When moving into an older “new” home we often focus on the exciting stuff; paint colors, furniture, and the décor. Due to this, we forget about the important things like the “bones”.
You know the “bones,” the house’s structure, what is under all the plaster and paint. We also forget in the excitement of a home purchase and move in, the maintenance cost of older homes.
My dad put it best, “if you don’t want an expensive hobby, don’t move into an older home.”
Wait a minute! Before you stop reading …This post is not to deter you from buying or crushing on an old home. Rather to help you prioritize renovation and maintenance costs.
Hopefully through this post you can learn from both our good ideas and mistakes. Remember we’re just a few regular homeowners who learned a thing or two from buying and slowly renovating an older home. Maybe it will help you plan for lovin’on your new “old” home too.
Firstly the budget…
- Seriously analyze and itemize the major structural costs you see coming. Your home inspection will tell you what does or does not need work.
Our example: We needed a new roof and we knew this expense would be a biggy. Therefore we budgeted enough and squirreled it away as a future expense.
- Are there health concerns with your new “old” house? Possible asbestos or lead paint? (They have you sign a hazard warning in California.)
Don’t think the age of your home is a catchall. In the 1970s these hazardous materials were still in use because contractors and companies were allowed to use them in order to eliminate supply. In fact HVAC friends of ours have seen asbestos wrapped duct work even in 1980s homes. (YIKES!)
But don’t freak out yet… This is where you prioritize a possible cost and budget for encapsulation or removal. Have it tested, and bring out the professionals. They will give you the advice, do their thing and sometimes even calm your nerves. Also don’t go by what one professional says. Instead have several estimates and an independent inspector and/or lab help you. Don’t go with an abatement company who “happens to test.”
This often can be done prior to purchase. If it comes back positive get estimates for abatement and this may even become part of the negotiation process in home buying. If not you know the risks and costs and can have it professionally encapsulated and/or abated before move in.
Our example: We had the professionals come in and abate the popcorn ceilings, re-plaster and air test before move in
- Don’t ignore the small stuff, include those costs in the budget and priority list. It helps to imagine your home as a grandma. She may be a tough ol’ bird for 60+ years old but her bones are still 60+ years old. Don’t let that small leak in the guest bath or that saggy gutter go ignored, these can become a big problem with a BIG price tag for you later. Consider doing a mini-inspection with a handyman. Also by itemizing the projects you find, you can evaluate which ones can be a DIY project or left to a professional.
Our example: A small valve issue on an old toilet, turned into a quarter inch of water and a big clean-up for us later on. (Thank goodness for a great home warranty!)
- That leads to the next tip, consider extending your home warranty or adding coverage. Paying a little up front may pay dividends in a good nights sleep later.
Our example: Our real-estate agent arranged at signing for some additional coverage since there was some extra money left on the table. Our coverage included out-take pipe repair and some leaks so this has helped ease worries.
- Consider your future renovation plans, and start estimating the costs for materials and/or labor. You may have your dream home dancing around in your head, but once you start dreams may equal big dollars. Once the bones and maintenance are itemized and planned for, add the “dream cost” onto the list. Then you will see how much you can really budget for a kitchen remodel.
Our example: Looking at the end budget…Yikes! We knew if we wanted that kitchen remodel to happen we’d only have about $1500 left for it…This is when you know creativity and DIY can be put to use.
All in all, our best lesson, and one we need to consistently remind ourselves about, was to keep a running “home repair emergency” savings. It also should be separate and not mixed in with the renovation budget and funds. This turned out to be the best tool in helping us sleep at night when those little house catastrophes happen. (i.e. like rats moving into the attic, or an air conditioner stops working.) This little savings will help with home warranty deductibles and you’ll feel less pain in the pocket book when the maintenance issues strike.
I hope these tips help you prioritize and plan for your new “old” home, because like grandma, they may have great bones, but be prepared to take care of them.