5 Things To Consider Before Buying an Older House

When it comes to purchasing an older home, there are tons of perks! Older homes tend to be full of such personality, charm, and hold this magical piece of history. However… there are some VERY important things to keep in mind when you do purchase these types of homes. That’s exactly what I’m going to share with you in this blog post, so let’s dive right in.

#1: Be Cautious of Foundational Issues.

Older homes have a tendency to have settlement cracks, damaged support footings, and more. These problems can be VERY costly. 
A few indicators of potential foundational issues include:

  • Visible wall cracks.
  • Uneven flooring.
  • Doors or windows that have trouble opening. 

If you do see any of these as you’re walking through the home, it’s a sign that there could be some foundational problems worth looking into. 

#2: Electrical Systems.

This includes things like looking out for outdated knob and tube wiring, mainly common in houses built from 1880-1950. Although the wiring itself is not dangerous, there are extra steps to ensure the prolonged safety and value of the home. 
Since knob and tube wiring is not constructed with a grounding wire (one a hot and neutral wire), the wiring has a higher risk of causing a fire or electrical shock in outlets. For this reason, knob and tube wiring cannot come in contact with insulation, at the risk of sparking a flame. Modern homes use significantly more electricity day-to-day — older homes with knob and tube electrical wiring are unable to support the load, often resulting in short-circuiting or electrical fires.  
Most homes function with 60-amp electrical servicing, which outdated electrical systems are not apt to handle. For this reason, and those listed above, insurance companies often raise concerns about homes with knob and tube wiring.  In order to insure a home with dated knob and tube writing, an electrician must replace and renew the step-up 60 days obtaining homeowner insurance. 

#3: Oil Tank and Heating.

Well-maintained heating oil tanks have a life expectancy of 10-15 years. Make sure you exercise caution when considering a home with an oil tank — these have the potential to leak, cause house fires, and create insurance liabilities for homeowners. According to Oregon DEQ oil tanks used to heat homes are a significant source of soil and groundwater contamination. 
Thoroughly inspect the tank for damage, unstable legs, signs of leaking, unprotected oil lines, and evidence of pipe clogs. It is also important to search for evidence of a buried oil tank.  Many older homes used underground tanks to store oil that have since been converted to gas.  Finding a buried tank and making sure it is decommissioned will save you cost and potential soil contamination in the future. For oil tanks exposed to outside elements, refer to Oregon’s Alpha Environmental’s resource for underground oil tank decommissioning for further information! 

#4: Galvanized Plumbing.

Common in houses built prior to the 1960s, galvanized pipes have been coated in zinc to prevent rusting and corrosion. However, after decades of use, these pipes have (ironically) shown to rust and corrode on the inside! 
Beyond internal corrosion, galvanized pipes are known to cause low water pressure, leaks, water discoloration, and impure water quality. Here in the PNW, we take pride in our drinking water, sourced straight from the mountains — enjoy it impurity-free and replace your outdated plumbing. Consider installing copper pipes (which last 50+ years and are free of harmful materials) or polypropylene pipes (which are less expensive and can be recycled when they are eventually replaced). 

#5: Single Pane Windows + Insulation.

Although single-pane windows add to the historic character of the home, they function as poor insulators of temperature and sound. In a chilly and temperamental area such as Portland, residents rely on quality insulation to keep warm during the blustery months. If you want to maintain the classic aesthetic of the home, there are methods of insulating single pane windows without replacing them:

  • Install dense curtains to limit chilly drafts and block hot sunlight.
  • Monitor the quality of the caulk trim by replacing it periodically and prevent air leaks. 
  • Install low-E (low-emissivity) glass coating to increase temperature insulation. This invisible coating reflects heat and minimizes the amount of ultraviolet light that enters your home. 

To recap, you should be mindful of the following when it comes to purchasing an older home:

  • Potential foundational issues.
  • Electrical systems.
  • Oil tank and heating.
  • Galvanized plumbing.
  • Single pane windows and installation.

Purchasing an older home may have its perks, but there are certainly a few concerns and factors to keep in mind when doing so. Hopefully, this blog post can be a tool and resource for you as you find yourself in this situation! 
If you are looking to make a move in the near future in the Portland area, I’d be happy to help assistant in any way that I can. Don’t hesitate to reach out and connect! 

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