Many buyers specifically desire an older home for the charm and character prevalent in pre-war era properties. Others limit their searches to homes constructed in the very recent past. Whether that choice is based on a desire for modern conveniences or a fear of hidden defects in older properties that could turn a dream home into a money pit, here’s why an older home may just be the right choice for you.
Newly constructed homes often need time for the “bugs” to be worked out. Plumbing, electrical, and drainage are common areas that sometimes need repair or modification after you move in. While typically covered under warranty, you will have to coordinate service with the builder and it may require diligent follow-up and repeat appointments to set everything right.
As the home settles, cracks can appear in walls and foundation that may need to be addressed in order to ensure the structural integrity of the home. These issues have long been worked out with a home that has already been standing for years.
In the Lehigh Valley, most newer homes come on relatively small lots. Even very large homes tend to be built on ¼ acre or less of land in more populated areas of the valley. Larger lots can be very difficult and very expensive to come by in prime locations. Older homes tend to boast larger lots and come with mature landscaping…no need to wait for trees to grow to provide shade, privacy, or a beautiful view.
Additionally, unlike new construction, existing homes tend to come with exterior amenities like decks, patios, sheds, even a pool!
Perhaps the best advantage to purchasing an older home is the property tax savings. In our area, property taxes for a newly constructed home can be double that of an existing home in the same township with equal square footage and lot size.
Even if the home has been completely remodeled and is brand new on the inside, you will almost always enjoy a tax savings over newer construction. This savings pays dividends year after year, as long as you own the property, and can amount to several thousand dollars per year. It can also help you when it comes time to sell your home as the lower tax rate will be attractive to the next buyer.
Of course, an older home may be in need of repairs, so do your homework! Rely on your realtor’s experience when viewing the property and before you make an offer, looking for signs of water intrusion and plumbing leaks in the attic, basement, under sinks, around tubs and toilets, and on ceilings. Check the foundation for large cracks or shifting. Look at the electrical panel and the wiring leading to the panel for signs of old knob and tube, aging or cracked wiring and at outlets to see if they are grounded (3-prong plugs).
Review dates on furnaces and hot water heaters for evidence of age and regular maintenance. If you can see it, visually inspect the roof for excessive wear, missing shingles, or obvious repairs.
ALWAYS elect a home inspection contingency and hire a reputable property inspector to assess the condition of any home you are buying, new or old. An inspection report will outline anything in the home currently in need of repair and any items that may need repair or maintenance in the near future. Use this information to negotiate with the seller, where possible.
A seller will often make repairs and/or adjust the purchase price as a result of the buyer’s home inspection. If they won’t, the buyer typically has the ability to walk away from the transaction based on the results of a home inspection.
Finally, always consider a home warranty plan when purchasing an older home. These plans can be paid for by the seller if requested at the same time the offer is made or as a result of the home inspection. They can also be purchased by the buyer with the fee rolled into closing costs. These plans provide protection for the major systems in the home (electrical, plumbing, HVAC) and appliances and require a nominal fee each time a service provider is dispatched.
I had a home warranty plan for the first house I purchased as a single twenty-something and they replaced my furnace and my refrigerator for next to nothing in out-of-pocket costs for me. A home warranty plan can truly provide peace of mind when purchasing an older home.
If you’re ready to embark on your home search, or just learn more about the home buying process, click the Book Online tab and request a buyer’s consultation, property search, or showing appointment today.