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The Biggest Hurdles When Renovating Old Homes and Buildings

Written by Posted On Sunday, 21 April 2019 05:30

Developers, home owners, and businesses alike all have a vested interest in purchasing the best properties within their budgets. Especially true in older communities and cities, a variety of high-quality buildings and homes can be found, many of which use more solid building styles and materials.

You've probably heard the phrase “this home has good bones.” Particularly important when renovating or remodeling an older home, many owners find that the underlying structures allow for great customization and a plethora of new possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are many potential hurdles facing those who want to renovate or change older buildings. Let's take a look at the biggest obstacles here today.

Historical Building Regulations

In many cities and towns, historical societies exist to protect various historical buildings and features in neighborhoods. For those purchasing, or who are planning to purchase an older home or building, the very first thing they should do is verify whether the building has any historical significance.

The consequences of attempting to renovate or remodel an older building can range from public campaign pressure to binding legal requirements. In some cases, remodeling an older building – such as one within a designated neighborhood or with certain historical relevance – is not allowed by law.


Any major renovation poses a variety of challenges but obtaining the proper permits and permissions can be a nightmare. Especially in the case of older buildings, there may be an entirely different set of hurdles through which owners will need to jump.

Having the proper understanding of the building in question – and therefore what will be required – may take several trips to your local zoning or building agency. Because of the complexities often faced with renovating older buildings in urban areas, owners may decide to source assistance from qualified compliance officials. 


Obviously, a huge roadblock to renovating an older property – or any property, for that matter – is the cost associated with the endeavor. All too often, renovations for older properties can become expensive very quickly, exceeding that of more contemporary projects.

Due to a variety of concerns relating to the structure's composition, its location, regulations surrounding the renovation itself, and any unexpected surprises found, a renovation can easily cost twice as much per square foot as a remodeling of a newer building. As such, a full assessment of the building prior to any contracts or commitments should be executed.

Environmental Issues

In many jurisdictions, older buildings may enjoy exemptions from modern building codes and environmental regulations. From wiring and plumbing to insulation, many raw materials may create environmental hazards once removed during a remodel.

As such, securing the proper permits and disposal situations for components such as lead pipes and asbestos can be a logistical nightmare. Through agencies such as the EPA, owners can determine what requirements and risks exist when renovating older properties.

These hurdles are not insurmountable but are definitely challenging. Because of this, no purchase of an older home or building should be rushed: it is imperative to do your homework and evaluate the conditions of the property and the requirements needed for renovation. This can help minimize the chances of financial ruin, legal action, wasted time and stress.

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