Want to Own an Old Home in Ann Arbor, MI? Watch Out For These 5 Problems

Q: Doc, We want to buy an old home. Do you have any tips for us?

A: Yes, watch out for these 5 common problems!

Some people prefer the stately, old-world grandeur of older homes to the lifeless, unimaginative construction of modern houses.

If you’re one of these individuals, then congratulations on your sense of domicile style! But as you search for the vintage home of your dreams, be on the lookout for certain issues that are often found in houses of a certain age (and be prepared to shell out some cash to fix them). Here are five of the most common problems:

1. Lead-based paint.

Though it hasn’t been used for decades, the exterior paint on many homes once contained bits of lead. It cannot be absorbed through the skin; but if it flakes off and is ingested, it could harm you, your children, or your pets. It can also contaminate your soil. To get rid of it, the lead paint must be sandblasted away and the exterior repainted.

2. Lead pipes.

Pipes with lead in them were widely used in homes until the middle of the last century, and lead was also found in welding solder until the mid-1980s. If any of this lead rusts or flakes off the pipe, it can go straight into your water supply. There are two ways to approach this problem: replace the pipes that contain lead, or install a filtration system in your home which will keep the lead out of your water.

3. Roofs and gutters in disrepair.

Don’t downplay the dangers of a few loose shingles or a rusty gutter system. If the rainwater isn’t flowing away from your house, it can weaken your foundation or damage your attic or interior walls. Patch up roof holes and repair your gutter guards before you move in.

4. Cracked foundation.

Structures of all ages can have foundation issues; but the older the home, the greater the chances are of having problems with the house’s foundation. The cinderblock and cement materials used to build older homes tend to crack, allowing water to seep into walls, causing mold and mildew to form in ceilings. If you can’t seal foundation cracks from the inside, you may have to pay thousands of dollars to fix the foundation itself.

5. Radon.

Foundation cracks can also permit the formation of radon gas inside your home. This odorless, naturally-occurring gas is believed to be in 1 out of every 15 American homes and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the nation. Testing for the presence of radon is easy; but finding the source and getting rid of the gas may be more expensive.

You shouldn’t let the possibility of these problems deter you from buying an older home. However, if you do have your eye on a certain vintage house, you should seek out experts to determine if these problems exist before you seal the deal. Though some of the fixes may be costly, you usually are able to get rid of these hazards once and for all. Then you can concentrate on moving into your fabulous one-of-a-kind home!

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