Brick house vector art - buying an old home

What to consider when buying an old house

By Gretchen Theisen

October 2017

Ahhhhh, charming older homes. They offer a sense of history; a glimpse into the past. While looking for an older home, you might stumble across such treasures as an icebox door, a vintage stove, gas lighting or even a horse stable as a garage. The magical appeal of older homes draws us in to a world of nostalgia and beauty.

It’s not just charm that’s attractive, though. Another advantage of an older home is sometimes not so much when it was built, but how it was built. Many older homes have stood the test of time.
But sometimes charm comes at a price. An older home can disguise its problems, and you might discover expensive flaws when it’s too late.
Older homes have the reputation of being money-eaters. When you update something, it can easily escalate into other projects. When I expanded my second-floor bathroom, the contractor noticed that the entire second floor was sinking due to a botched prior renovation. We gave my house a chiropractic uplift, delaying the project and costing thousands of dollars more. I learned the hard way – make sure you have available finances for any restoration or renovation hiccups along the way.
Where can you get that money? Talk with your loan officer about financing options to help cover the cost of renovations. You could:
  • Use mortgage insurance to put less money down, freeing up more of your savings for projects
  • Negotiate reducing the sale price to compensate for keeping the house up to code
  • Have the buyer complete an update before the sale as part of a condition
So, what should you consider when searching for an older home? There are potentially hazardous things to look for, such as asbestos or mold, and then there are items that are just plain irritating, such as poor insulation or inefficient heating and cooling systems. Both can be costly to resolve. Check out our handy infographic for more hazards to look out for.
It really comes down to a question of priorities. Can you sacrifice a little convenience for some charm? Do you prefer to do the renovations yourself or hire professionals? Are you able to finance the mortgage to allow paying for some of the renovation? Whatever route you choose, make sure you research all the possibilities upfront. And enjoy your new charming home!
Do you have any old home renovation project stories? We’d love to hear them!
Neyva yesenia rios gomez

Thank you!


Informative info to know

Carolyn Trombley

Good idea to keep your eyes wide open.

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Gretchen Theisen lives in Milwaukee’s hipster Bay View neighborhood in a 1919 home with her 2 kitties, Sylver (a sweet fluff-bucket) and Henry (another obnoxious redhead). Gretchen loves playing music, photography, garlic, history, animals, volunteering, speaking Spanish, sarcasm, killing zombies and faking it on the accordion.
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