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This includes things like looking out for outdated knob and tube wiring, mainly common in houses built from 1880-1950.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Most homes function with 60-amp electrical servicing, which outdated electrical systems are not apt to handle.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! 

LISTING – ANDY HESS

This masterpiece designed by Andee Hess of Osmose Design has just hit the market! Enjoy the luxuries and beauty that Pearl District has to offer in this stunning condo. Completely customized from start to finish – European oak floors, blackout blinds, quartz countertops, and SO much more.

Condo details and features:

EDGE 721 DESIGN
Original design by Andee Hess of Osmose Design
Construction by Hammer & Hand

Kitchen:
Granite wall & backsplash – 3 sold “Silver Fox” slabs
Island & desk – Custom powder-coated steel with European wide oak planks
Countertops – Super slim Pentalquartz
Lighting – Flos Smithfield pendant lights
Appliances – 36” Miele gas on glass cooktop, Miele speed oven, Integrated subzero refrigerator and freezer, Integrated Miele dishwasher

Living:
Flooring – European white oak, wide plank
Windows – Blackout blinds

Bathroom:
Vanity – Custom steel vanity
Shower – Terrazzo stone tiles with linear LED lighting

LISTING DETAILS:
$625,000
ADDRESS: 1410 NW Kearney St, #721, Portland, Oregon, 97209
1 Bed/1 Bath
Sqft: 1,041

Original interior design by Andee Hess of Osmose Design featured in Grey Magazine. When you walk into this space, your eyes are immediately drawn to the full wall of east-facing windows, affording you a stunning view of the Pearl District. Enjoy all the drama and refined touch this space has to offer such as European white oak flooring and blackout blinds that allow you to enjoy the vista or create your own personal oasis. A chef’s kitchen with Miele appliances and a subzero refrigerator bring function to the structural elegance of the main living area. Want more? You’ll also find stunning quartz countertops paired with custom sleek cabinetry and three solid “Silver Fox” granite wall slabs that elevates the space. The bathroom, with its terrazzo stone shower and custom vanity with storage, maximizes the space while creating a relaxing escape. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to live in a distinctive space while enjoying all the Pearl has to offer.
Get in touch to tour today!
Marissa Sainz
512-736-6111

HOMES INSPECTIONS —WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHAT TO INSPECT

You can’t know what kind of problems a home can have at first glance. As a home buyer, doing a home inspection is KEY and could save you lots of potential hassle in your transaction. Keep in mind that the goal of a home inspection is to uncover issues that may impact you in the future. Some buyers stray away due to cost or simply take the seller’s word for the property condition. I encourage you to always initiate your own home inspection report. The reality is that purchasing a home is a big deal, so let’s treat it as such—and that’s where a home inspector comes in!

Keep these factors in mind when it’s time for your home inspection:

1. Be prepared to schedule your home inspection ASAP!
As soon as you’re under contract, you’ll want to schedule a home inspection. This allows adequate time for any additional inspections that may be needed as well as negotiations with the seller. Expect about a 2-4 hour time block for this inspection to take place.  With that in mind, the written report may take a couple of days.

2. All of the critical foundations and systems of the property will be analyzed. 
Expect to have the home foundation, structural components, roof, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems inspected. The inspector will also be checking that all major appliances are functioning. They’ll look around the attic and basement or crawlspace to assess any potential issues as well. Keep in mind, it’s the inspector’s job to remain neutral. They will never give you an opinion on their findings—instead, they will provide a written report once everything is evaluated. It’s then your responsibility to analyze the results.

3. Get involved with the inspection.
Attend the inspection. You want to make sure you know the ins-and-outs of what you’re getting involved with. This allows you to explore the home in greater detail and get more information firsthand rather than reading the report afterward.

4. Plan to pay the home inspection cost.
Anticipate hiring your home inspector and fronting the home inspection cost. Typically, the buyer takes on this cost. Even if the seller can offer their own home inspection report, it’s better to be proactive as a buyer and run your own home inspection report. In general, home inspections run anywhere from $250-$600. Again, this depends on the size and location of the home.

At the end of the day, home inspections are meant to protect all parties involved. It’s always good to get a thorough examination of a property before putting yourself on the title. A quality home inspection report should always include an extensive checklist and summary of all the major systems within the property.

To recap, you should expect the following to be examined in a home inspection report:
-The structural components of the property
-The electrical systems
-HVAC
-Plumbing
-The roof
-The property foundation

You can also expect photographs and any recommendations for repairs or replacements needed.

Keep in mind that the home buying process should continue as normal even if there are minor problems mentioned on your home inspection report. Typically, you can address minor issues with the seller or seller’s Realtor to get them resolved right away. When it comes to more serious issues, you may have to look into additional inspections or negotiating the current sale price of the home. Either way – that’s what your Realtor is for! To help guide and facilitate the process.

If you’re looking to buy in the near future and want more guidance on the home inspections process, connect with me! I’d be happy to help ensure that you have a smooth transaction.

Listing Prep

Each house or condo has different needs when getting ready to go to market. With that, listing prep is essential! The goal is to make the space appealing to the most buyers. The reality is that most buyers do not want to have to take on big projects when purchasing. For example, if a kitchen is needing a remodel, a potential buyer may be apprehensive about taking that project on.

When I visit the property to discuss the listing, I am looking for a few key points and small changes we can make to help increase the appeal. These minor details could include updated paint, updated lighting fixtures, a new kitchen backsplash and/or countertops, general clean up/decluttering, and landscaping. When I’m looking at a home or condo that hasn’t sold in the past, I make it a point to focus on what may be turning buyers off and how to address that.

A few of the things I address first:
1. Decluttering and furniture placement. This will help us determine if staging will be necessary.
2. Updating paint and light fixtures.
3. Landscaping.
4. Updating the kitchen, starting with smaller items and changes. Such as touch-ups to the paint, or updating the backsplash.

Keep in mind that it is important to have trusted industry partners to help with the preparation—contractors, landscapers, stagers, and handypeople!

Check out a few examples below of listings that we were able to prep and sell successfully!

1. This home had been a rental for years and was in beat-up condition. The sellers did quite a bit of clean up, paint, and carpet. This one had a full kitchen remodel. The cabinets were painted instead of being replaced and everything else was new. Staging definitely made this space pop for buyers. This home went to market in January and sold with multiple offers in a few days.

Before:

After:

2. This home just needed a bit of a facelift to get it ready for market. In the kitchen, we replaced the countertops and added the subway tile backsplash. There were some exterior paint and touchup that needed to be done as well.  I gave the sellers a guide on how to declutter and stage each room with their existing furniture.  This home went to market in July and sold with multiple offers in a few days.

Before:

After:

3. This condo was listed by another agent for 6 months and didn’t sell.  When I walked through, one of the first things I noticed was the dark black and silver backsplash feeling very out of place for the sweet condo. So, we changed out the backsplash to a matte white subway with grey grout to match the countertops. The bedroom was a grey/green color. We painted it a fresh white and removed the dark curtains to bring in more light. Staging also helped to show the multiple areas of this condo for living and working at home. The condo is currently on the market. Check it out here.

Before:

I hope these examples and tips help you as you find yourself prepping for a listing in the future! Remember – even the smallest adjustments can make a world of a difference when it comes to selling your home. Always put yourself in the buyer’s perspective and think about what adjustments could increase the buyer’s appeal. The first priority should always lie in maintaining a clean and clutter-free space! No matter what improvements you’ve made, if you have a cluttered home, chances are the potential buyer will automatically be turned off.

Once you’ve captured a clean space, you can move on tackling other projects such as updates needed, touch-ups, and landscaping! Have you had trouble getting your home to sell? Get in touch with me today – I’d love to help and bring my expertise around listing preparation over to you.

CLOSED: A BITTERSWEET FAREWELL TO GRAHAM ST COMMONS


This wonderful property has closed! When my clients first contacted me years ago, they were looking for their first home, in an affordable and well-connected neighborhood of Portland. They were immediately attracted to this home, located in a community called Graham Street Commons, an intentional community in NE Portland (more on that below). My clients have loved living in the community and have become such good friends with their surrounding neighbors. This home was built in 2009 and was the start of a grand vision.

Now they’ve expanded their family and had the vision of more room and space to grow. We found them an awesome home in West Linn that I shared a few weeks back. It’s nothing short of impressive.

Their NE Portland home was built in 2009 and was the start of a grand vision. Graham Street Commons is a “common green” project that has 4 planned buildings. The initial vision was developed by Jeff and Susan Hartnett. They pictured a “pocket community” that would provide residential living in the heart of urban Portland. These homes were to be high quality with a low environmental impact, all at an affordable price. The Commons now has three single-family homes with a duplex yet to be built. They were ahead of their time by trying to add density in Portland’s city core, an effort now finally met by city legislature, just this year. Jeff and Susan Harnett’s approach has been repeated several times since.
It is so important to create affordable and green homes in our city. I’m excited to see more options like this one for families in the future. I am incredibly lucky to be a small part of this process. Congratulations to the new homeowners, who have an amazing community to grow into, and to my clients who have growing of their own to do! It was a pleasure working with you all!

Price: $695,000
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 
2 Full, 1 Half
Sq. Ft.: 
2,429

Looking to Buy, or Sell? Get in touch!
Marissa Sainz—512.736.6111