Interested in Buying an Older Home? When to Buy and When to Run!

Interested in Buying an Older Home? When to Buy and When to Run!

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been drawn to older homes full of unique character and charm. I’ve considered all the quirks and imperfections in the older homes I’ve lived in, a fair trade off for the unexpected nooks and crannies, ornate woodwork, tall ceilings and original pine floors that these homes boast. And, I love dreaming about the stories each home could tell of its past.

And I am not alone. Through my work as a real estate agent in the older areas around downtown Greenville, I’ve found there are many like me who find something romantic about buying an older home. While falling in love with a home when searching is ideal, it’s important to review the following points to avoid future heartache and major expenses down the road.

  1. Lead Based Paint –Any home built prior to 1978 may have lead based paint but most sellers in this market don’t have records of whether their home has it or not. According to the U.S. EPA, approximately 87 percent of homes built before 1940 contain lead based paint. The good news is if the paint is in good condition, the lead doesn’t usually pose a risk. The hazard comes when lead based paint starts breaking down, peeling or chipping. If that’s the case, or you have particular concerns about lead exposure, it’s best to hire a certified inspector to test a sample for you.
  2. Energy (In)efficiency – While original windows, old systems and original faucets maybe oozing lots of charm, some of them are super inefficient. It’s a great idea to ask the current homeowners for a breakdown of current utility costs, as well as detailed information on the age of major components like the roof, HVAC system, hot water heater, windows, plumbing and electrical. While you’ll want to maintain the historic integrity and charm of an older home, there are still ways to increase efficiency through smart updates after you purchase the home.
  3. Structural Issues – While many old homes are very well constructed, over time issues will arise with any home…foundations will sink, structures shift and moisture can find its way into the home’s support structure. Many things like wall and ceiling cracks, sloping floors, stuck windows and doors that won’t close are typical old house issues, but it’s always recommended to get a thorough inspection done by a reputable home inspector prior to purchasing. This will help ensure there are no major structural issues that need to be addressed.
  4. Bad Renovations – The range of renovations among older homes in Greenville run the gamut between never renovated, should never have been renovated, to award-winning remodels. For any renovations you notice, it’s wise to ask the homeowners if the renovation was permitted by the city, who did the renovation, what all was included with that renovation (ie. was electrical or plumbing updated to code of that time, etc.), is there a warranty on the renovation, etc. If the homeowner states that it was a DIY project with no permitting, I’d advise really checking it out with your inspector or possibly running if it doesn’t look like a professional job. Undoing a messy or careless renovation can be a costly nightmare!
  5. Musty Smells – Many homes with basements often emit musty smells into the home. A licensed home inspector and termite inspector can do a thorough investigation of the basement to make sure there are no moisture issues. Additionally, getting a company to clean the air ducts and vents in an old house is key to eliminating musty smells, dust and pet dander. I can attest that this really helps with allergies too!
  6. Design Guidelines – If you are looking at an historic home in one of Greenville’s seven historic districts that you want to renovate, it’s very important to get a copy of the design guidelines prior to purchase. Many have strict rules about modifications – namely exterior, structural changes and aesthetic changes like exterior paint colors – to make sure the home is preserved correctly.

Now that you know the key things to look for, your search for an older home will be smoother. Buying an older home in one of Greenville’s established neighborhoods is not only an exciting experience it’s a great investment. As you know, Greenville has just been named the fourth fastest-growing city in the nation by the US Census Bureau, so I anticipate the demand for our charming older homes to keep rising and rising.

10 Tips for First Time Homebuyers

10 Tips for First Time Homebuyers

  1. Meet with a Lender to Get Pre-Approved– The first step to buying your first home is to meet with a mortgage lender or financial institution to determine how much you are approved to buy, how much down payment you’ll need, what special loan programs you may qualify for and much more!
  2. Focus on a Desired Neighborhood/Area– In hot real estate markets like Greenville, most properties move fast and buyers have to act quickly. Therefore if you are focusing on too many neighborhoods or areas at one time, you’re less likely to get the home of your dreams.
  3. Select a Real Estate Agent Who Specializes in Your Target Neighborhood/Area –A seasoned, full-time real estate agent who focuses on your target area is also key to getting the house of your dreams. Not only do they have the inside scoop on what may be coming on the market soon or have access to many quiet listings that others don’t know about, but they have the relationships with agents and residents in the area and know the ins and outs of that particular market. That goes a long way in helping you find a home, and also knowing what it takes in negotiations to get that home for you.
  4. Check out School Districts –School district zoning directly affect home values. So make sure to choose a property in a good school district even if you don’t have or plan to have children.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid of Some Work –No one really wants to deal with dated interiors, but a lot of times buying a house with a few minor updates that you can do yourself will be less costly and worth the sweat equity!
  6. Gather as Much Information as Possible Before Submitting an Offer –Another way a real estate agent is invaluable is for gathering important information about the home – sellers’disclosures, lead based paint disclosure, HOA information, neighborhood covenants and restrictions, surveys, zoning, building plans and permits for what’s planned to be constructed near subdivisions and much more!
  7. Understand the Market– Prior to submitting an offer, sit down with your real estate agent and discuss all the information that’s been discovered on the home and surrounding area, along with data on recent sales in the area in order to make a fair offer on the home. He or she can really help guide you on next steps in order to make your dream of home ownership a reality.
  8. Hire Reputable Home Inspectors – After you’ve put the home under contract, ask your real estate agent for recommendations for the best home inspectors and attend the inspection if you can. A good home inspector will be glad to teach you more about the home and help you understand inner workings of the home and any major issues. Your agent can then review the inspection reports with you and determine next steps –whether it’s best to ask for repairs and if so, which ones to request, OR if it’s better to negotiate a repair allowance that can be used toward closing costs or off the cost of the home.
  9. Select a Good Closing Attorney– A closing attorney is another key part of your real estate transaction team so choosing a good one is important. They will work with your lender and real estate agent to make sure that the home gets to closing and you take official ownership of your dream home!
  10. Don’t Commit Before Ready –Buying a home is a huge commitment – financially and emotionally and a bad decision can really affect your quality of life. Always be sure to completely understand the financial picture – not just the monthly mortgage payments, but make sure you understand the cost of property taxes, homeowners insurance, HOA fees, monthly utility bills and any other costs associated with updating or just maintaining the home.