Have you ever driven through the historic part of a city and swooned over the gorgeous, vintage homes? The beautiful colors, large, graceful trees, manicured yards, sweeping porches, grand doors and beautiful pane windows. I know it’s a dream of mine to be able to restore the glory of an old home and live the picture-perfect American life in it. Inviting friends over for dinner and soaking in their oohs and ahs as they admire the craftsmanship and history of my old house.
If that’s you as well, then let’s get real for a moment and talk about expectations we should have as we prepare to purchase our own Old Home Glory.
The Reality of Vintage Homes
It is an honor to be one of the lucky few to get your hands on an old home. Whether it is a grand residence with lots of history or a smaller home with a more humble, unique history, it is good to approach your decision with an understanding that you are entering a unique home purchase. These old homes come with challenges that we sometimes forget. Be prepared to have extra cash on hand AFTER your purchase to tackle unexpected expenses. Even if everything looks good before the purchase, afterward, you may find that it will take you longer than expected to get everything up to par. So mentally prepare yourself for TIME AND MONEY that may or may not be needed.
What is considered an “older home”?
These tips apply to homes that are not only 100 years old, but also homes from the 1960s, 70s, or even 80s. These all can have challenges with things such as asbestos and lead paint.
Do your research!
Even before you start your Vintage Home hunt, research, research, research!! Look at blogs and comments from others who have gone before you. You will gain invaluable information and expectations before you even fall in love with something that could turn into a nightmare and money pit. However, with the right mindset and loads of patience, that dream of yours WILL become a reality!
Based on our experience and the suggestions of others, we’ve compiled a list of the top tips for hunting for your dream Vintage Home and expectations for living in a piece of history:
- GET TWO GENERAL INSPECTIONS. No matter how good it looks, it will be worth it to get TWO sets of professional eyes to look at your potential dream home. With an older home, if something is overlooked, it can cost you thousands of dollars you were not expecting to spend!
- YOU NEED OTHER SPECIALIZED INSPECTIONS. Depending on the home, you will most likely need several types of inspections including, but not limited to: sewer scope, fireplace scan, structural engineer, roofing, lot survey, electrical, water line/plumbing, well water/pump. Basically, get more inspections than you think you will need.
- PLAN ON HIGHER UTILITY EXPENSES. The high cost of heating and cooling an older home is usually the greatest surprise for most new owners. These homes simply don’t have the same insulation as newer homes and the systems may not be efficient. Talk to an HVAC specialist about the current system and if you need a complete replacement or not. Consider the cost of keeping the old system with a few upgrades versus replacing everything and adding insulation/window weather stripping or new windows.
- INVEST IN A WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM IF YOU ARE ON WELL WATER: Some people like the taste of well water, but even so, if you are on well water, have everything tested. A whole-house water filtration system is probably best and is very expensive. Just be prepared. Also, make sure you let the water run for the ENTIRETY of your inspection time. Just turning on the faucet for a few seconds will not reveal any issues. I purchased a home once on well water and we forgot to run the water. After we moved in, I prepared to take a hot bath…unfortunately, the water was mixed with a thick mud and rust!
- HAVE A LANDSCAPE EXPERT CHECK THE TREES AND ROOTS AROUND THE HOME: So many times we focus on the inside of the home but forget about those 150-year-old trees growing up around the home. Those dead limbs and giant roots can create a mess.
- CHECK FOR MOLD AND WATER LEAKS: A good inspector will look for these things. Sometimes fresh paint can be a sign that previous owners are covering up signs of water damage.
- DID THE HOUSE SIT EMPTY? If so, be extra careful in your review of the home. Check for bats and other critters that may have made their home there. Is the water heater rusted through? A house that has been sitting for 5, 6 months or more will have extra issues.
- EVERYTHING WILL TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED. For renovations, you may have to work through layers of paint, wallpaper, and plaster. Once you start renovating, unexpected (and expensive) surprises will most certainly be waiting for you. Mental preparation for surprises goes a long way!
- IT MAY BE DREAMY ON THE OUTSIDE BUT THE INSIDE LAYOUT MIGHT NOT BE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. At the time the house was built, house layouts were considerably different. Smaller rooms, little to no closets, and a different layout. If you don’t like the layout of the home, have a contractor come in and advise you on the cost and options for restructuring the interior.
- CHECK FOR GUIDELINES/RESTRICTIONS IN YOUR AREA. Before you buy and plan everything out for your remodel of your dream home, check with the city and neighborhood for any guidelines. Some historic areas of town are very strict in what they will allow.
This list is just a starting point. You’ll also want to look at the electrical systems, check for lead paint, asbestos and many other things. Also, make sure you are using a real estate agent that is familiar with the intricacies of older homes. If you are in the hunt for a historic home in the Colorado Springs area, I’d love to assist you in finding the right place; no matter if it is a previously remodeled home or one that needs your specific TLC!