Properties that are old- anything to be aware of?

5 Replies

Hi biggerpockets fam!

I was wondering if there are any cons of purchasing properties that are pretty old (built around in 1950 or even older than that). Many people think old properties will have a lot of maintenance to overcome, but people who say so don't know which part to worry about specifically. I was wondering if I can ask your your honest input on this. What can go wrong from purchasing an old property? Should I still worry about it even if it has been remodeled? Or if I just do the inspection correctly and spot the issues, will it be okay?

Please let me know, by the way, I am talking about properties in Southern California in case it varies by regions.

Thank you so much yall!

Biggest things: mechanical systems, foundations, termites and hazardous materials

Mechanical systems: electrical - knob & tube, non-grounded 2-wire, 60 amp service, etc. Plumbing - galvanized potable, cast iron/clay/orangeburg waste. Subpar/non-existent heating/ac. Insulation - flammable, non-existent, insufficient, hazardous (asbestos)

Foundations - rock, brick, or wood not on footers. Deteriorating mortar joints.

Hazardous materials - asbestos in flooring, insulation, pipe wrap, hvac wrap, siding; lead paint; etc.

On the plus side, older properties were MUCH better built than they are today! My area is a mix of brownstones and high rises, and people living in the new construction are always complaining of noise and crappy quality.

 @JD Martin hit the points spot on @Young Kim with his diagnosis of old constructions (conventional construction) verse new construction (new come about in the early 70's). The New construction (this pertains to California), came when they started to use smaller dimensions of lumber a good example is 2x4s were changed to 1.5x3.5s (sometimes 1x3s), they went to a gusset plates on truss members, etc. 

Back before the early 70s they have more sound homes as @Johann Jells mentioned. That is good news for you as a home buyer, they structural members are better, and they can withstand higher loads. You will need to change out the plumbing due to the materials @JD Martin stated and other stuff for instance the aluminum wiring and upgrade the electrical panel most likely. 

For the vast majority of homes build in the 30s-60s in California I would say you are able to see all the challenges that you would face in the inspection report on the property, that is why it's imperative to do that during escrow. Once you see all the stuff you can make an informed decision.

Two things: make sure you are working with an agent/real estate professional that can highlight the things that can cause the older home to create a lot of expenses for you prior to going into escrow. Secondly, I have a few rentals in SoCal in the 30s-60s range and have not run into a massive amount of repairs or maintenance issues.  

There will be deferred maintenance items that your inspector won't pick up on. Just be wary, more things will go wrong. Old electrical lines, pipes leaking, hot water heaters breaking down. You will incrementally fix the issues but issues will surface more often at the onset with new tenants.