older home

Watch Out for These Pitfalls When Buying an Older Home

By Ilan Joseph, Broker, ABR®, e-PRO®, AMP® | © All rights reserved

older homeAs more buyers look to stay closer to urban areas where older homes such as bungalows tend to be found, it’s essential to understand what you’re purchasing and how best to avoid some common pitfalls of buying an older home.

Your two best friends when purchasing an older home are your Realtor and a trusted home inspector:

Realtors help find out when updates to the home were last carried out. What exactly was done and if there are any written guarantees in place that are transferable to the new owner.

Home inspectors are a must to help you assess the homes wear and tear over time. Having a trusted home inspector who can carry out a series of tests and inspections of every aspect of the home will give you a report card of the homes overall condition. It will also arm you with the knowledge you’ll need to carry out various repairs and renovations to the home.

Let’s look at the most common issues older homes face:

Water Damage is the most common issue older homes face, especially in neighbourhoods known to get flooded due to poor sewage lines. Water damage leads to a slew of other issues like mould or in severe cases, sinking foundations. Look out for stains on ceilings or on walls. A home inspector has a moister meter to test for possible moister hidden behind walls or tiles.

Foundations are another common problem in older homes that need to be closely inspected. The foundation is what holds your home in place so ensuring it’s in good condition is of the utmost importance. Look out for cracks and any crumbling, especially against the foundation walls. Cracked floors aren’t necessarily a problem but your inspector will be able to assess that for you. Inspect the exterior foundation as well for any possible damage.

Pipes and Drains in older homes are often made of materials no longer used in today’s homes. Whether made of lead, iron or clay, these pipes should be checked to ensure they’ve been updated. Today’s plumbing should be made of copper or PVC. Older homes can be susceptible to sewage backup so try to find out from the city when the water mains were last serviced or updated.

Electrical components of older homes should always be thoroughly inspected. Older homes can still be using a fuse system which should be updated to a breaker system. Your home should have at least 100 amp service and all outlets in washrooms and on the exterior should be GFCI’s which will automatically shut off if water penetrates the outlet or if you accidentally drop your blow-dryer into a full sink. Look out for aluminum or knob and tube wiring which is a huge fire hazard.

Heating systems in older homes were usually comprised of wood burning stoves or run from oil tanks. Today, the most common are natural gas or electrical. Test the furnace to ensure its running well and check when it was last serviced or replaced.

Insulation in older homes wasn’t much of a concern as many decades ago energy costs were relatively low. With the cost of heating bills through the roof these days, it’s important to check your attic for insulation to ensure that it’s sufficient and evenly placed. Older homes are usually made of double brick siding with plaster on the inside so they likely are void of any insulation. You may be able to spray insulation into the walls but this can be a costly endeavour.

Buying an older home generally comes with a better location and more land, however, always thoroughly inspect your home and speak to your Realtor about these common pitfalls before pulling the trigger too quickly and finding yourself with more work than you can handle down the road.


If you have any questions about the home buying process or would like some information about the TorontoVaughan or Thornhill real estate market, feel free to contact me.

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IMG_0080 bwIlan Joseph is a Real Estate Broker with Sutton Group and is co-founder of a 10-person award-winning Toronto, Thornhill and Vaughan real estate team.

You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

For over 11 years, Ilan has provided more than 1550 buyers and sellers valued advice and service, enabling them to reach their real estate goals.

He’s kind of like the Bruce Willis of real estate.