Written by: Ray Flynn
When you buy a house that is more than just a few decades old, you’re investing in a piece of history. And you’ll inherit all the home’s character, its mature landscaping, and most likely its quality building materials. But you also take on the added cost of bringing it up to modern times. With a little planning, you can bring out the best in your new older home.
The Functional Stuff
An older house, unfortunately, often means dated plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling. Tackle these areas first.
For the electrical, take a look at the breaker panel. Chances are, if it’s more than 25 years old, it’s time for a replacement. ABC Home & Commercial Services explains that this is not a job for even an experienced DIYer. For one, changing out the electrical components of your home is considered a major remodel, and you will likely need to obtain a permit and will most definitely have to pass an electrical inspection.
If you think it’s time to replace the plumbing, take a quick peek under the sink. Many older homes are outfitted with galvanized steel, cast iron, or lead pipes. To bring things up to modern standards, you’ll need to replace these with PVC, copper, or brass. Like with electrical, changing out the plumbing likely requires a permit.
When your home’s HVAC is more than a decade old and not operating efficiently, it’s time to replace this, too. If you have yet to buy the home, you might be able to negotiate a decrease in price to compensate. Don’t forget to replace the ductwork, otherwise you may wind up blowing decades’ worth of dust throughout your home.
The Fun Stuff
The fun remodeling jobs are those that make your house more enjoyable. These are largely esthetic and can wait until after all your systems are in working order.
The kitchen and the bathroom are likely two areas where you want to get to work. Something as simple as a coat of paint and new hardware can go a long way here. But, when you want to have a real impact, new floors and countertops are the way to go. For the countertops, you have many choices; Corian, butcher block, concrete, and granite are all popular. However, many homeowners decide to stick with the timeless look of quartz, which costs around $125 per square foot to install, according to estimates from HomeAdvisor. Quartz has the advantages of being easy to clean and stain resistant, and it won’t crack or chip.
When looking for a countertop installer, make sure they have years of experience in your material of choice. Keep in mind that it may take a few days to get the job done because they will have to level out your existing cabinets, add necessary supports, line your countertops up precisely, and seamlessly join each piece together.
The Foundational Stuff
No talk about an older home would be complete without at least mentioning the foundation. With an older home, it is not unusual to see some stair-stepping in the bricks. This is typically nothing to worry about, but true foundation problems can’t be ignored.
Make sure that you pay for a home inspection (typically costs $300 – $500), which will likely point out any major defects, like shearing in the foundation walls or cracks on the concrete pad beneath your home. Depending on the price of the property, you may be able to get an exceptional deal on a home if its foundation needs repair. You’ll just have to weigh the repair costs and inconvenience against price.
Buying an older home has its pros and cons. On one hand, it is probably in a well-established area and more than likely won’t get crowded out by cookie-cutter homes. On the other, it may take a bit of elbow grease to shine it up. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on your living situation. When you choose an older home, the function, fun, and foundation are the three areas that can make or break your decision.
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