Perhaps you’re at the stage where you have had enough of renting and want to put down some solid roots, or you’re looking to invest in a family home for generations to come; whatever your reasons for house hunting, buying your first home is always a memorable experience – and so it should be! These days it’s less a case of trawling around the estate agent windows of the high street, and more about swiping through details on the iPad. You may decide to spend time looking into some Open House weekend visits.
If you’re looking for a home and not a house, buying older houses is a sure way to guarantee built-in character. However, everyone adores a little bit of character, so if you have decided to eschew a modern maisonette, posh penthouse, or Docklands development and step back in time, then there are some things you ought to know about buying an older house before you sign on the dotted line.
Buying Older Houses: The Considerations
Well-Preserved (Like Jam)
Buying older houses is fantastically appealing… only, however, if they’re well preserved. Graceful Georgian homes, with squarely built lines and imposing doors, are solid examples of older homes. Perhaps you adore Victorian styling or Edwardian? Large rooms, long sash windows and original fireplaces and flooring are all pretty persuading factors, especially if you are moving from a modern box.
However, tuck away those rose-tinted specs – it’s time to get real. Remember the 1986 movie The Money Pit? No? Then watch it and weep. Unless you have several long weekends with nothing to do, and a large disposable sum of cash, you might like to think twice about that solid looking red-bricked house on a leafy street in suburbia. Here are just a few pitfalls you may encounter, when buying an older home:
Lead Paint (Not like Jam)
Older houses have more layers of paint than a millefeuille custard slice. Scraping back all that history requires arms like Popeye, many hours of your time, and the lingering scent of paint-stripper. However, it can also be dangerous, as lead paint was used up until the 1970’s. According to Wikipedia, “lead paint is hazardous. It can cause nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development. It is dangerous to children because it tastes sweet, therefore encouraging children to put lead chips and toys with lead dust in their mouths”. We’re aware that you shouldn’t Google anything (you are definitely going to die from that cold), but it is dangerous and you should look at for it.
Buying older houses will most likely come with beautiful hardwood floors – which you can make gleam with wax, and original ones are always a talking point. But they also have gaps – perfect for your child to deposit your credit card – stains from where a rug once only covered the centre, bumps, old staples and nails to inflict injuries and tear tights, and are usually uneven. They may look low maintenance, but they really might not be.
Bundles of light filtering through original sash windows is unbeatable. They’re also a joy to dress, with the choice of blinds and curtaining available. However, the cords tend to perish, they can rattle, be draughty, and you may find they hike up your house insurance bill a little faster than the time it takes to hoist them open.
Before you romanticise about where to hang your Christmas stocking and certainly before you strike that match, get the fireplace checked out by a pro. It will probably need re-lining, a costly affair, but necessary if you’d rather not see your house purchase go up in smoke. Then there’s the cleaning – a small child really doesn’t do – the solid fuel bills, the mess and the smoke damage. Not to mention how much heat will escape through the chimney when left unlit.
Electric and Plumbing
You don’t think about this one until you have been jolted upright at 5 am when the heating comes on. The clanging pipework in an old property can seem like a siren at that time, and may also be another lead problem in the form of pipes. Bottled water it is then. Electrics are a whole other ball game of worry. So, have the wiring inspected and possibly replaced unless you want to really wow the neighbours next Bonfire night.
At A Fancy Home, we know if you’ve got your heart set on buying older houses then there’s not much we can do to deter you. However, now you can at least go into the buying process with a little more clarity!