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Looking to Buy an Older Home? How to Assess If It's Safe to Live In

Written by Posted On Friday, 07 July 2017 19:07

Buying an older home can be an exciting experience. You might be looking at a classic home as a bit of history or nostalgia. Many older homes have distinctive design features and materials that are pricey or hard to find today. The caveat is that with age comes deterioration and outdated features. Here are some safety concerns to look for before settling in.

Check Plumbing and Water Quality

Many older homes may contain some or all of the original plumbing. This could include not only toxic lead pipes but iron or tin. These metals can produce rust and mineral scale that you might not even notice, but they are contaminants that can make drinking water unsafe. Scale build-up can lead to clogs, and corroded pipes under pressure may burst to do water damage to old wooden frames. Be sure to replace obsolete plumbing and have your water quality tested.

Inspect the Wiring

Some old homes were wired only for lights, not modern appliances. Some old electrical repairs or additions may also be poor DIY jobs that ignore safety measures. Haphazard wiring can be confusing. Copper wires can also decay. These are all risks of overheating and fire, especially if modern appliances are drawing power over old wiring. Have a licensed electrician inspect your system thoroughly.

Repair the Roof

It's likely the original roof has been replaced several times over. There may also be newer home additions with different roofing materials and quality. At the first sign of leaks, or just for peace of mind, have an experienced contractor check the roof. You may want to upgrade to newer materials or replace the bad spots with vintage-style roofing that matches. If the roof is in bad shape, you may be looking at a complete tear-down and rebuild.

Identify Building Materials

The hand-crafted features of historic homes are part of their charm. But they aren't necessarily safe. Lead paint, for instance, may still exist. Insulation in older homes may also be falling apart in the walls, or consist of dangerous materials like asbestos that have since been linked to lung cancer. If you suspect your home has asbestos, call a professional removal service, like Mendelssohn Construction, immediately. They can confirm the existence of asbestos and see that it's safely and thoroughly removed from your home.

Check the Home’s Personal History

Although you could probably just talk to the current owners of the home to see what the history of the home is, your research should go deeper than that. By history, I mean, you want to know whether or not there had ever been any fires, foundational issues, earthquakes, etc that severely affected the home. Even if the house had been fixed up and remodeled, these are things that you should still learn about. You can do this by going online and getting a home history report.

Ask About Flooding

Depending on where you live, flooding may be a big concern. If it tends to rain a lot in that area, you need to know whether or not it is common for water to get into the house. This is especially important if you’re looking at a home that has a basement. If the house has a driveway that leads downward into the basement garage (on a declining slope), then this is something that you will definitely need to ask about. That is especially true if the house is located in an area that has lots of rain or snow. This is because the rain and melting snow can flood the driveway, get into the garage, and, therefore, get into the basement of the home. You can combat this, of course, through the use of pumps and having a drain system be put in place at the edge of your garage. Yet, this is something that you will definitely have to be prepared for.

Research the Neighborhood

Sadly, many older homes aren’t in the best of neighborhoods. This is because they can get trodden down, demographics can change, and the quality of neighborhood can change over time. That is why you should check out the crime rates and statistics regarding the community around the house that you are looking at. There are many sites online that you can look at that will allow you to plug in the address of the home and see what the crime rates are. More so, they will even allow you to see if there are any registered felons or sex offenders in the area. You can also try going to the local police department and asking them what their personal diagnosis of a certain neighborhood is. Basically, they can tell you whether or not they find themselves responding to calls in that area more than others. They might also be able to tell you what neighborhoods are safer than others.

Older homes have their charm, but they were not built to today's safety standards. Their quality and that of their surrounding community may have declined throughout the years as well. It’s important that you do a thorough inspection of both the house and its surrounding neighborhood so that you can determine whether or not it is safe enough for you and your family. 

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