or can not use the existing ductwork. New systems can cost 20 grand, which is more than updating your wiring! This high cost would most likely be on a victorian with many floors.

What kind of house are you looking at?

-Renee


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

We do use ducts, and some of the houses we will be looking at that doesn't already have AC have stairs to the attic and are a 1 story. As long as the attic access and space in the attic is there it wouldn't be a big deal to add a/c ducts. The bigger problem would be electrical and finding a spot for the unit in the house unless we put it in the attic, then we just need a spot for the return near the attic placement.

I have added ducts in my existing house as it didn't have ac to all rooms.

We do need heat here and the heating we use is just forced air using the AC vents. Most likely it would be electric or adding propane. We currently put a heat pump in our existing house and that would be sufficient here with an auxilliary electric heater in the unit. Only a few days out of the year do we need to switch to auxilliary.

What do you mean with what kind of house we are looking at? Like the style or? Some are old farm houses or Victorian style with acerage and some are in older section of a couple of small towns. Square footage ranges from 1200-2500.

The 1200 sq ft we would have to look at the possibilty of doing an add on without compromising the style of the house, but it is also in need of the most work from pictures. Also priced right for that. Basically priced just for the land.

We are just starting to look, but we both love older homes and after looking it may turn out we change our minds, but as we thought it doesn't hurt to look. At first we are just trying to get an idea of what is out there, what to look for, and try to figure out what is priced right etc.


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Beyond the obvious electrical and plumbing issues, I would worry about termites and wood rot. Unfortunately, much of this type of damage is hidden and may not be visible on a simple walkthru. Look for sagging roofs, out of plumb walls, and condition of the foundation. Good luck!


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

With the electrical, there's alot, really. Our place still has some knob and tube in it although the panel is brand new 200 amp and all the wires into the panel are new 3-wire. Having ungrounded wiring in the place would devalue it. Check for this by looking into a switch or two. All of our old wiring is in the places that would be hardest to swap it out - so look there. Also, the use of asbestos would affect the price - even rigid asbestos boards that experts say are better left alone will devalue your home.


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Look at the foundation and for water/dampness under the house. Is it a rubble foundation? Is the crawlspace wet or damp?

My house sits on a lose rubble foundation andlots of water is present under the house. If I dig down a foot, i get standing water in the hole. It's going to cost me thousands to correct, and it needs correcting...


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Look for DIY remuddling which was probably done w/o permits and not up to code -- much more dangerous than knob & tube.

You may need to upgrade electrical service to the street if you add A/C and also plan anything like a hot tub, Subzero refrigerator, etc.


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Thank you all for your advise. We struck out on our hunt today. Homes were just too much work. I think we kind of came to the conclusion we'll be better off building a new home in old style or find one already fully re-modeled.

I would love to remodel and restore an old home, but came to the conclusion that with a 3 hr roundtrip commute if we move to that area, We'd rather spend our weekend on our hobbies.

It was a good thing to go and see these though to narrow down what we're looking at. We also find the areas that we like more than others.

kitchenobsessed, I think the remuddling is true for any home that the homeowners have done themselves. We looked at a fairly new one that was built in 2001, but an older style home and saw lots of that.


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

A good home inspector will know what to look for; don't do it yourself. I have an 1891 Colonial Revival house and the knob & tube wiring was in perfect shape but the later metallic sheathed wiring had wire insulation crumbling where it was exposed in the boxes. It had to be replaced immediately.


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Older homes often have true cut dimensional lumber where a 2x4 is actually 2" x 4". That often makes it difficult to make any revisions.

Hardwood floors are nailed directly to the floor joists with no subfloor. In mid winter when the humidity is extremely low and the floor boards shrink you can stand in the basement and see daylight between the boards.

In my Grandfathers farmhouse, circa 1895, after removing about 20 layers of wall paper we discovered the walls between the kitchen and dining room and the dining room and living room was actually made of vertical tongue & groved 2" x 8" oak planks. (I always wondered why the electrical service was surface run in conduit, now I know)


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

Have the roof inspected by a roofer, not by the house inspector. If it's a slate roof, or has any kind of unusual gutter, it will be more expensive to repair.
Also, most old bathrooms don't have exhaust fans, and if you need to remodel the bathrooms, it can be expensive to install them. (They are code in most areas now.)


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

My two cents is not to buy a house that is at the max of your budget. Old homes will eternally need something and you may just be frustrated with it and come to despise the house if you do not have the cash. After our first walkthough in our current home, I told the realtor that I loved the house, but I was not sure if we had the money to fix it. (One of the reasons we moved to Nebraska was to get out of debt.) The last update was done circa 1940. Now our finances are such that we have the cash to put into our house. We have redone all the electrical wiring, new Heat/Air, an addition, new roof... the list goes on, BUT, I do not regret it. I love my house, so I do not mind putting in the cash. To me, it is no different from someone spending money on a hobby, it is something I do for pleasure. To somone else, this would be a money pit. Does that make sense?


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

all very good advice. mine looked good when it was bought about 5 years ago. alot of quick fix crap. wiring was okay but not many outlets. had a new panel. so far had to redo the roof. paint really needs to be sandblasted. look for many many layers of paint over chips etc. look for cracks, although it will be impossible to find a house without. sight down the exterior lines of the house to see where it's sagging. look for wood rot on all the windows and check the ropes for the weights. check the floors. look under furnature and carpets. worst of all, go under the house and crawl the whole thing. look for termites and or POWDER POST BEETLES! they wiped out the whole east and north side of my wood stemwall and there was major wood rot from the wet boards of the porch. check the size of the major beams holding up the floor joists. if the joists are on 24 inch centers make sure they are wide enough, to span the distance they are spanning. you should NOT have a 6x6 beam under the middle of your house like i do, and should NOT have 2x8's going 12ft on one side and 16 on the other on 2ft centers. this house was built by a MAJOR MORON. powder post beetles only live in damp areas, and the holes in the wood are made after they have eaten as a larvae and left the wood so it's too late. they can be sprayed with boron and other stuff. google search them. i just got thru jacking my house up to replace the foundation parts and add joists. i made the MISTAKE of leveling that side of the house. it was only about 1 and a half inches out at the front wall and when i leveled it i cracked all the plaster on that side, my stairs pulled away from the wall alittle bit and my second floor bathroom door won't close any more. my front door wouldnt close either so i had to jack up the center of the house by my 6x6 beam, which was like a wet noodle, to get the front door to close and lock again. i am lucky that my widows didn't break or my bathroom mirror glued to the wall, didn't crack. i have to remove my door jambs on the bathroom door and re-hang it. same for another bedroom door. i would just buy a newer house if i were you. these things SUCK SUCK SUCK! it is like buying and fixing up a popular, ie, not rare car. you spend $10,000 fixing up say a 55 chevy truck or a camaro, and you have a $10,000 vehicle when you are done and all the time you spent on it wasn't worth SQUATDIDDLEY! Im looking for one of those recalled Glade Plug in air fresheners right now. if any of you has one, please send it to 618 w. hazel st, 98273. i'm sorry, was i rambling?


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moron old houses: what to look for

all very good advice. mine looked good when it was bought about 5 years ago. alot of quick fix crap. wiring was okay but not many outlets. had a new panel. so far had to redo the roof. paint really needs to be sandblasted. look for many many layers of paint over chips etc. look for cracks, although it will be impossible to find a house without. sight down the exterior lines of the house to see where it's sagging. look for wood rot on all the windows and check the ropes for the weights. check the floors. look under furnature and carpets. worst of all, go under the house and crawl the whole thing. look for termites and or POWDER POST BEETLES! they wiped out the whole east and north side of my wood stemwall and there was major wood rot from the wet boards of the porch. check the size of the major beams holding up the floor joists. if the joists are on 24 inch centers make sure they are wide enough, to span the distance they are spanning. you should NOT have a 6x6 beam under the middle of your house like i do, and should NOT have 2x8's going 12ft on one side and 16 on the other on 2ft centers. this house was built by a MAJOR MORON. powder post beetles only live in damp areas, and the holes in the wood are made after they have eaten as a larvae and left the wood so it's too late. they can be sprayed with boron and other stuff. google search them. i just got thru jacking my house up to replace the foundation parts and add joists. i made the MISTAKE of leveling that side of the house. it was only about 1 and a half inches out at the front wall and when i leveled it i cracked all the plaster on that side, my stairs pulled away from the wall alittle bit and my second floor bathroom door won't close any more. my front door wouldnt close either so i had to jack up the center of the house by my 6x6 beam, which was like a wet noodle, to get the front door to close and lock again. i am lucky that my widows didn't break or my bathroom mirror glued to the wall, didn't crack. i have to remove my door jambs on the bathroom door and re-hang it. same for another bedroom door. i would just buy a newer house if i were you. these things SUCK SUCK SUCK! it is like buying and fixing up a popular, ie, not rare car. you spend $10,000 fixing up say a 55 chevy truck or a camaro, and you have a $10,000 vehicle when you are done and all the time you spent on it wasn't worth SQUATDIDDLEY! Im looking for one of those recalled Glade Plug in air fresheners right now. if any of you has one, please send it to 618 w. hazel st, 98273. i'm sorry, was i rambling?


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RE: Buying an older home ~1880-1930 what to look for

My very simple advise: Have a Home Inspection done by someone YOU hire before making an offer. I did and BOY was it worth it. Fewer surprises, good idea of what to expect, I now know that I have an outlet that isn't grounded while all the rest are (weird), the attic needs a little more insulation, there are no leaks in the roof but there was a fire many many years ago that was in the kitchen only (scorched rafters), plumbing okay for now, little leak comming in from city service, crawl space has cement floor not just dirt etc. etc.


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