Should 100-Year-Old Properties Scare You as an Investor?

Should 100-Year-Old Properties Scare You as an Investor?

3 min read
Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is a full-time buy and hold and fix and flip real estate investor with over 15 years of experience. He and his wife Terron operate Kevron Properties, LLC, a boutique real estate investing company in Memphis, Tenn.

Kevin was a past president and is a current board member of the Memphis Investors Group. He’s also a blogger and writer who has authored hundreds of real estate investing articles on BiggerPockets and his own blog,, some of which have been featured on The Motley Fool and MONEY: Personal Finance News & Advice.

Kevin is also host of the SmarterLandlording podcast.

Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Kevin moved to Memphis to attend graduate school at The University of Memphis. After receiving his master’s degree in City and Regional Planning, Kevin climbed the planning career ladder to eventually become planning director of a county in the Memphis metro area. He “retired” from planning in 2003 to pursue real estate investing full-time.

Since “retiring,” Kevin’s main real estate investment strategy has been to buy and hold, otherwise known as landlording. Generally working in historic Midtown Memphis, Kevin is also known to fix and flip grand, historic homes when the right opportunity presents itself. He and his wife Terron (who is the principal broker at Perk Realty) have participated in dozens of real estate transactions in the Memphis metro area.

Kevin has the heart of a teacher and believes in helping others through education. An instructor of college-level geography for over 25 years, Kevin also regularly participates in seminars and panel discussions at such forums as the Memphis Investor’s Group and the Single-Family Rental Summit.

In addition, Kevin has been interviewed in publications such as the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Memphis Daily News, and the Foreclosure News Report.

Kevin earned a master’s in City and Regional Planning from The University of Memphis.

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No, I’m not scared of 100-year-old properties. In fact, I have always been fascinated by older properties. They just have a look and a feel that you do not get with newer ones. They have a history and a story to them. I wonder who lived there. I wonder who worked there. I wonder what life was like for them 100 or more years ago.

I live in a home built in 1923, and I generally work with properties even older than that. I have nothing against newer buildings, as I have worked with them as well. But the older ones just seem more special and fun to me.

So no, I’m not afraid of older properties, but that does not mean they don’t come without some unique challenges, just as most other properties do. Some of those challenges will, however, be unique to older properties, as building techniques, materials, and styles have changed over the years. You simply have to be aware of these potential challenges going in and learn how to deal them. Then these older properties are just like any other property out there.

So, what are some of these unique and potential challenges that your will face with properties that are over 100 years old? Here are a few I have run across.

8 Challenges You May Face With Old Properties

1. Knob and Tube Wiring

This is a very old form of electrical wiring. Insurance companies hate it and often will not insure properties that have it. Why? I’m not sure as it seems to work perfectly well as long as it is undisturbed. This is honestly the major problem you may face with older properties as the knob and tube often has to be replaced, which is costly.


2. Plaster

Installing plaster is a lost art. Very few know how to repair it these days. So, damaged plaster walls often have to come completely down. This can be good anyway because you need to expose that old wiring mentioned above to replace it.

Related: Do Not Touch: 3 Old Home Features to Protect During Renovations

3. Lead Pipes

Lead has been used in pipes going all the way back to before Roman times because lead is so malleable. Unfortunately, we now know the damage lead can cause to humans so it is best to replace them.

4. Lead Paint

Lead had many other uses as well back in the day. Lead helps paint cover and stick. Unfortunately, over time it chips away and has a nice taste to young children. Remediating lead paint is always something to keep in mind when looking at older properties.  Or really, anything painted before 1974.

5. Asbestos

It was a great insulator. Don’t disturb it and you will usually be fine.

6. Dysfunctional Layout

People lived and worked differently several generations ago. Kitchens and baths were smaller. Dining rooms more formal, and bedrooms came without closets. Don’t overlook expanding or adding useful features if you need to.

7. Unique Architectural Features

Older properties often have features that you just do not find today. Items such as winding banisters, extensively carved wood, or stonework and odd-sized windows are common in older properties. Thing is, these items are unlikely to be found at the local Home Depot. Expert and specialized help may be required to do the job properly.


Related: 8 Things to Look for When Rehabbing Older Homes

8. Historic Regulations

Older properties are often located in historic districts with rules that dictate what you can and cannot do to these properties. Don’t try to bypass them—your neighbors are watching and will tattle on you.

Wow! After typing this list, perhaps I should be scared of older properties or at least find something newer to work on. Newer properties, after all, cost less to renovate and are less hassle, right? Not necessarily. It does not take much to quickly mess up a property. A leaky roof or aluminum wiring can lead to costly repairs. Trust me, I have been there, too.

Plus, many of these challenges that I have listed above are not found in every older property. Often, they have been corrected at some point in the past by previous owners. Lead pipes have often been replaced with copper, and wiring most likely has been upgraded as more modern conveniences were added. You just have to know what to look for going in.

So, should you be scared of 100-year-old properties? No, I do not think so. Be cautious, yes, but you should use caution on any deal. In all of my years, I have only seen a couple old properties that were simply not fixable, where it was better to tear them down. Almost everything is fixable.

To me, 100-year-old properties are like any other property.  You have to learn what to look for, budget for it, and make an offer.