It almost goes without saying that, when viewing a property of any age or condition, a home inspection is an excellent idea.
This will help to uncover latent defects — the type of defects that may not be obvious based on a cursory glance, especially to an untrained eye.
The cost of having a home inspection done — often between $300 and $500 — pales in comparison to the cost of repairing a cracked, sinking foundation, or gutting the house to replace old knob and tube wiring.
For the purposes of this post, however, I want to address what are referred to as patent defects. In other words, defects anyone could see with an untrained eye, but might not.
After all, when viewing your next potential home, there’s a lot of information to take in.
Here, in no particular order, are five things to look out for when viewing an older property.
Something that home buyers often miss, especially on their first walk through of an older home, is the total lack of closet space.
Is there a coat closet near the entrance?
How about in the bedrooms?
If closets do exist, are they adequate in size, or will you need to purchase wardrobes, shelving, chests, and coat racks to compensate?
Insulation & Energy Efficiency
Poor insulation in older homes can result in high heating bills in the winter and high cooling bills in the summer.
While this can be corrected (for a price) and may not be a deal breaker, it’s worth knowing what you’re getting yourself into.
If possible, a quick peek in the attic ought to give you some idea if there’s adequate (or any) insulation. Barring that, there may be other telltale signs.
For example, if it’s summer, and the house has central air, are there air conditioning units present in the upper floor windows? Are they being used?
If it’s winter, do you see space heaters plugged in upstairs?
How about the windows themselves? Will they be a constant source of heat loss? Check the date stamp on the corners. Are they reasonably new?
Lighting & Decorating
It’s amazing what some new flooring and a coat of paint can do. An older home can suddenly look and feel much newer…but only to a point.
Homes approaching a hundred years in age and older — sometimes called character homes — are often built with ample amounts of dark wood, confined and narrow spaces, and small windows.
If you dream of owning a bright, spacious, open home — one that flows nicely from one room to the next — an older home might not be for you. Not without doing some major renovations, at the very least.
A legal, non-conforming use refers to a building or structure that does not conform to current by-laws, even though it may have conformed at the time it was built.
An example would be a shed or a garage built right on the edge of the property line. So long as that garage remains in place, it is legal despite its failure to conform to current by-laws.
If you were to tear it down, however, it’s unlikely that you would be legally able to erect a new one in the same spot.
If you’re thinking about tearing down and rebuilding any portion of the property you’re viewing, ask the agent you’re working with about local by-laws. Better yet, just to be safe, ask the municipality directly.
How will you be spending your time in your new home?
Will you be busy preparing meals in the kitchen, while hoping to keep an eye on small children in the next room?
Are you hoping to use part of your home as a fitness center filled with workout equipment?
What about turning one room into a home office?
Could the basement be finished off, or might the ceilings be too low for that?
Functionality is critical as older homes often make poor use of space. Despite inviting red-brick exteriors, original hardwood flooring, and impressive square footage (on paper), rooms can sometimes feel cramped, narrow, and disconnected from the rest of the house.
As you walk through it, think carefully about how you intend to use each room.
What Did I Miss?
Over to you, folks.
Do you love older homes? Do you, like me, live in one?
What do you love about it?
What would you change?
What would you be sure to look out for when viewing an older property?
Have your say in the comments below.