Defects to Look Out For When Buying or Selling an Old House

Appraisal and Home Inspection
By Alex Mikayelyan November 29, 2021

The charm of an old house is felt the second you set your foot into one. That distinct smell of aged possibly reclaimed wooden furniture, the gentle creaking of floorboards, as well as all the tiny ornamentation and details that have long been out of style but have a rustic appeal to them. There is no doubt that many homeowners are in love with older aesthetics and homes that are designed to look aged. But the next time you look through some charming old houses for sale, keep certain issues in the back of your mind.

The problems with older houses don’t necessarily have to do with design aesthetics and the appearance of the home itself as much as they have to do with structural stability and construction-related problems. Homes take a very long time to age, but depending on how well the owners took care of them, they may age faster than others. So, if you are in the process of purchasing or selling some property, there are some common issues with older houses you should look out for.

Here are some problems with buying an old house that you should know about before heading in for the first grand tour. 

As Good As New (30 Years Old)

Many would refrain from calling houses built 30 years ago “old” but they’re certainly getting up there in age. 30 years is really not that long for a house and you will hardly be able to tell its age if the owners took good care of it. But regardless, some problems will pop up even in a house that is relatively new. 

Hanging Doors

How a Door Loses Its Strength Over Time

How a Door Loses Its Strength Over Time

One of the first signs of a house getting old is the doors. Since they are used so often, it’s easy for them to hang from the hinges. This doesn’t mean they will be literally hanging as if by a thread, but you will notice a difference in how easily the door closes, then the house has definitely aged. As time goes on, the force of gravity will exert itself onto your door and the hinges will get weaker as time goes on.

This results in the door slightly drooping down on the other side of the hinges, even cracking in certain places. Hanging doors are a common issue with older homes, but they can even show up in ones that are 5 years old. It all depends on how strong the hinges are, the quality of the wood used, the door paint, and whether or not you have a household slammer. Luckily these common household problems can be easily fixed by hiring a carpenter who can trim certain endings of the doors that have expanded or alternatively tighten them to the hinges in such a way that they will not come loose again.  

Uneven Floors

How Annoying an Uneven Floor Can Get

How Annoying an Uneven Floor Can Get

Uneven floors can become a real problem in old homes, even ones that have not aged all that much. As time goes on, even within the span of 30 years, the foundation under your home may give way as the ground below it shifts. This is completely natural, but should not be tolerated. It is very easy to tell when the floor isn’t perfectly leveled and it can get quite irritating when you feel the little slope in the room.

Fortunately for owners of homes that are around 30 years old, leveling a floor is really not that expensive. Unless every square inch of your flooring is uneven, you can expect to pay around $500 to level out the floor in one room. It’s a very effective way to restore your home to its prime and keep it looking fresh. 

Tastefully Vintage (50 Years Old)

Around the age of 50, most buildings will have already begun to show signs of weakness and the major flaws begin to surface. This does not mean that they are no longer liveable or are on the verge of collapse. Simply put: they are on their way to getting old but are still quite serviceable. Houses built using high-quality construction materials and that have been properly maintained by their owners will have absolutely no problems getting to 50 years. But some problems are going to make themselves known once a house gets to the bicentennial mark.

Less Heat-Retentive Windows

How Much Window Replacements Are Going to Cost You

How Much Window Replacements Are Going to Cost You

Ever stand next to a window and feel a draft blowing through almost like there is no window, to begin with? This is because windows are among the most obvious signs of a home not being up to modern standards. As time goes by, the wooden frame of the windows gets warped and can no longer retain the interior heat. Add to that how older windows were significantly less heat retentive and you have yourself a chilly interior.

A good way to modernize your old house is to start with the windows. Update them by installing double pane glass windows. Each window is going to cost you anywhere from $400 to $700 so based on this you can calculate how much the entire project is going to cost you. 

Underperforming HVAC 

The Advantages of New HVAC Systems

The Advantages of New HVAC Systems

Even in the 70s and 80s, HVAC technology was already pretty compact and very efficient. With a small condenser barely taking up any room in your backyard you could keep your entire home air crisp and cold. But while the technology has stayed relatively the same, there are still some modern advancements that will need a little updating.

First and foremost: energy efficiency. It’s no secret that the 20th century was not exactly the most eco-friendly era of humanity. Modern HVAC systems are a lot more sustainable and work more efficiently with less power. Another important factor is the noise. Older HVAC units used to be very noisy, especially when they were working on full power, which can be a real bother to your household and your neighbors when everyone is trying to sleep. Luckily replacing an old HVAC unit is quite easy takes very little time. 

Oldies and Goldies (70 Years Old)

These are houses that are well past their prime but are still very attractive in their own right. With some responsible ownership and regular maintenance, houses as old as 70 years can make for a charming abode and a slice of history in one. 

Plumbing Problems In Old Homes

Replace Your Clay Plumbing With Something More Sturdy

Replace Your Clay Plumbing With Something More Sturdy

Plumbing issues in older homes are quite common. Most homes stopped using clay sewer piping around the 60s to 70s. Unfortunately, many houses that were built before that decade still had them and may have them to this day. This isn’t to say that clay pipes don’t make for good drainage; they do, just not under certain circumstances. Unlike more modern materials, such as PVC, clay pipes don’t work too well under pressure. They crack under pressure, can easily break if plant roots get to them, and have a 50 to 60-year lifespan. So a 70-year-old house will definitely have gone past this threshold.

Replacing clay pipes is going to be somewhat costly. Depending on the linear feet of piping that is going to be replaced you can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000. When you consider how all that ground has to be dug up and the piping replaced, this price tag does make sense. So if you’re planning on purchasing a home that’s past the 70-year mark, make sure you know about the piping. 

Lead Paint

Why It’s Important to Get Rid of Lead Paint

Why It’s Important to Get Rid of Lead Paint

Do you know that old house smell that you love so much? Well, you won’t enjoy it as much once you learn about the myriad of health risks that come with it. From headaches, memory loss, and muscle pain, to a reduced sperm count, and even miscarriages. Yes, it’s all very scary and yes, this kind of paint can be found in homes that are over 70 years old.

Lead paint was banned in the late 70s, so this still leaves us with a very large number of houses that may still have it. It goes without saying that lead paint and other lead-based construction materials need to be dealt with. The problem with lead paint, aside from all the health risks, of course, is that it can cost at least $10,000 to completely get rid of, and this is just the starting price. For houses over 2,000 square feet, you can expect the price to go up into the $20,000s, even $30,000 depending on how much lead paint is still inside your home. It’s a huge undertaking and you should be ready for it if you’re buying an old house or selling one that’s over 70 years old. 


Reasons You Should Check For Asbestos In Your Home

Reasons You Should Check For Asbestos In Your Home

We should be happy that we have such high safety standards these days. If there is one construction material that will make you appreciate how far construction technology and material have come, it would be asbestos. Used all the way back in the 19th century as a way to insulate homes, this threaded material could be found in roofs all across the country. Unfortunately, it could also be found in your lungs if you spent too much time breathing it in. Not only that but it was also used in other products as well, from clothing irons to literal blankets that were draped over people.

The dangers of asbestos came into the spotlight in the 60s, when a link between the material and lung cancer was discovered. In the 1970s, federally issued warnings would go out, telling homeowners to refrain from installing asbestos, and to this day this material is still not banned. So, if you are about to purchase a house that was built 50 years ago, make sure to check for asbestos lining in your roof and walls. This is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of everyone who lives in your home.

Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan