Whether you’re looking for a fixer upper for its resale value, or are a DIY enthusiast interested in restoring historic homes, there are many draws to purchasing an older home. Full of historic charm and character, these homes are often one of a kind.
In addition to the standard home inspection checklist, there are unique hazards to be aware of when buying older homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. But don’t worry- many of these issues can be mitigated: the seller may be willing to fix the issue prior to closing, or you may be able to negotiate a lower price.
Before Buying an Older Home
Here are some things to look for before buying an older home:
- Asbestos may be present in homes built prior to 1985. This fibrous material was historically used as fire-resistant insulation, but was discontinued in 1985 due to its link with lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. A home with asbestos would need to be abated by a licensed asbestos contractor prior to any renovations.
- Lead may be found in the paint, pipes and soil of homes built prior to 1978. Lead contamination can cause serious health issues, including development problems in children. Having lead in your prospective home can also impact your financing options- a lead-free certificate is required for HUD-insured loans.
- Radon is a colorless, odorless gas associated with lung cancer. Radon seeps into homes from the ground, often into basements and can occur even in newer homes. Before purchasing a home, review the EPA’s Radon Map and consider having a radon test performed.
- Groundwater Contamination: Homes near active or previously active industrial areas, regardless of their age, can have groundwater contamination. Groundwater contamination can also be due to a leaking oil tank or septic system. Consider having the home’s water tested, especially if it has its own well.
- Other Hazardous Materials: Stockpiles of paint solvents, pesticides, fertilizers and motor oil can be potentially dangerous in a home of any age. These toxic chemicals are often extremely flammable and can cause severe illness or death if ingested by children or pets. Examine all crawl spaces, garages, basements or sheds in your prospective home. If such chemicals are found, request they be removed and obtain a disposal certificate before closing on the house.
Now that you know what to look out for when buying an older home, it’s time to start house hunting!