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I am looking to buy a home built in 1920. What should I be aware of?

I am only looking at homes that have already been updated and/or renovated.  The location is in a revitalized district, so the neighborhood is slowly turning over and the property values are rising each year.  I am a single female and won't be able to do much home improvement by myself if any is needed.  Any suggestions as to questions I should ask when viewing homes?
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October 18 2009 - Durham
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Be sure to enlist the help of an inspector that is familiar with the area as well as older homes. They will be able to scope out any issues at hand, as well as enlighten you to what issues they foresee occurring. Once, the inspection is complete be sure to obtain a copy of the report and review it with your real estate agent. This is to ensure you are not overlooking any serious issues that may be able to be taken care of prior to purchasing by the current homeowner.
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January 14
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Be careful for mold damage Durham NC. Make sure the building is in good repair. Pay close attention to whether or not it is in a flood zone or not. And make sure there is no visible physical damage.
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January 13
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If your older home lacks insulation in the walls and has original windows (maybe even oversized ones - like mine), expect to pay more in heating in the cold months that everyone else.  We do - $600 per month for gas heat despite having a new boiler since everything else in the house is old. 

Also, don't limit your investigation to everything inside the house, consider whether the water main is original.  Ours was and we replaced it.  It was leaching extremely high levels of lead. 

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October 25 2009
Mahalonuiloa,
You certainly want to have the house thoroughly inspected by a licensed inspector that has extensive experience in older homes. In many older homes that I inspect that has had renovations, contractors sometimes take shortcuts that may cause unsafe situations. In a home this old, the electrical should be completely ungraded. I see cases where the main electrical breaker panel is upgraded, but the wiring to the outlets and fixtures is still the old knob and tube wiring that can be buried in insulation and can be unsafe.
If the plumbing pipes is still the old galvanized pipes, they should be replaced with updated copper or PEX piping as galvanized pipes can corrode from the inside and restrict water flow.
Old homes are not energy efficient. Has insulation been added to the attic? These homes also did not usually have insulation to the exterior walls but this can be done.
The heating and air conditioning and heating can be costly items, how old are they? Be sure to have these checked out.
Lastly old homes can have many environmental issues such as lead paint, asbestos and lead pipes. Be sure to have these addressed.

Good Luck and email me if you have any questions I can answer.
Kent Keith
www.fortworthinspector.com
Fort Worth Home Inspector
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October 19 2009

* Electrical outlets-are they updated?
* Fuse box...up to code?
* insulation-the right stuff?
*asbestos
*mold
*lead paint
*radon
*does the home have sound construction? Any issues w/ foundation?
*roof
*windows
*doors
*is it on well/septic-if so..is it newer?

Good luck to you!!!

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October 19 2009
Oh, and since I recently staged a few 1920's bungalows, this comes to mind.  Don't be blinded by the charm of the house (and some of them are totally charming.)  The rooms tend to be small.  So, write down the dimensions of your largest pieces of furniture (bed, sofa, dining set), and bring a tape measure when you view houses.  Measure the rooms to make sure your furniture is going to fit.
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October 19 2009
When I went through my 'classic' home phase, I included both a home inspection clause and a general contractor inspection clause on each offer.  That way I was aware of both the legal issues and the cosmetic, quality-of-life issues/costs.  If you do not have a good contractor, ask around the neighborhood, ask friends and family.  Whether the house is vintage or just built, having someone you trust and work well with makes a huge difference unless you are a real DIYer.
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October 19 2009
There are a few things to consider when purchasing an older home. Lead paint is one, asbestos in floor coverings and insulation,outdated electrical and plumbing. Since you say, the homes are updated, hopefully, these things have been investigated and corrected. But we can't assume,they have been.
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October 18 2009
You really should have an agent that has a background in construction. They will have the expertise to evaluate whether the home is a charming classic or a money pit.

Old houses are, well, old. There are some advantages - they tend to be structurally overbuilt, so they have lasted and should continue to last; they have racked a little bit over time, and the floor plans are charming but obsolescent. There are some disadvantages - the systems, if upgraded, have been retrofit, rather than designed anew. They are not energy efficient. 

No old house is "like new." And they don't build them like they used to.

 
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October 18 2009
Most of the obvious things you or your agent can probably see when viewing the home: does it have new windows, a new roof, a new furncace, AC and water heater?

The residential property disclosure should tell you if there are issues not easily discovered.

Last but not least, you definitely should do a home inspecion once you are in contract. Items like the wiring (electric) or adequate insulation in the roof or moisture in the crawl space cannot be seen when casually looking at a property.

Good luck!
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October 18 2009
 
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