buying a home

Buying an Older Home? Consider This!

buying a home
What to Look For When Buying an Older Home

There is something to be said about buying an older home, full of character and charm and potential. More than 38% of all U.S. homes were built prior to 1970; in fact, many homes on Long Island are more than 50 years old. If you are looking to buy a Long Island home that has some age to it, whether to live in or to renovate as an investment, there are a few things to keep in mind.


A home inspection is necessary, however, an additional termite inspection is something to consider.

Termites are a problem for older homes and cause $5 billion in property damage every year! Termites are known for chewing through wood, including flooring and walls. Termites especially like to chew on softwood. If the home had some leaks, it may be beneficial to hire a termite inspector who can uncover any problems caused by termites. Over time, termites can destroy the floors, drywall, and structural supports.  Buckled floors, tiny holes in the drywall, hollow floorboards, bubbling paint are all signs of termite damage.

Termite damage can be prevented by removing any loose wood from contact with the house (firewood, building materials). Ensure the house has a proper drainage system to avoid water pooling around the foundation. Use treated lumber on decks and other structures that are attached to the house. Remove any dead stumps that are near the house. Seal visible foundation cracks as this provides easy entry for termites. To control current infestations, hire a professional to exterminate the termite colony. A home inspection will catch any problems created by termites and can help you to negotiate with the seller to cover repair costs.

termite damage
Termite damage could be a concern when buying an older house.

Hazardous Materials

With older homes, you will find materials that are now outdated and possibly hazardous. Before 1978, paint was made with lead, which is now banned. Lead poisoning can be harmful especially for children. Check for lead paint. It is typically found on the trim around doors and windows. It should not deter you from buying the house as you’ll likely be removing the paint and refreshing. When removing the paint, be sure to be cautious if it begins to flake and always wear a mask.

Insulation & Heating

Older homes are typically built with single pane windows, which are not energy efficient. Additionally, single pane windows do not hold up well to weather or heat and do tend to leak.

If you have an old heating system and old windows, beware your heating bill! Many older homes are heated with oil and oil burners are not as efficient. Be sure the heating system was maintained well and is not a fire hazard. Weigh the costs of replacing the heating system and consider converting to gas.

Foundation Issues

foundation and structure
Older homes are prone to a variety of foundation and structural problems

Older homes are prone to foundation and structure issues: cracks in the foundation wall, dry rot, moisture damage in the foundation.  Signs of foundation issues include jammed doors, visible cracks, cracked tile/flooring, jammed windows, and off-level flooring.  A structural engineer can address these issues and provide advice to correct the problem. This can be costly.

Inadequate Electric

Older homes fall short of electrical adequacy and safety.

Quickly review the number of updated electric devices we currently have vs 50 years ago. Also note, the lifespan of wiring lasts approximately 50-70 years. As the insulation deteriorates, the risk of electrical fires increase. Electric panels also have a life expectancy, coupled with the increased electrical devices our current society utilizes and the home really needs an updated electric system. A certified electrician can replace wiring, update outlets as well as a new service panel.


Exposure to excess moisture can develop problems with mold. Mold can grow anywhere and is typically seen in bathrooms and basements. Moisture seeps through a cracked foundation and leaky pipes which is why mold is prevalent in older homes. An uncontrolled growth of mold can create serious infections, exacerbate allergies and cause respiratory issues. You can prevent mold by placing a dehumidifier in your basement or other moist areas. Isolated mold issues can be treated with sprays and scrubs.

ceiling water damage caused by leaking pipe


A big danger of an older home is a pipe issue. A plumbing failure can create major water damage and even lead to mold.  Root damage to plumbing is also a potential factor to your major lines.

Purchasing an older home can keep your initial costs down as long as you plan on fixing serious issues and account for budgeting.

If you choose to repair these issues, you will spend a pretty penny down the road. If you ignore these issues, you may have to accept a lower price when selling. Selling to a home investor in “as is” condition will allow you to avoid fixing these issues. If you are about to purchase an older home and need help with renovations, contact me with any questions. I love transforming older homes!