Ask The Agent: Should I Buy An Old House?

by Danielle Skowronek

Pros and Cons of Buying an Old House

In today’s Ask The Real Estate Agent Segment, I’m answering the question about the pros and cons of buying an old house. This is a question we get a lot of times from buyers in our area because many of the homes, especially when you’re looking close inside the beltway, were built in the 1940s and 50s so they’re 50 or 60 years old now. People want to know what are the benefits, what should they look out for, should they leave them classic, should they renovate, and more.

Advantages of Buying an Old House

The number one reason to buy an old house is the price point is going to be a lot lower. Buying an older home [particularly in the DC metropolitan region] can save you $50,000 to up to $1,000,000 or more when comparing the location and square footage to a brand new home. This can provide for huge savings from the get-go.

You’re also going to save money on real estate taxes every year because the assessed value is lower than it would be if it were new construction. Since your ongoing real estate taxes are going to be based on a lower value, those are going to be less.

It may also help you get a home in a better neighborhood or a better location that you prefer more because of the lower cost. If the older home does not meet your current needs in terms of how updated it is, or how big it is, you can add on, renovate, or update the home using the money you saved on the purchase price. This is an incredibly popular option in Arlington,VA as proven by the many historic neighborhoods toting large new construction properties.

There is also the undeniable fact that a lot of people prefer the look and feel and character of some of the older homes. Only you can determine the monetary value you assign to the charm and aesthetic of your dream home. Many people are perfectly content in a vintage home without all the modern bells and whistles.

Negatives of Buying an Old House

Now for the not-so-good aspects of purchasing an old house.

Older homes are almost always going to be smaller than the new construction homes. This is due to drastic lifestyle changes from 50 years ago to today. People had less clothing and consumer goods so closet and storage space was not as important as it is today. Plumbing was more complex and expensive resulting in fewer bathrooms in the home. Also, the boomerang effect and the rising cost of real estate has more people living in shared housing, so new homes will typically have more bedrooms and living space to account for this. As mentioned above, you can renovate the home to meet your needs, but that can be a costly endeavor.

The quality of all the different systems and structures is also going to drastically differ from modern standards. You may find yourself in a bidding situation for a home where you’re not going to be able to have a home inspection contingency if there is high competition. This means you likely wouldn’t know the state of the plumbing, electrical, etc. If you are buying an older home and can do a home inspection, it’s highly encouraged to make sure that the home inspector looks at the roof, structure, plumbing, electrical, and all the mechanical systems. Pro tip: If you can do the home inspection after a rain storm, you can see if there are any potential water issues and at least know what you’re getting yourself into. These issues are more common with older homes than new ones. You will also be able to gauge if the home is at risk for flooding as zoning methodology was not as sophisticated either.

Finally it might be a good idea to buy a home warranty. That means for the first year you’re in the home, you won’t have any big-ticket items that surprise you after you just spent a lot of money getting into the home.

Buying an Old House Key Takeaways

An older home can help you get in a better neighborhood, help you save money, and perhaps you like the character and feel of it. The things to look out for are going to be higher maintenance costs and the potential cost of remodeling or expanding it if it doesn’t meet your current needs.

Thanks a lot. If you have any questions on that, please let us know. The Orange Line Living Team Keri Shull Team has a lot of experience in both new construction and helping people buy older homes that they then renovate. If you have any questions about old homes or any questions you’d like to see featured on our next Ask The Real Estate Agent Blog, please feel free to send an email to [email protected].

Ready to learn more advanced home buying tips?

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