Warm and lived-in, with a majestic fireplace, wood craftsmanship from another era, and a crooked old apple tree in a beautiful garden—only older homes come complete with their own personality.
But that distinctive personality could also come with a steep price in upkeep and renovations to meet the needs of your family and your modern tastes.
How do you decide if an older home is worth it? Consider our handy list of pros and cons:
Con: Outdated building code compliance and other maintenance
Homes with old heating systems or inefficient plumbing can be in such bad shape that they do not comply with modern building codes. A home with a crumbling foundation might frighten away most buyers.
Smart home shoppers should take a careful look at each element of infrastructure in an older home (heating, wiring, plumbing, and air conditioning) to make sure all systems are updated, efficient, and safe.
Pro: Location, location, location
Older homes are often built closer to the center of town, making it easy to walk to local shops, schools, and other amenities. And if you happen to find an old house outside the city’s center, it could still have amenities within walking distance.
Con: Lack of storage space
Folks consume more stuff now than ever before, so storage in old houses designed for lifestyles of decades past can present an issue. Or perhaps they present an opportunity for you to downsize all your stuff and declutter your life?
Fashionistas should be aware that an older home will likely have tiny closets.
Older homes often have sloped floors and imperfect edges in the kitchen, so installing cupboards and shelves may require a professional, which can be expensive.
You will probably pay less overall for an older home. This depends on condition and location, but generally, a modern house of the same size and in the same area will cost more than an older one.
Pro: Availability and furnishings
Unlike buying a brand-new home, there’s no waiting for a developer’s finishing touches (or delayed schedule). You can move in immediately, barring any immediate renovation plans.
When you buy a home built from scratch, you may have to wait a year or more to move into an empty home.
Some buyers of older homes swoon over the style of the previous owner and they can often strike a deal to keep furniture or accessories that they like. Buying a home with all the furnishings included can be a real money saver.
Pro and Con: Eclectic neighborhoods
Moving into an old house in an old neighborhood can mean that you get an eclectic mix of neighbors. With a newly built block, every neighbor will have bought around the same time.
However, in an established neighborhood you could have neighbors who have lived in their homes for generations. Some parts of an old neighborhood may have undergone gentrification, while other parts may attract unsavory characters. Get to know a neighborhood before you buy.
Pro: A long-term investment (if upkeep isn’t too pricey)
Old houses are in limited supply. As some decay or are torn down, supply decreases even more. Yet, demand remains strong for these vintage structures.
When looking at an old house, take time to talk to people in the area with similar properties to see how much their homes have increased in value over the past decade.
Con: Roots—and we don’t mean metaphorically
Old houses often come with old trees—and root problems. Older, taller trees often have long, strong roots that grow in toward the foundations and plumbing systems beneath the home. Pipe replacement or foundation work can be expensive.
All in all, an older house can offer benefits—and character—that a modern home doesn’t have. But it’s worth taking extra time to educate yourself on the potential pitfalls and fully vet and inspect any older property you are considering.