Buying 100 year old home!!

8 Replies

Hi BiggerPockets Community! We could really use your expertise. My wife and I are looking to purchase our 3rd property and want to take something on that needs a little fixing. We plan to live whatever house for about a year or two while we make renovations/upgrades then rent it out/refinance/repeat.  

We have found a beautiful 3/2 in Tampa FL in an up in coming area, but it was originally built in 1925... It has a 5 year old roof, brand new A/C, newly done electrical, and has been modestly remodeled on the inside (Kitchen, painting, bathroom tiles). The floors have been redone, it has a fireplace,  and the patio/front porch could use some work - but everything appears okay from walking around it. It is slightly raised off the ground. We definitely need an inspector but also wanted to pick your brains!

What should we be watching for or looking out for? I feel that the inspection will tell us a lot more about the foundation, plumbing, etc., but does anyone have any experience, helpful insights, or advice they could provide??

Thank you so much!

-Joe Rambow

@Joseph Rambow

The biggest issue you will find if the home has a crawlspace or is raised on piers is that the piers may be slipping causing the floors to not be level. Other than that, as long as the other systems are updated, you should be fine. I would also get a termite/ wdo inspection if the home is wood frame.

Also, see if the ducting has been replaced for the a/c and what kind if plumbing the home has

As you probably know, Tampa is humid and termites can become an issue.

We have a couple of multifamily buildings built in the early 1900's.  We've found that the inspection is key in areas of electrical and plumbing, and most often the costs of updating those have been minor.  Bringing a contractor with you to the inspection can help with cost estimations.  

I would add four more lead paint, asbestos, knob and tube wiring and cast iron drains. If your plan is to rent the house have a lead inspection done.  lead laws are tightening in my area and insurance companies are becoming more and more wiser to the risk lead poses to tenants.  Asbestos is expensive but relatively easy to remediate.  I know you said it has been rewired but I would still be checking lights to ensure they are grounded it's easy to skip grounding lights and replace outlets simply to make it look like a bigger job was completed.  Lastly cast iron drains tend to be a ticking time bomb.  If they are older you might want to get them scoped as they can be expensive to replace and when they go theirs no fixing them.

Nothing wrong with old houses .i think  My oldest is 1876 . Still a great house that produces  steady cashflow . You guys have weird ground problems and sinkholes down there . You’ll want to pay particular attention to the foundation and how the ground is graded and so fourth 

Hi @Joseph Rambow ,

If you have ever visited another state or country, you'll notice how different buildings look, the materials you used, and the architecture. It's not by accident, that happens on purpose. The climate and the surrounding environment will dictate what is best to built in an area. Up north, you can build with wood, you have way less rain, no drywood termites, and lower levels of humidity. Here in Florida, older homes come with way more maintenance. Yes because they are older, but also because our humid, and mostly wet climate attacks the construction material and the way they were constructed most. Construction techniques back then where mainly carpenters and the homes were built using wood. They are built on top of piers, with the flooring truss system on top and the home gets erected from there. You don't have a foundation, you have a crawlspace. That crawlspace under the home is a breeding ground for problems. Most of the problems lead to structural issues. 

1. Wood underneath warps and causes uneven floors, from blocked ventilation spaces in the crawlspace

2. The piers that hold the floor trusses above settle differently causing uneven flooring

3. Termites eat the trusses (prone to subterranean termites and dry-wood termites) 

4. Sagging in the floor trusses. Homes were not designed to hold the weight of our modern things. They didn't have heavy and shaking appliances in 1925. 

The house is made of wood and wood cannot get wet or stay wet for very long. So maintaining the home is crucial. The different pieces of wood will expand and contract at different rates causing cracking. It's very important that they remain caulked and sealed with caulk and paint, most common around windows. If you don't, those areas are prone to rotting. Cool thing about wood is that you can cut out a bad section and replace it. So get very familiar with carpentry. 

Check and see if you're in a historical district too. The home could be protected by an architectural review board that can require your plan for remodeling that it stays in line with the architectural integrity of the neighborhood. 

Old homes also have older plumbing and electrical. The electrical would be more of a concern for me than the plumbing, since again, those wires weren't designed to handle the kind of power we now need. Your insurance company will give you a hard time about those outdated (if they are indeed outdated) components. 

You won't have hurricane straps, or impact windows and doors. So your insurance premiums will be higher. 

Get it termite inspected once a year. 

Get an energy audit by TECO once you close. Figure out how it can be more energy efficient. TECO gives credits.