In 2015, the home improvement industry was expected to be worth approximately 678 billion dollars, and the growth has not stopped since then. If you scroll through any TV streaming platform, you’ll find a variety of shows that are based around buying a home that needs repairs in order to resell or live in. If you’re ready to purchase an old home with the intent to fix it up, here are some things you should check out before you sign the papers.
The very first thing you should do when buying a home that needs repairs, whether to flip it or for yourself, is to schedule an inspection. An inspector doesn’t just do mold inspections on old homes, they’ll check the electricity, plumbing, HVAC, foundation, and almost every other area of the home to make sure that there are no huge issues and that the home is habitable.
One common and dangerous thing found in old homes is asbestos. Asbestos is a heat-resistant, fibrous material that was used in insulation. It was used very popularly in the building industry for many years. In fact, any house built before the 1980s is thought to contain asbestos. While it was used very popularly, it’s actually a very dangerous material for human health. The material has the ability to break down into microscopic fibers which can lodge in human lungs and cause cancer. If an inspector finds asbestos in your house, make sure to schedule an asbestos removal immediately before you begin any sort of renovation for both your health and the health of any works.
Check The Water System
Another important check an inspector will make when they come into your home is the water system. Especially in old homes, old pipes or water heaters can pose problems like leaks that will cost lots of money to repair. It’s better to catch the issues early on while they’re manageable. Even if there aren’t any noticeable problems, it’s smart to schedule water heater services and repair just to protect your systems for any future problems.
If you live in an older house or use well water, a popular option is to add water softeners to your water system. Water softening is a technique where minerals like calcium and magnesium that make water “hard” are removed. Softened water will make your dishes look shinier when you clean with it, is overall better for your hair and skin, and can make the fabric on your clothes hold up longer.
When buying a home that needs repairs, you may also consider scheduling a drain line cleaning. If a home hasn’t been inhabited in a while, you never know what could be backing up the drains in your kitchen and bathrooms. A drain line cleaning will pump out any buildup and keep your drains running smoothly.
Another system an inspector will check when you’re buying a home that needs repairs is your HVAC. Not only do they want to ensure that it’s running properly, but they also want to check that there is no mold or other hazardous material that could be pumped through your house via the airflow. A simple check of the HVAC system will find these issues if they exist, but you’ll want to get a more thorough check to make sure the heating and cooling aspects work properly and that there are no elevated levels of carbon monoxide.
You can request an HVAC maintenance record from the previous owners if available to see what previous issues there may have been and check when the system was last replaced. If it’s been over 10-15 years, it’s probably time to call an HVAC company to come and replace your system.
Another important thing to check for when buying a home that needs repairs is pests, especially if the house you are looking at buying has been sitting empty for a while. There are more common pests like rats and bugs, but there are some other pests that can cause huge problems during renovations. Here are the pests you need to worry about and check for when buying a home that needs repairs:
- Rats: Rats can cause serious damage to your home by chewing through wood and wiring in your walls. The damage they cause can cost you thousands of dollars to repair if not caught quickly. They also carry other pests and diseases that can be detrimental to the health of you and your family. When checking out a potential home to buy, look for shredded paper or other nesting materials and droppings, especially behind appliances and in cupboards.
- Bats: Bats are dangerous again for both your home and your health. The droppings they leave are toxic if inhaled, and they can gnaw through the material in your roof and attic and cause problems. If you find that there are bats in the home that you are going to buy, getting rid of them is easier said than done. It’s illegal to kill bats and a few of the species are on the endangered list. Bat exclusion is a technique some use to get rid of them. It involves setting up a one-way net that allows the bats to leave, but not get back into your home. Keep in mind that there are certain times of the year that bat exclusion can be done, during late summer and early spring.
- Termites: Termites are especially dangerous to homes because they chew through wood and can cause significant structural damage to your home. When buying a home that needs repairs, make sure to check for signs of termites. This includes holes in wood, sagging floors, and wood that sounds hollow when you tap on it. Some of these signs are also things that come with an old home, so make sure to get a specialist out to check before you jump to any conclusions.
- Carpenter Ants: Carpenter ants are similar to termites in that they destroy wood in homes. However, they do not actually eat the wood, rather they leave it behind in a material that looks like sawdust. They build nests in the wood they have chewed out that is either old or damp. Carpenter ants pose a threat to the structure of your home and can make it dangerous to live there. Make sure to get a pest control company out to clear your home if you find signs of carpenter ants.
A common point of concern people face when buying a home that needs repairs is the roof. Old roofs that haven’t had repairs in a while will have missing shingles or tiles that can let it water or other materials and pests. If a roof is installed correctly and well maintained, it can last up to 30 years. Make sure to get as much information on the roof as you can from the seller or previous owner. Check the gutters to make sure the drainage system is working. An inspector can check for issues like dry rot that will cause sagging and crumbling. Whether the roof has been in place for around 30 years or there are other issues, it’s probably a good idea to hire a company to perform roof repair services. Even if they simply replace a few missing or damaged shingles, it’s better to spend a smaller amount now to make repairs than to spend thousands down the road to fix water damage or a crumbling roof.
When buying a home that needs repairs, you’ll likely have already checked out the exterior of the home. It may even be what drew you to the house in the first place. While the aesthetics of the exterior are important, there are a few areas you should also check before buying the home to make sure it’s habitable.
As you walk around the exterior of the home, you’ll want to check for signs that there could be issues with the foundation. One tell-tale sign of foundation issues is a tilted chimney. If the home you’re looking at has a chimney, check it out to check for any shifting or signs that the foundation may be off. Another big sign of foundation problems is cracks in walls and even the foundation itself. If you see cracks in the exterior walls or the cement around the foundation of your home, you’ll want to have a specialist check to make sure it’s not a bigger issue.
Another thing to check out that is often forgotten is the pavement and sidewalks around the home. If there are big trees on the property, growing roots could lift the sidewalks and pose hazards. If the house has asphalt driveways, check for sinkholes or cracks that could be signs that tree roots are causing the damage. While these issues might seem like they warrant basic repairs, removing huge tree roots is a much bigger project than it seems.
When buying a home that needs repairs, checking the sewer lines can often be an afterthought. If there are problems, they are not usually visible and fall into the thought, “out of sight, out of mind”. However, getting a sewer inspection is one of the most important things you should check when buying a new home. You want to know all the issues before you buy the house, not after you’re already committed.
When it comes to issues with sewer lines, it’s not just backups you have to worry about. Tree roots can often damage the pipes or grow into them. Even if chemicals coming through the pipes kill them before they grow too big, they could have already damaged the pipes and caused leaking which is a nasty problem to clean up.
If your house runs on a septic tank, you’ll have to make sure that it has the proper maintenance and cleaning. Septic tank maintenance consists of regular pumping to remove grime and sludge buildup. It should also be regularly inspected for leaks and other issues.
Before buying your new home, make sure that you know which kind of system the house runs on and if it has been well maintained. This knowledge could save you thousands of dollars for repairs in the long run.
Last but not least on the list of things you need to check when buying a home that needs repairs is the electrical system. Electrical systems on old homes were built for completely different purposes. They could not have guessed the kind of technology that would be used in modern homes. When you have your inspector check your home, ensure that they are checking on what type of electrical system is used in your home. Different systems can handle different amounts of electricity being used at once. Older systems could have damage for use or even from pests. It’s a good idea to find a few local electrical contractors you trust to work with restoring and renovating the electrical system in your home.
Buying a new home is an exciting time, especially if you’re planning to really give an old home a facelift. Take care to check all of the previously mentioned points of your home to ensure that you don’t have any unexpected issues during the renovation process. As long as it passes all inspections and doesn’t have signs of any issues, you should be good to go. Happy renovating!