Whenever you ask somebody what they want from a new home, they almost always reply “character.” But to get character, you often have to buy something old - really old. Many characterful houses are as old, if not older, than many antiques. And, yet, they’re a place we have to live.
Buying an old house can be a real challenge, and if you’re not careful, you can quickly find yourself in a lot of expensive trouble. This is what everybody forgets when buying an old house...
Will You Actually Be The Owner?
When you go out and buy a house, you assume that once the money is handed over, you become the owner. But unfortunately, that’s not how the law works - at least some of the time. The problem is that many old properties are part of larger buildings or larger estates. Because of this, people who buy properties (like old flats or outbuildings) often buy “leasehold.”
This means that when you buy the house, you have the right to live in it for a certain period of time, usually more than 100 years, before you have to renew the lease with the person who owns the surrounding building or outbuildings. Sounds strange, but it’s something that’s been in operation for hundreds of years, and it’s not about the change soon. Make sure, therefore, that if you buy a characterful old house that’s leasehold that it’s got more than 100 years on the lease. The last thing you want is to think that you’re kids have got a fine inheritance, only to find out that there’s hardly any time left on the lease and that the property is practically worthless.
Are There Any Contaminants?
There’s another problem with old buildings: the contaminants. Many old houses were built in a time when builders and the authorities were ignorant of the dangers of certain building materials. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have an asbestos survey done of the property to make sure that you and your family aren’t at risk. When asbestos flakes off, it can pass into the lungs, causing illness and even death in the long run - not something you want.
The Electrics Are Probably Trashed
Another big problem with buying an old house is the fact that the electrics are probably very old. You might not think that this is a big problem, but it is. Electrical wiring, especially older electrical wiring, doesn’t last forever. According to experts, the plastic that surrounds wires only lasts about 70 years before it starts to crack and warp. This cracking and warping opens you up to the risk of fire.
Pro tip: get a surveyor to investigate when it was that the wiring was last changed. They’ll be able to tell you how much it’ll cost to replace the electrical wiring to make the property safe.
Buying an old house can be a great experience and bring joy to your life. But if you think you won’t have any work to do once you move in, you’re sadly mistaken.