If you’re in the process of purchasing an older home, perhaps one that was built in the ‘70s, ‘60s, or earlier, you can have all of the modern conveniences of most other homes—but you should be prepared to perform certain repairs and renovations to bring your potential new residence up to date with the latest safety standards.
In fact, you could almost compare purchasing an older home to buying an older car—in both instances you should budget more for repairs and maintenance.
Here are two things an inspection may reveal in an older home.
Lead-based paint, for many years, was a hit with painters because of its ability to hold color and for its rich appearance. However, after scientists discovered its hazardous effects—which included seizures, anemia, and in some cases death if ingested or inhaled as dust—the federal government banned its sale.
The ban came in 1978 and led many homebuyers to expect that all homes built thereafter would be free of lead paint. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. Because the government only banned the manufacture and sale of lead-based paints—and there weren’t specific rules regarding existing supplies and stockpiles held by painters—use of the paint continued for many years. Some home inspectors even discovered it in houses built as late as the ‘90s, according to Realtor.com.
How to tell if a home has lead-based paint
You may be able to tell if your prospective home has lead paint even before an inspection is performed. Check walls around the house for “alligatoring,” which is when lead paints that are starting to deteriorate begin to separate in a pattern that resembles alligator scales. Also look for this characteristic along baseboards, basement window sashes, and inside of closets, since most homeowners won’t leave crumbling paint on areas like living room walls.
A home inspector will use an X-ray to identify the presence of lead-based paint. The X-ray can see through layers of paint to get to the base of a wall, and because X-rays can’t pass through lead the presence of lead can be easily identified. You’ll need to make sure the inspector you hire actually tests for lead paint, though, because not all do.
Outdated or Poor Insulation
If your potential home has insulation that’s outdated or in poor condition it can make it difficult for the house to retain heated or cooled air, which can make your HVAC systems work harder and cause your energy bills to rise. Your inspector will point out if she or he finds insufficient or compressed insulation. You may find, however, that some older homes are already retrofitted with new insulation, which can add value.