Older homes have a certain charm that simply cannot be replicated. The delicate moldings, the high ceilings, and the ample space are the dreamy stuff of which Pinterest pages are made. These are also elements that aren’t easily found in newly built houses since efficiency, small space, the constant rezoning of districts, and a few other factors now influence the sorts of homes we have access to.
Style has taken a back seat to boring McMansions littering the landscape. So, when you find a gem of an old home, leap on the opportunity to buy it before someone else nabs it or a local developer decides to demolish the house and turn it into a strip mall or parking lot. The good thing about most old houses is that they come with fairly affordable price tags, even in the tiniest of neighborhoods.
However, there’s a catch: they will need some TLC. Some range from being your run-of-the-mill fixer-upper, while others are going to take a pretty penny to turn into a real investment piece – let alone a habitable abode. If you’ve just purchased a charming old house or are thinking of doing so, the following are a few things you need to be on the lookout for right away. While the house will undoubtedly be worth the investment, you will need to do a few things ASAP before you could safely move in and call it home.
Inspect The Roof
The roof over your head – so to speak – is perhaps the most important part of the home’s infrastructure. If it’s not taken care of, it can create enormous damage to your furniture, the rest of your home’s infrastructure and may even injure or kill you or a family member.
So, why take the risk? The professionals at Asset Roofers and Siding recommend that you get a professional to inspect the roof of your newly bought house before you move in so that you are well aware of what the problems could be and how to fix them. A dilapidated roof is often one of the first things that go under with truly old homes, and they’re something that new homeowners should be careful about fixing.
An inspection could tell you if some of the sidings need to be fixed, or if the shingles can be replaced, or whether or not the gutters are full of dirt, debris, leaves, and your assorted junk causing them to work inefficiently. Or perhaps there’s been some significant damage due to a raucous thunderstorm or hurricane that requires attention. Regardless, try to prioritize this on your task list well before actually trying to move into the house.
Also, since you’re most likely buying a fixer-upper, you may be considering redecorating. Getting the roof inspected will help you figure out the extent to which you’d like to, say, invest in pretty shingles that complement the home’s trim. Or, add some beautiful victorian style etchings to the exterior to help revive the home’s original design. Whatever the case may be, make sure to dedicate some time to the roof’s structural integrity, as well as outlining how you’d like to spruce it up before moving in.
When moving into an old home, there are a few safety precautions you absolutely need to prioritize. Chief among them would be installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors straight away. Don’t entertain the thought of moving in without having these important safety tools installed.
Carbon monoxide, known as the silent killer, has been known to seep into homes and kill off people in their sleep – it’s a frighteningly common occurrence. A fire alarm is, of course, a no-brainer. While your old home is probably sturdier than anything built these days, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t go up in smoke just as easily. Safety should always come first, especially when you’re buying an older home that would need a lot of modern updates to bring it up to code.
Carpets? Get Rid Of Them!
The flooring of most older homes is usually hardwood floors or even ceramic tiles in some rooms. Unfortunately, you may be buying the house from tenants who moved in during the 1970s and 80sand decided that wall-to-wall carpeting was the way to go. If your house has carpeting in any or all of the rooms, then make sure to remove them.
Whether you hire the professionals or feel handy enough to go at it alone, make sure that every dingy piece of carpeting is torn away from the floors. Since this is an older home, there are probably moldy bits hiding in different places and pools of bacteria wantonly breeding, invisible to the naked eye. No amount of buffing with soap and water will clean the carpets properly – in fact, that might make the problem worse and create even more mold. So, nip it in the bud and remove the old carpeting right away.
If the house doesn’t have carpets at all but comes with hardwood floors, then hurray! That’s great. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean less work. In fact, you should do all you can to restore and clean up the hardwood floors since they can look sad and murky over time.
Roll up your sleeves, grab some wood polish, and whip the floors into shape. Of course, make sure to mop first, dry, then add the wood polish and dry again. The process may take a few days, but it’s completely worth it. You’ll have beautiful microbe-free floors for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.
Some older houses have been abandoned for decades. Maybe people have managed to squat in it on and off for years at a time, and it may have a certain reputation amongst locals as a place to crash. Or, maybe that’s not the case, and it’s been locked up securely for a while, and you’re sure that no one in the town has a spare set of keys that allows them free entry into the house.
In all cases, it would be a smart move for you to remove the current locks and replace them with new ones that feel more safe and secure while also getting a fresh set of keys that only you and your family members have access to. When taking over an older house that’s been vacant for a long while, it only makes sense to take extra precautions to ensure its safety.
Clear Out Garbage
No matter how precise you were when purchasing your home, chances are, the real estate agent didn’t go through the rounds of trying to make the house super presentable and Instagram-worthy. There are many variables in this scenario, and it’s because older homes are usually purchased via less well-trodden methods on the real estate market. That’s ok; it’s one of the charms of the process.
However, that also means you may have a ton of work to do beforehand. Another thing you may not have banked on when deciding to invest in an older home is just how much cleaning you’ll end up doing. There will be a ton of garbage you’ll want to remove from both inside and outside the home in the front and back yards. Maybe there were a few broken windows, causing a bunch of refuse to blow inside, or little critters to hole up and make their homes before setting out to pasture.
Regardless, be prepared for the fact that you’ll need to bring along a few huge trash bags and will spend a day or two shoveling refuse outside the house before you can even begin to make major changes.
Do An In-Depth Cleaning
This has already been mentioned in various ways throughout this article, but you really can’t put too fine a point on it: you absolutely need to do an in-depth cleaning, inside and out, before moving into the house. It may be the most tiring aspect of the process, but completely and one hundred percent necessary.
The best time to do it would be just before you move in or on the day you actually move in. You can hire an expert team to help you out if you’re not sure you have enough manpower to do it alone. Otherwise, grab your cleaning gloves, a surgical mask, mops, and bacteria-nuking cleaning supplies to get started. You might have to wash the walls, all light fixtures, and every single surface, but it will be well worth it.
Set Up The Utilities
Whether you’re moving from an apartment or another home, the chances are that setting up your utilities felt like a breeze. Unfortunately, that may not be the case when getting set up in an older home. This is often because space may have been vacant for so long that the companies will take a bit longer or ask you for more paperwork to help get everything set up properly.
So, make sure to set aside enough time to do all the work of making sure that the electricity, gas, water, heating, phone, internet, and cooling system are all set up and running perfectly. Also, the local waste management facility must be called and notified about new tenants moving into a home in the area and that they will have to schedule regular garbage pick up at the house from here on out.
Try to prioritize doing all this early on in the moving process since the last thing you need is to feel completely isolated in a cold and dark home for days on end when you should really be enjoying your new house and the fruits of your labor.
Find Electricity And Water Sources
If you’re purchasing a huge and old home, the last thing you want to do is to go around scrambling for the fuse box in an emergency. Try to find out where the sources of electricity and water are from the outset in case the power goes out, for example.
Usually, the fuse will be in the basement or garage, whereas the water valve will be right outside your house. Either way, make sure you know the configuration of your house well ahead of time so that you know how to take care of things when a problem hits.
Inspect The Attic And Basement
If you’re purchasing an older house, chances are, you’ll have both an attic and a basement. The extra space is, of course, lovely, but it may also mean that you have to be detail-oriented about cleaning and all the various nooks and crannies that may wreak havoc in your home.
The attic and basement are necessary to the home’s infrastructure, although they’re also potential breeding grounds for all kinds of headaches. For starters, there may be potential sources of leaks that you weren’t previously aware of or batches of mold growing in certain areas that need to be dealt with right away before becoming a bonafide health hazard.
You may also be suffering through a bug infestation without even realizing it. Also, if your house has a crawl space that does not come with a vapor barrier, then make sure to get one installed so that you do due diligence with all the pesky sources of bacteria as soon as you can.
Test The Sump Pump
Before it rains and inclement weather starts up again, you should check the sump pump and ensure that it is working properly. If you don’t make sure to take care of this early on, the chances of water damage ruining your newly renovated property are worryingly high. Do this by dumping a bucket or so of water to see if the pump kicks into gear; if it does, then you’re in good shape.
Buying an old house may seem like a misguided attempt by some hipsters to feel quirky and unique, with way too many hassles to count. The reality is that these older homes are actually beautifully built, and most of them have a solid infrastructure that just needs a bit of love and fine-tuning. Once you can do the necessary work, you will have purchased a beautiful home at an affordable rate while possessing a small piece of local architectural history.
- About the Author
Alex Grigoryan is a Professional Home Improvement and Lifestyle Writer. He has been in the industry for over 6 years and has been writing for Chique Home Living since 2019. His work has been featured in prestigious blogs such as Spruce Home, Better Homes & Garden, and more.