Five Tips for Buying and Renovating an Older Home


Buying an older home and renovating it can be a great way to create your own custom space for less. Older homes often have more character, are built using craftsmanship you cannot find today, and are full of interesting history. There are five things you should consider when you are on a mission to buy an older home and renovate it.

Good Bones Matter

If you are scrolling online in search of the perfect older house, you are not alone. 44% of people in the market for a home use internet resources to look for properties. Shopping online is a great place to start, but keep in mind that there are a lot of things that are not going to be disclosed in the advertisement online. One of those things is whether or not the foundation has some issues.

Cracks that are wider than 1/8 of an inch are a problem. The term “good bones” is a popular term in rehab shows and what it refers to about a home is whether there are structural deficiencies in the home. Foundation cracks, joist issues, and other structural issues can be very expensive to repair and in some cases are unrepairable. You literally must start from scratch to correct the problem.

Structural problems can mean a giant headache. It is okay if the home you have your eye on has ugly linoleum and even holes in the ceiling, but you should avoid properties that need a lot of structural work. You can fix “ugly” but it can be very hard to fix the skeleton of a home.

Septic or Sewer? Furnace or Heat Pump?

Due diligence in buying an older home for renovation purposes is essential. You need to know about the home’s different systems so you can make an informed decision. For example, about 21 million homes in the U.S. rely on a septic system, not a municipal sewer system. Septic systems can get expensive, especially when they have not been maintained. It is important to know what you are getting into.

The same is true with the HVAC system. Is it an oil-burning furnace or an electric heat pump that keeps the house warm? It is important to know. Will HVAC need to be replaced? Is it adequate for the home?

What is Your Skill Set Like?

Americans have turned into a giant community of DIY lovers thanks to home improvement shows and online video sharing. While DIY is a great way to save money on home renovations, it is important that you consider your skill set realistically when you are choosing which old home to purchase. For example, if you are considering a home from the early 1900s that needs an entirely new electrical system upgrade to keep up with today’s demands, can you do that? Can you repair an HVAC system? Do you know what to do about mold or termites? These are all serious questions you need to ask yourself. If you cannot manage the work, you will need to hire contractors, which can really start to rack up costs.

Are There Laws That Protect The Property?

In some municipalities, buying an old home can come with a ton of red tape if the home is in the “historic district”. You may have to get permission from the historical committee to affect any renovations or changes to the property. Check to see if the property is deemed a historic home and what that may mean for your renovation plans.

Hire an Inspector

It is well worth the cost to hire a home inspector to root out any problems that may be hidden out of view. A home inspection can reveal things that are hiding in crawl spaces up on the roof and within the heating system. A home inspection can help you to make an informed decision and provide you with some negotiation power.

It can be exciting to buy an older home and do the renovations to create a space that is full of personality. You just want to make sure that you are making a wise investment.