The right historic home can offer unparalleled craftsmanship and unique charm for a great price. But older homes can also come with problems like structural or foundation issues, or outdated wiring.
Like any investment, before buying a 100-year-old house, you’ll want to weigh the benefits alongside any potential risks. It’s not unlikely that your charming older home will come with a host of repairs that can cost you a pretty penny.
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The pros of buying a 100-year-old house
Older homes can have more unique, ornate embellishments than newer homes, like crown moldings or stained glass windows, which can make your home feel more timeless. It's highly unlikely that your house will look exactly like your neighbors, unlike modern developments being built today. Plus, you also get to brag that you own a piece of history!
More space and good locations
Older homes are often built on larger lots when cities had more space, and developers weren't trying to put as many cookie cutter homes as possible in one neighborhood. This could mean more square footage for you—inside and out!
Older homes often come with larger yards than homes built in modern suburban developments. Plus, you're likely to find large sitting areas that were originally meant for entertaining.
It’s also common for older homes to have been built near the heart of a city, potentially making it easier to walk to local restaurants, theaters, and museums.
Older homes often have been built with more solid structural materials—like stone, brick, or thicker wood—that were intended to last. This is particularly true of houses on a masonic foundation, featuring solid brick or concrete walls on top of wood framed flooring.
While usually up-to-code and built to be structurally sound, newer homes aren’t always built with longevity in mind. As many developers are looking to cut down on construction costs and are built faster, many new homes have more inexpensive materials—like drywall—that can be easily damaged.
Lower property taxes
Because of depreciation, general wear and tear, or lack of upkeep older homes are usually assessed at lower values than newer homes. This may mean you owe less in annual property taxes if your home has a lot of original features.
However, renovations can bring the value of an older home back up. If you’re planning to update your kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances or blow out an old wall to expand your living room, you may want to consider how that will impact your yearly taxes before you take out the hammer.
Lower sales prices
Older homes often end up selling for less than newer ones because they commonly require updates, so you may find one in your budget more easily.
For example, if a house in the neighborhood you're eyeing typically goes for $400,000, but you're expecting $100,000 of renovations, you might be able to swing a $300,000 offer.
The cons of buying a 100-year-old house
Potential structural or foundation problems
Even with solid materials, homes can develop structural or foundation problems over time.
As you tour an old home, keep an eye out for major cracks in the home’s foundation or basement walls. Sloping floors and cracks in walls can be a symptom of a home’s natural settling, but severe examples could signal structural problems, too.
If you’re interested in a 100-year-old home but are concerned about its structure, you can seek out the opinion of a structural engineer before closing the deal.
Outdated wiring or plumbing
An older house can also come with an older electrical system, which can also come with safety hazards. For example, electrical wiring installed pre-1960 typically has a lifespan of 70 years. If your wiring hasn't been updated, this could lead to short-circuiting or an electrical fire.
Similarly, old plumbing systems can lead to issues as pipes can be corroded or tree roots can clog pipes. This can lead to a risk of water leaks and resulting damage, or even flooding, which can contribute to
moldand mildew growth—particularly since older homes have worse ventilation.
Keep in mind,
insurancewon’t cover damage due to normal wear and tear, so it will be important to update these systems to keep you and your house safe.
Old homes that haven’t seen many updates may still be housing hazardous materials that aren’t used in homes anymore.
It’s possible for older homes to contain lead-based paint, older water pipes could also expose you to lead, and your home could be insulated with asbestos. Replacing these features can be costly—getting rid of asbestos alone can cost $20,000-$30,000—but it would be important to make sure you and your family are safe.
An older home with older windows might be poorly insulated, which could mean higher energy costs for you until they’re replaced. You could pay as much as $600 in heating costs because of the lack of insulation.
Materials used in older homes, like wood siding, can be particularly inviting for pests—especially if the home hasn’t been occupied for a while. Termites are a particularly common pest in older homes as termite colonies can take residence in the drywall or wood. Renovations from termite damage can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to $10,000.
Before buying an old home, make sure your home
inspectorhas searched for signs of pests so you can avoid costly repairs later.
Reselling may be difficult
For the same reason you may have gotten the deal you did in the first place, potential buyers may be wary of buying an older home.
These homes are often known as "fixer-uppers" for a reason, and the savings upfront will probably go into updating the house. Buyers might not want to throw down a lot of money for the house just to pay $5,000-$24,000 when the roof starts leaking a month after they move in.
Are older houses more expensive to insure?
Your home’s age can have a big influence on your
home insurance premium. Older homes often do cost more to insure because damage due to wear and tear becomes likelier as time goes on.
Additionally, if you live in an old home with more ornate features like crown moldings, these elements are expensive to reproduce, which can drive up the rebuild cost of your home, which in turn results in a higher premium.
Finding affordable home insurance
If you’ve decided to buy a 100-year-old house, you’ll want to make sure you’re protected by the right home insurance policy. The
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Is buying an old house a good investment?
Buying an old home can be a great investment, but look out for significant structural problems and other potentially costly issues before making an offer.
Are old houses bad to buy?
Old homes can be a great investment, but it’s important to keep in mind what kinds of updates it will need over time. You also don’t want to be caught off guard by hazardous wiring or structural issues if you don’t have the financial resources to address them.