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Owning an (old, old, old) house

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Corky Ramirez up on 94th St., Jul 22, 2008.

  1. Corky Ramirez up on 94th St.

    Corky Ramirez up on 94th St. Well-Known Member

    Anyone here on this board own a house built before 1900?

    About a mile from where I grew up is a house that was built circa 1690 (yes, you read that right). It's the oldest one in town and, although it's been vacant for a couple of years, the current owner lives a half-mile away and is there every day, taking good care of it. At any rate, I've been talking with the owner about it because a) it's time for me to buy instead of rent, and b) it's old, with a barn and a field...exactly what I'm looking for. He, and two others, got it as an inheritance when the previous owner died and in the next week will find out if they want to sell.

    Soooo....I've never owned a house. I really have a cursory knowledge about the whole homeowning process. Is there like a "Owning Your Home for Dummies" place on the Web? In my state (don't know if it's like this elsewhere) but there are programs offered that make it "easy" for first-time homeowners to buy.

    And for you old house owners, what are things I should look for? I'm hoping to get a tour of it because I haven't been in this house since I was a little kid, when my mom would visit the old woman who lived there. Back then, 25 years ago, the floors were slanted. I'm sure they're the same way.

    PM me if you'd like, but I really appreciate any advice you may have.
  2. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    There are many good books that can serve as guides to buying your first home - get several. Then make sure you get a home inspection done by a qualified third party - i.e. not recommended by the seller - and check both the references and make sure the inspector is certified and regularly works with older properties. You'll want to make sure the house is structurally sound - no dry rot in old beams - and if other major systems (electric, plumbing, sewage, roof, heating) are up to snuff and have been updated. If not, each of these can be real money pits, but you can use the inspection to bargain the price down for repairs/upgrades. Also, many, many old homes are under insulated. With the price of oil, that can be a killer. Make sure you have double pane windows or windows with storms. If it has fireplaces, make sure they are operational. A friend who bought a big old Victorian a few years ago is absolutely getting killed now because of heat costs - he may well spend $10,000 on oil this year - and the house is basically unsellable.

    Do you like home repair and maintenance? Old houses can be a never ending project, which is fine if you enjoy it, a complete burden if not. A good friend bought an old house about 8 years ago and said at the time "I've got enough projects now to last the rest of my life." So far, he's been right. Just getting an old house painted can cost thousands, unless you want to spend summer doing it yourself.
  3. FileNotFound

    FileNotFound Well-Known Member

    Some local governments offer tax breaks or low-interest loans for updating older houses for energy efficiency. We had a house built in 1912, and we got a very cheap loan to update its heating, air conditioning and electrical system. Might be something you'd want to look into before you get your first $700 heating bill (lesson learned for us.)
  4. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    InExile makes many very good points. With a house that old, I think my first priority would be anything that's structural. If the place hasn't been lived in for a couple of years, that also warrants additional concern for heating and air conditioning purposes, as well as plumbing and sewage. These things are not to be taken lightly.

    Make sure you're OK with having a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter. Some people are; some hate it.
  5. Dickens Cider

    Dickens Cider New Member

    Outing alert! Corky Ramirez is:

  6. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    There's old and there's 320 years old....
    Elaborate more on the heating, plumbing, wiring, phone, cable... how recent are all the modern amenities? What are the utility costs...(and taxes) Is it wood, brick or stone? What kind of insulation does it have and when was it put in? How about the roof?
    Owning a 320 year old house sounds cool, but look at the cost effectiveness first.
  7. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    Even considering purchasing a 320 year old house without at least $100 grand in the bank for upgrades and renovations/restorations would scare the crap out of me.
  8. ink-stained wretch

    ink-stained wretch Active Member

    Oh, child, be careful. See above.

    My family is fortunate to live in a neighborhood of turn of the century homes (the last century). There is an active neighborhood association, whose principle purpose is to exchange tools, knowledge and labor.

    New door neighbor has scaffolds. Guy across the street has the air compressor and air driven tools. I have the plumbing tools, on the corner has the electrical supplies.

    We all have a standing account at the hardware store three blocks away.

    The neighborhood rule: You can work only three weekends a month. Nust drink on the fourth.

    I'd be very hesitant to go it alone with an old house. Better have a good support system or a ridiculously large bank account.
  9. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    The cable is so old in that house, MTV still shows music videos :)

    I'm on my third 80-plus-year-old house and the goofy sh*t that turns up every now and then is unreal. I can't imagine something FOUR times that old.

    I lean toward what JR said -- don't take on a house like that without some serious rainy-day coin put away -- but then again, if that current owner really is babying the house, it could be a steal. My wife would love this kind of adventure. Me, not so much.
  10. Can't say enough about wiring, plumbing and sewage ... especially wiring. If the house has old wiring (by old I mean like the 1930's rope wiring) and a 100-amp breaker box, it may not be worth it.

    Also you might have to contend with the hateful old biddies society- aka the local historical preservation society, who will swoop in and tell you what changes you can and CAN NOT makes to the house to maintain its historical integrity.
  11. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Corky, like you, I'd love to own an old house with a barn and some land and I'm pretty handy when it comes to remodeling and repair. That said, I'd pause before taking on that project and do a lot of homework.

    Talk to neighbors in comparable houses. Bring in multiple home inspectors to check it out. Hire a contractor to do a walkthrough.
  12. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    Oh, and I hope you're handy, Corky. Really, really, handy.

    Like Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes handy.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
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