The allure of older homes never goes away. They only seem to become more desirable as they age. Their histories, their unconventional layouts, and their solidness make houses that are nearly 100 years or older appealing to a core group of buyers.
Some homes built a century ago feature denser and heavier wood that makes their frames twice as strong as more contemporary houses. Few if any corners were cut during construction back then.
Yet buyers interested in purchasing an older home need to realize the challenges they could face. Here are five such challenges:
1. Outdated Wiring and Plumbing
This can be an obstacle in “newer” homes, too. But it’s especially worthy of consideration in homes built before the implementation of modern building codes, as an old electrical system can spark a fire, and old plumbing can cause leaks or other water issues. Homes built before the 1970s also often lack ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection to guard against overloads and short circuits, and some electrical outlets may be two-pronged — indicating they are ungrounded and will require updating. A home inspector can help identify potential risks and help you determine the cost of repairs, which could be significant.
2. Non-standard Window and Door Sizes
Once upon a time, sizes were not as standardized as they are now — a typical modern residential window measures two feet wide by three feet tall — which means that window coverings you purchase for the new house, or ones you bring to it from your existing residence, might not fit properly. This also could present challenges when replacing windows and doors. Custom blinds and shades cost more, as do custom doors. So plan accordingly.
3. Potentially High Radon Levels
Radon issues, like wiring and plumbing issues, are not limited to older homes. Many homes built within the past 20 years can register disturbingly high radon levels. But the chances of radon and other odorless gasses — including toxic ones like carbon monoxide — silently inhabiting an older home are far greater. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States among non-smokers. Radon test kits are available from Wisconsin Radon Information Centers
, and if elevated radon levels are found, more than 100 radon mitigation contractors
in Wisconsin are nationally certified to install radon mitigation systems. And be sure to install new carbon monoxide detectors on every level of an older home.
4. Fieldstone and Limestone Basements
Fieldstone and limestone foundations are the most common in homes 100 years or older. They’re ultradurable and can last for centuries, according to Basementing
, but the stacked rocks and mortar can crumble. Such foundations also could make finishing a fieldstone or limestone basement challenging and costly, requiring the resolution of any stability and safety issues, water seepage, and potential building code violations. In some cases, finishing a basement might not be worth the time and investment, and buyers of old homes need to be okay with that.
5. Wi-fi Woes
Although not as common as some of the other obstacles when buying an older home, internet compatibility and Wi-Fi signals might be an issue. That’s because of the materials used to build the walls, according to MyMove
. “While every material can block a Wi-Fi signal to some extent, homes built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are built from much sturdier (and less economical) materials than today’s homes,” the website notes. “Modern homes are also designed with wiring in mind, which makes it easier to install home internet connections like cable internet or even fiberoptic internet.”
Purchasing an older home can be a dream come true, especially if you’re prepared for the obstacles you might encounter along the way. As always, I’m here to help.