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Be Confident in Showing an Older Home: Tips from a Home Inspector

As a home inspector, one of the worst situations I have been in is meeting clients that do not have the resources (time or financial) to own an older home.  On more than one occasion it was obvious within a 10 minute conversation that my clients should never have made an offer on an older home, even though it was their “dream home”.  Here is where an experienced realtors steps in: it is important to not only qualify your clients for a purchase of a home, but it is just as important to qualify the house fro your clients before an offer is made.  How do you do that? Well, here are my top 3 tips to to help you decide how much of a “project” you can expect an older home to be.

1.Walk the Outside of the Home for Foundation Cracks

This should be a quick process. Any cracks that are larger than the thickness of a writing pen will most-likely need the review of a structural engineer.  This should be a topic of conversation if your clients are buying the home “AS IS”.  Focus primarily on the corners of the home where gutter downspouts tend to be located.  “In my experience the number 1 cause of foundation failure is from downspouts (from drains and gutters) releasing water at the foundation of a home – absence of extensions over a period of time.”

2. 2-prong plugs

The presence of 2-prong plugs should never be a deal killer and does not mean that the whole house needs to be re-wired.  2-prong plugs are only truly necessary for GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms and in locations that include the use of expensive electronic equipment like TV, stereo, computer or a home studio.  Grounded plugs reduce the likelihood of damage to this equipment in the event of a nearby lighting strike or other power surge.  Grounding a one or two plugs in the living room, office, entertainment or bonus room is much more economical than a whole house re-wire.

3. Wood Sash Windows

On the majority of older homes the original wood sash windows will most-likely be in place.  Hopefully these windows are covered with storm windows to protect them.  Not every homeowner opens their windows when there is a cool breeze in the air. It is important to know if your clients intend to use the windows – if so, are they functional.  The majority of the time these windows will be painted shut – your home inspector should be able walk you through options to making these windows functional or possibly suggest replacement depending on the condition.

Now that those issues are reviewed, do I still need a home inspector?

We recommend reviewing the 3 issues above in order to make sure the home is right for your clients and that your clients are right for this particular home. To get the most out of a home inspection on an older home consider a home inspector that has a background in remodeling older homes.  A home inspector with such background is able to give your buyers confidence with a realistic understanding of the commitment involved in purchasing the home.

“I get asked on almost every older home I show if they can move a wall, what will it entail and what will it cost.  I can’t imagine inspecting an older home, answering questions about moving walls, older wiring, or plumbing without the contracting background that I have.  It would be a total disservice to not be prepared to have the open and transparent conversations I have with my home-buyers about the legitimacy of their remodel plans and the experience they need to prepare for.  I enjoy inspecting older homes as much as I enjoy working with new home buyers.  With both of these clients there is an opportunity to connect with my passion for educating, and instilling confidence by sharing my contracting experience.  My ultimate goal is to make my clients confident in their decision when they are buying a good home and to give them a realistic understanding of what ownership could look like if they are purchasing a home that requires a lot of work”   

When your clients want to have maintenance done on an older home, Magnolia Property Consultants will supply a list a all contractors we have worked with over the past 10 years. You can be assured that we only work with the best in the business!

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