Author Topic: Feeling uneasy about buying an older home  (Read 1030 times)

Luxerus

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Feeling uneasy about buying an older home
« on: July 15, 2016, 08:05:40 AM »
We are first-time buyers looking for a house in a Canadian area (I'd like to omit details) close to a bigger city (but far from Toronto/Vancouver), price is not the issue. We like the area, it's close (less than 20 min walk) to all the main stores we go to (very convenient to shop the sales at 3 supermarkets in just an hour, by car), good public transport to work, lots of young middle-class families.

Most of the detached housing is comprised of medium-sized houses (3-4 bedrooms), built in the last 15 years, on very small lots. However, one small part of the area has older homes.

One such home for sale was originally built in 1920. It was however completely renovated in multiple steps, and is now a nice 2-storey house on a lot that is over 15,000 sq ft (Mr Money Mustache may disapprove of big lots, but we like them as well as being further from our neighbors and having trees, non-urban environments reduce our stress levels). My problem is that while visiting the home with my agent (the listing agent was not present), we noticed (the agent too) many details, such as uneven floors and ceilings, poorly installed ducts going from the furnace to the ground floor, no ducts going to the second floor, the gutters (eavestrough) were poorly installed, the overground pool was left to die (it's empty and weeds are growing) and we don't know why, etc. Furthermore, there's no A/C, a must for us, and our agent could not tell us how easy or not it would be to get it. On some things, I knew more than the agent, for instance by looking through older Google Street pictures. I feel like agents are there to hold our hands, while what we want is a fact checker. Yes we need reassurance, but what reassures us are facts, not ideas of what we could do with the backyard.

My main question is, what are the risks that despite positive inspections and all that, we end up having to spend thousands upon thousands to keep the house in shape? My concern isn't so much with the buying price, but with having unexpected expenses that end up being necessary to preserve the integrity of the house. It seems that the general attitude is for people to not even care about throwing 20,000 here and 40,000 extra there on the mortgage...

Thanks.

CmFtns

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 583
  • Age: 29
  • Location: Melbourne, Fl
Re: Feeling uneasy about buying an older home
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2016, 08:39:14 AM »
It's old and there will be problems... It's just a matter of how much time, patience, or money you want to throw at a house. I bought an old house (not quite as old as that house) and there were quite a few problems that came up after inspection and purchase but many things aren't actually very expensive if you fix it yourself.

What you want to do is make sure the MAJOR stuff is not on its last legs or was built badly.
Stuff like the roof, foundation, other structural problems, hard to access plumbing issues, etc

Getting central AC installed will be thousands of dollars (call and get a quote) but you just need to factor that into your budget if that is something that you want. Old or fixer upper houses are usually priced accordingly so that you have some extra money to fix it up compared to buying a house that was already re-done.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2016, 08:41:13 AM by CmFtns »

Dee18

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1685
Re: Feeling uneasy about buying an older home
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2016, 09:23:57 AM »
I bought an 85 year old house 7 years ago.  I will never buy an old house again, and am looking forward to selling mine as soon as my teen is out of the house.  Right now I am sitting in a beautifully built newer home (employer provided) in the town where I work in the summer.  I love it! 

Some specifics: (1) if the floors are uneven, there is a reason:  the house is settling.  At some point this is likely to lead to cracks in walls.  With old plaster walls, this is not a quick easy fix. (2) 100 years ago they did not have good water proofing for basements, making damp likely.  (3) I paid $6,000 to have my ductwork replaced in my one story house because I found out the ductwork was lined with disentegating insulation that was causing serious allergies for me. (Note thus was not installing new ductwork, this was all easy access in the basement.)   (4) Have the windows been replaced?  This would cost about 5 times what my home inspector estimated because my windows are not modern standard sizes, which he based his estimate on.  (5) When you have visible  low quality work, you should expect that some of the renovation you cannot see is also low quality.  (It was in my case!)

My house is charming, especially on the outside, and I have learned a lot about DIY, even enjoyed some of it, but I will not buy another old home.  Rent maybe, but not buy. 

starbuck

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 366
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Small Town Connecticut
Re: Feeling uneasy about buying an older home
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2016, 09:42:23 AM »
My main question is, what are the risks that despite positive inspections and all that, we end up having to spend thousands upon thousands to keep the house in shape? My concern isn't so much with the buying price, but with having unexpected expenses that end up being necessary to preserve the integrity of the house.

I own a very old house (mid-1800s) and we chose a home inspector with experience examining old houses. Our house was a fixer upper, and my main concerns for the inspection were serious structural issues. Some unevenness is part and parcel of old houses, as they move and shift over time. Plaster ceilings will crack, walls will be slanted, doors will need to be custom fit, etc. I guess it would help to know what you meant by uneven floors. I toured one house with floors that were a trip hazard.

You can't assume a home inspection will catch every upcoming repair. Within the first 2 years, we spent a few thousand dollars replacing all of the old cast iron plumbing that had slowly decayed and clogged. But unexpected issues can appear in a newer home too, like the quality of the build, mold, etc.

Any house you buy needs to be maintained, and it sounds like this house was not very well-maintained. Is it an estate sale? Things like gutters and clearing out a backyard are simple enough to DIY. Central air, not so much.

Choices

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 516
    • ChooseBetterLife
Re: Feeling uneasy about buying an older home
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2016, 10:23:48 AM »
I wish I could tell you that buying a new house would fix all your problems, but there's no guarantee of that either. Our house was built during the 2007 bubble and was put up so fast that there were major mistakes that weren't apparent on the inspection. We spent five years fixing them all and it was a huge nightmare.

If you love the house and the inspection goes well, then it might be worth a go. Even if you settle on a newer home, the Home Depot and YouTube will be happy to provide some continuing education.

bacchi

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4258
Re: Feeling uneasy about buying an older home
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2016, 10:55:57 AM »
Yes, major stuff is your concern.

Sticky doors, uneven floors, cracking walls -- you get used to them. Having to update the wiring? That's $$ and a PITA.

For AC, avoid the ducts and use a mini-split.