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Watch Out for These 6 Things When Buying an Older Home

By Tammy Emineth | July 17, 2023

Buying an older home can offer a unique charm and character that newer homes may lack. An older home will likely be set on a lot with mature trees, and may be located in your ideal neighborhood with an established community.

However, there are a few things you should be aware of when buying a home built in the 1970s or earlier. A home inspection can help identify many of these issues as well. Watching out for these 6 things can help you make an informed decision you won't regret.

1. Lead

While we now know the dangers of lead-based paint and other lead building materials, they were commonly used prior to 1978. Simply painting over the lead-based paint will not remove the hazard from the home, so take care to test for lead when considering a home and decide whether you are up for the challenging and costly removal of all lead materials.

2. Radon

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and kills 21,000 people each year. It is a naturally found radioactive gas that’s created from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, or groundwater. When this gas is allowed to dissipate naturally, it presents no hazard to humans, but it becomes dangerous when it is trapped in the home.

After the 1970s, homes were required to be built with adequate ventilation to allow radon to appropriately dissipate. If you are considering a home that was built before the 1970s, be sure to have radon testing conducted to understand a potential hazard.

3. Asbestos

Asbestos insulation was used in many homes built before the 1970s, as an extremely effective insulation and fire retardant. However, it is hazardous if inhaled and should be removed only by professionals. If you are considering an older home, you need to have a professional asbestos removal team assist with any demolition to avoid accidentally inhaling this hazardous substance.

4. Foundation cracks

Not all homes will have foundation issues just because they are older, but the age of the home should lead you to make sure the foundation is carefully inspected. There's no reason to assume that there will be an issue, but for peace of mind you will want to find out what the condition of the foundation is.

After your home inspection report comes back, remember that the length of a foundation crack is not as important as the width of it. Experts advise that any crack wider than an 1/8th of an inch should be assessed by a structural engineer.

5. Insects and pests

Homes of any age can house insects and pests, but the natural erosion and wear and tear on a home over time can make it more vulnerable. Pay careful attention to moisture in the home, considering where it may have damaged wood or made a basement hospitable to pests. Be sure that your inspector is looking for any evidence of rodents in the home, including nests, droppings, or bite marks.

6. Mold

If mold is present in the home, it can silently cause numerous health issues without the homeowner ever identifying the source. Mold is all around us, and in some cases is nothing more than a nuisance, but not all molds are equal. Be sure to have a professional conduct mold testing in the home to assess the hazards, including what type of mold is in the home and how big a problem it is.

If there is significant mold in the home, you will want to be sure that professional remediation takes place and that moisture is handled to avoid future growth. This includes making sure windows and doors are well sealed, and identifying any leaks or cracks in the plumbing.

Are you looking for a home for sale in Northeastern Wisconsin? One of the best things you can do is work with a real estate agent you trust, who can walk you through the home-buying process and connect you with other reputable professionals, like home inspectors. Contact these Northeastern Wisconsin real estate agents to work with a team of local experts you can trust.

Tammy Emineth is a writer, blogger, and real estate marketing expert for over 15 years. As a former real estate agent, Tammy possesses the knowledge and expertise to produce content and relevant information about the real estate market and how to market real estate websites and brokerages.
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