April 2021

With older homes, help your clients look before they leap

For many people, there's nothing like being charmed by the fine craftsmanship and superior materials of an older home. But before any of your buyers move ahead, encourage them to look under the hood — at the roof, in the basement, behind the walls.

Because the secrets of an older home could one day surprise them (and possibly reflect on you), it pays to have a professional home inspection. Then, depending on the results, negotiate with the seller about any concerns your clients have before they make an offer. This is especially true as we move into home buying season, with demand exceeding supply and a lot of pressure to make an offer fast. Here are five places where you should have your clients look before they leap.

Evaluate the roof

If the roof is original, make sure your clients get a detailed evaluation of its condition. The roofing material, climate and pitch all affect durability and replacement costs.Footnote1 Although original roofs could be made from wood shingles, copper, clay tiles or slate, and last longer than today's asphalt shingles, their replacement comes at a hefty price.Footnote2

Peek in the basement

A home's foundation is critical. To determine its stability, look for and point out an uneven basement slab or sloping floors, cracks in exterior and interior walls, dry rot, windows that jam and doors that don't close squarely.Footnote2 If necessary, have your buyers consult a structural engineer to make sure the foundation is safe.Footnote1

Test the HVAC system

An older home's HVAC system, including central A/C if applicable, can be a concern. Determine the age of the furnace and A/C, which could last up to 30 and 20 years, respectively. Homes built before 1960 were not designed with central cooling in mind. If the ducts haven’t been updated to accommodate A/C, upgrades may be necessary.Footnote2

Switch on the lights

Due to the lifespan of its insulation, the primary concern with wiring is safety. Pre-1960 wiring lasts around 70 years. Once the wire is exposed, there's an increased risk of electrical fire, shock and short-circuit.Footnote2 Also, an older home's wiring may not have enough outlets and amps to handle today's usage. While many older homes have 100-amp service, your clients might need 200 amps.Footnote3 Have them ask a certified electrician to evaluate the system and ensure it's up to code.Footnote1

Turn on the water

The key issue with an older home's plumbing is the condition of its pipes. The durability of a home's plumbing system largely depends on the pipe materials used, their age and the quality of their manufacturing.Footnote4

These materials run the gamut from cast iron — installed through the 1970s and lasting, under ideal conditions, for 75 to 100 years or longer Footnote4 — to copper, galvanized steel and today's most popular material, PVC plastic.Footnote2 A certified plumber can tell whether the system is reliable.

A note from your lending specialist

Whether your buyers are looking for a new or century-old house, as a lending specialist, I'm here to help.

1 "7 Considerations When Buying an Older Home," Housecall (RISMedia), Brentnie Daggett, January 28, 2019

2 "Buying an Old House? – Common Problems, Hidden Costs & Benefits," MoneyCrashers.com (©2020 SparkCharge Media, LLC), Brian Martucci

3 "Should I upgrade an old fuse electrical panel?" Green Electric & Automation, Justin Green, March 31, 2019

4 "The History and Problems of Cast Iron Sewer Lines." ©2020 Hernandez Plumbing, Kyle Haywood, September 21, 2018

MAP3465418 | 02/2021

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