by Emma Metson, Guest Contributor
Many buyers become attracted to owning an older property for many different reasons. It may be the cost of the property, the unique charm it holds, its location, or maybe because of plain sentimental value. Whatever your reason for buying or owning an older property, it is very critical that you conduct a professional house survey in order to ensure that it does not have any major faults.
If you don’t spot these problems early, these issues could cost you large amounts of money later on. To give you some tips on what to look for, here are five common issues you may face in an older property.
1. Structural Issues and Material Damage
There are many people who fall in love at first sight after seeing an older property within a few minutes because of its uniqueness and charm. Most times, this first impression greatly influence their buying decision. If the property is priced very low, this becomes an added incentive to buy the property. The intention is often to renovate the property by doing a “fixer-upper” and spend on these improvements rather than paying for a higher-priced new property.
The issues that often arise in these types of purchases are on the structural front. Older properties are notorious for having structural and foundation problems. These issues are often manifested by visible wall cracks, cracked floors, stuck windows, doors that fail to latch, and uneven floors. These issues can lead to an increased carbon footprint, higher energy bills, and even costly repairs.
Material damage is also a common issue such as termite damage and development of mold and mildew. If not resolved, these problems will not only affect the structural issues of the house but could also potentially affect the health of the people inhabiting the house.
2. Historical Limitations
If your property is listed as a historical property, there may be some limitations that you could face when you want to do any renovations or any further work. In the US, properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places may be subject to local or state preservation laws. While there are no existing restrictions under Federal Law when it comes to these types of properties, owners are still advised to check with their state historic preservation office (SHPO) before undertaking any renovation project.
In other countries, such as the UK, this is also the case as historical properties have to follow certain restrictions and at times, these limitations are even more rigorous. Older buildings and properties in the UK with historical value are categorized under grade 1, grade 2, and grade 2* classifications. While more than 92% of these properties are grade 2 listed buildings which is the lowest and most common category, property owners still have to exercise extra caution and follow restrictions so they will not face penalties. Even if owners only want to add an extension or perform upgrades on a historical building, there are still required permissions that they need to acquire.
3. Outdated building materials
Because of technology, building materials have evolved into becoming more efficient and more affordable. These modern materials can make a building more comfortable to live or work in and also more structurally safe. With older buildings, it is to be expected that the building materials used are outdated. The obvious problem would be the material’s durability but a more dangerous consequence is in situations wherein the older property is built with hazardous materials such as asbestos.
Asbestos is a fibrous material that was heavily used in construction for sound insulation and fireproofing. It was not until the late 1980s when asbestos was banned because it was discovered that the material is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases. When buying an older property built before the banning of asbestos, it will be possible that you’ll find this material used in the structure.
Getting rid of asbestos in a property can cost a lot of money. For instance, if asbestos is present in the walls to soundproof a room, you would have to spend to remove that asbestos on the walls and then pay again to perform sound proofing in that room again. It’s like building a new wall altogether. Aside from asbestos, lead is also a hazardous material that is commonly found in older structures.
4. Faulty electrical system
An older property is very likely to have a worn out electrical system that can pose safety and convenience concerns. Electrical wires, circuit breakers, panels, and outlets can all deteriorate over the years. If these are worn out, this can cause power failures, electrical shock, damage to appliances, and fire to the property.
Before buying or moving into an older property, it is important to hire a professional electrician to do a survey of the electrical systems in the property. If there are any issues, have these problems fixed beforehand. Being guaranteed that all the electrical systems in the house is better than living with a fire hazard in the future.
5. Plumbing Issues
The convenience of modern plumbing is something that many people take for granted. However, if you own an older property, you will soon realize that plumbing issues can be quite frustrating, expensive, and damaging. A busted pipe can cause major water damage which will not only affect the plumbing system of your property but will also damage the walls and the floors. This can even cause mold infestations.
When buying an older property, take the time to ask the seller how old the plumbing system is and what material it is made of. If you are not getting a clear response, investigate by getting the opinion of professional surveyors. Brass, copper and PEX pipes last for around 40 to 50 years, while steel pipes become worn out after 20 years. While it may seem that revamping a property’s plumbing system is very costly, it is actually better to consider doing so because once a pipe is damaged, the cost of recovering from the damage will be much higher.
Better safe than sorry
Being aware of the potential problems that you may face when owning an older property will help you in resolving potential issues earlier on. If you’re only in the process of buying one, this can also guide you in your purchasing decision and help you weigh whether the investment is worth it. These pieces of information will not only help you save money but this will also ensure that your property is safe for its inhabitants.