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4 Common Costs Of Renovating An Older Home

State of the Housing Market

Older homes appeal to a number of home buyers. They tend to be located in great locations, are durable, come at a good price and have original features that are not found in newer houses today.

However, they may come with some problems that need to be addressed before moving in. Homes that are built before 1990 tend to be considered older, while homes built before 1920 are sometimes referred to as antique.

Whether it’s a simple fix or a big project, the cost can add up quickly. Before you decide to make the purchase, you should know how to identify potential red flags and estimate the total cost of the renovation.

What To Look For

Foundation Problems

The most costly repairs are found when there are problems with the foundation. Depending on the type of ground the house lays on, various problems can occur. Usually unstable ground, any seismic activity, and lots of moist soil over a period of time can lead to problems.

What to keep in mind:

  • Are there major cracks?
  • Is there unevenness in foundation walls?
  • Are there cracked tiles or concrete floors?
  • Look for floors that are not level.
  • Look for stuck windows and doors that fail to latch.

Estimated cost: if there are repairs or a replacement needed to the foundation, costs can quickly skyrocket up into the $20,000-$30,000 range. It is important to factor these costs into the final price of the house when looking at an older home with structural damage.

Plumbing

When searching for an older home, one should ask the previous owner or Realtor about the plumbing system. Knowing how old and what type of pipes are in the house can be handy information. Brass, copper, and PEX pipes can all last an average of around 50 years. However steel and polybutylene pipes can wear down in as little as 20 years and have more problems.

What to keep in mind:

Estimated costs: it is not uncommon to ask for the previous owner to reduce your price of the cost to replace polybutylene pipes. However, if you are paying for it yourself, whole-house pipe replacement can cost anywhere between $2,000-$5,000 depending on how many pipes are in the home.

Hazardous Materials

Three hazardous materials to know before you buy an older home are asbestos, radon, and lead. All 3 are more common in older homes and can lead to serious health consequences if not taken care of.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was used commonly as insulation in walls, pipes, and homes before the 1980s. If asbestos is enclosed properly and not exposed to the open air, it is harmless. When exposed, the asbestos fibers cause myriad health problems such as mesothelioma.

Lead, which is particularly hazardous for children, can be found in paint and plumbing systems of a home built before the 1980s. And radon is a radioactive type of gas that occurs naturally from the type of bedrock the house is built on and can cause lung cancer over long periods of exposure.

What to keep in mind:

  • The type of paint used in the exterior and interior of the home.
  • Look for exposed, crumbly asbestos in insulation, pipes, and ceilings.
  • Buy a radon test-kit to test for radon in your home.

Estimated costs: you can buy home testing kits for radon and lead to check the levels in the home. If radon, lead, or asbestos is present, it would be best to hire a professional to remove it. Lead paint removal can be done for between $8 to $15 per square foot on average. Radon can be handled for an average cost of $1,300 per home. Depending on the size of the asbestos, a wall or pipe system can cost anywhere between $750-$1,200. However, a whole house project removal of asbestos can run as steep as $18,000.

Electrical

Electrical fires, shocks, power failures, and shorts are all at an increased risk when buying an older home. And keep in mind, those houses also contain fewer outlets throughout the home, which can be a problem with all the technology we use today.

It’s important to find out the age and condition of the wiring in the home you are looking at.

What to keep in mind:

  • Look for exposed wiring out of walls and outlets.
  • Will you need to add any outlets?
  • Is there any water damage?
  • The age of the wiring used.

Estimated cost: since electrical work is dangerous, it is best to contact a local, licensed electrician, who may charge anywhere between $50-$100 an hour.

After that, the price is dependent on how many outlets, breakers, or panels need to be addressed or installed. The cost is $50-$100 per outlet, breakers are anywhere from $5-$30 dollars, and a new service panel can be the most expensive at anywhere between $200-$500 plus labor.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the list of frequent repairs above. It can still be truly beneficial to purchase an older home, but you’ll need to invest to fix the problems. Seek out skilled professionals and work from quality local resources. Before you know it, you’ll have the home of your dreams.

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