What Every Family Should Look For When Buying an Older Home

Want to hear the latest from our crazy life? Our house is getting ready to go on the market! I must say, I really do love our home, but we need a tad bit more space since the girls have arrived. Not only that, but, being that the hubby and I both grew up out in the country and not in a subdivision, we would like for the twins to have a similar experience. We think we may have found what we want, but not entirely sure yet. Right now it’s all about paperwork – wohoo!

As we were putting together our list of “wants” in our next home, one of our “okays” was on an older home. I think older homes sometimes have more character to them, and more opportunity for placing a distinct touch on them, too! So when blogger Damien Justus sent me a post on the things we should look for when purchasing an older home, well, I KNEW I needed to read it! He makes some excellent points, too! Read on…

older home

Prudent homebuyers determined to buy an older home must proceed cautiously or risk expensive problems down the road. While there are always practical arguments to be made for favoring newer homes that are less likely to need repairs in the near future, the charms of an old home are many and appeal to a large number of people. Due diligence efforts prior to signing the contract are particularly important to evaluate an older home’s electrical systems, lead paint dangers, and bugs.

Electrical System

One undeniable difference between most older homes and new construction relates to electricity demands. According to Consumer Affairs, many of the older homes rely on 100 amp service as compared to the 200 amp service built in modern homes. Since large HVAC systems and the large appliances currently being sold require a 200 amp service, upgrading an older home’s electrical system can cost thousands of dollars. Careful shoppers must calculate for this type of expense or buy an older home that has already been modified to satisfy today’s electrical demands.

Lead Paint

Lead paint was banned in 1978 due to the realization that the paint was very dangerous. Lead poisoning can cause cardiac arrest and negatively impacts a child’s brain. For this reason, homes built before 1978 may have lead paint. Homebuyers should not assume that all older homes that predate the ban have lead paint, since many don’t. Considering the dangers of lead paint, it makes sense to hire a certified lead paint inspector to check out a home before agreeing to the purchase. As reported by US News, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead paint removal costs an average of $10,000. This is a job best left to the professionals, since lead dust should be avoided at all cost.

Bug Infestations

Termites and other bugs can be a big problem in old homes. As reported by the Washington Post, What Every Family Should Look For When Buying an Older Home

the U.S. Environmental Agency assesses the damage caused by wood-destroying insects like termites to be in the billions. While the termite seems to attract the most attention, Powderpost beetles are also a nuisance and can do considerable damage as well. Older homes with leaks offer these bugs perfect conditions to thrive.

Hiring an inspector before investing in an older home can save a buyer from making a big mistake. Since termites often remain out of sight, it makes sense to hire pest control professionals who know how to find them. While bug infestations can be treated, in some cases the damage is so extensive that the repairs can cost thousands.

Whether you are buying a home in a for sale by owner negotiation or with the help of a real estate agent, deciding on who pays for the termite inspection is negotiable. While It is customary for the buyer to pay for the termite inspection, this expense is negotiable and usually not a huge expense in relationship to repairing the damage.


There are predictable problems with older homes that can be evaluated prior to a purchase so that homebuyers can carefully budget for a new home including the cost of possible upgrades that might be necessary. Hiring a reputable general inspector to assess a home’s electrical system, plumbing, HVAC, foundation, and safety concerns is a prudent and crucial step for any homebuyer, and especially important for purchasing an older home.

Cutting corners on these inspections is a high-risk proposition. Specifically, extra attention should be given to pest inspections, electrical systems and lead paint concerns. Predictably, most older homes will have some problems. The objective for homebuyers is to identify an older home that does not have major problems that will be expensive.

This is so helpful, thanks so much, Damien! I totally agree with him – it’s so much better to find things out in the beginning than after you have already purchased the property and moved into it! 

If YOU were in the market for a new home (hey, maybe you already are!) would you buy an older home or a newer one?

Due to the amount of comments from all of my wonderful readers, it is not always possible for me to respond to each one. However, I absolutely do read them all, and if you’d like to address something specific, or have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to email me at Kristen@theroadtodomestication.com. I will respond to your email as soon as possible! Thank you for visiting the blog!

11 thoughts on “What Every Family Should Look For When Buying an Older Home

  1. Excellent article. I wish I had seen this 2 years ago when we bought an older home. We weren’t allowed to do a preliminary walkthrough but once before closing. There were a lot of hidden expenses, mostly cosmetic, but still not seen by us. It hasn’t been too bad otherwise, but we might have purchased a new house had we known the extent of additional expense we were going to have.

  2. We had a home inspection done before we bought our house. It’s required here in MA and he looked for all of these things.

  3. I love the character of older homes, but it’s true that there are a whole bunch of extra things to consider when buying one. I’ll have to keep these tips in mind.

  4. I guess I’m like overly cautious or something. Both times we purchased ur homes, I refused to look at older homes. Because of these reason! Especially the bug scare. But if you have inspectors, it is more than OK to buy older homes. I’m just weird I guess, haha!

  5. Check the wiring. I cannot stress this enough! We ended up having to redo all of ours after we bought the house. I would have asked for a serious price reduction if I knew how bad the wiring was.

  6. This is a great article. Buying home is not like buying clothes. while purchasing a home you need to take care of many things as you have mentioned. So I am planning to buy my dream home, and I am gonna look after all these issues.

  7. Oh God, termites. They’re a total nightmare! We’ve been contemplating on having our house renovated or moving to a different place because of those nasty creatures!

  8. You simply cannot cut corners when you’re planning to buy a house. It’s important that you check every nook and cranny. It’s a huge investment and you don’t want to spend more money after finding out the problem areas.

  9. These are all good points. And whoa whoa whoa to the electrical one. I wouldn’t have ever thought of that… not knowing the requirements to run the newer appliances was so much higher. This is a very helpful article. Good luck to you with your paperwork and home buying. 🙂

  10. We are actually in the process of buying an older home right now. At first I was worried about the possible issues that could occur, but a lot has already been updated, and the house itself is in great shape. You made some great points about things to watch for!

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