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.