3 Unexpected Expenses of Buying an Older Home as Your First Home

When you're buying your first home, you might find yourself drawn to older homes because of the character and charm that they offer. Unfortunately, they may also contain potential problems that modern homes do not. Since you're not likely to get a warranty on an old home, be aware of these three common but frequently unexpected expenses associated with older real estate.

Other People

Older houses are likely to have had multiple owners with varying levels of do-it-yourself ambition and skill. As a result, buying an older home sometimes means paying to finish half completed projects and undoing completed work that isn't up to code. Some problems, such as a poorly designed kitchen or unfinished drywall, can be rectified quickly or lived with for a while. Others, however, such as illegal basement bedrooms and half-finished patios, are potentially hazardous and may require immediate attention. Previous projects found to be below code may need to be fixed before you can move in, and may require permit and inspection fees in addition to the cost of repairs.

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Hazardous Materials

It's important to remember that older homes were built in the days when lead paint was common and asbestos hailed as the ultimate in fireproofing. While both materials are safe so long as they are intact, they can be hazardous to your health as they deteriorate. You can simply encapsulate lead paint with special primers and paints. Asbestos is trickier to handle and may require professional handling. Asbestos that is in good repair can simply be covered over and left undisturbed. Flaking, crumbling or damaged asbestos, however, requires professional removal and remediation. The cost of removal varies, but averages about $2,000.

Plumbing And Electrical Issues

Electrical and plumbing issues are common in older homes. Older electrical service may not be adequate to power a house full of modern gadgets, and electrical outlets may be lacking in number. A common problem in older homes is incidents where old knob and tube wiring is only updated at common inspection points to shortcut electrical upgrades. Even when properly updated, electrical wiring has a limited lifespan. Plumbing, too, has a limited lifespan and can cause major problems when nearing the end of its useful life. Always consult with a qualified plumber and an electrician before purchasing an older home.

An investment in an older home may be one of the most rewarding of your lifetime. It's important, however, to proceed with caution, the help of experts and a realistic budget. When considering older real estate, it is important to follow your heart, but take your head with you.


Emma Sturgis is a freelance writer currently living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. For plumbing professionals, Emma recommends Bishop Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, Inc. To see more from Emma, say hi on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2