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Before You Sell Old Home, Inspect These Things First

With a long history dating back to over 10,000 years ago, it isn’t surprising that Washington is host to hundreds of stately old homes and buildings. In fact, according to the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, people may find at least one architectural style that fits every decade or era.

These include the Carpenter Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque properties that defined the late Victorian Age. Meanwhile, Dutch Colonial and French Eclectic styles dominated the revival periods between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Even better, there’s a market niche for old homes. While the number of potential home buyers may be small, they are also likely the ones willing to pay good money for a gorgeous historic property.

But anyone who desires to get these houses up in the market should do one thing first: make sure the home is in good shape. Here’s a checklist on what to inspect:

1. Interiors

The interiors can cover the flooring, kitchen and bathroom design, sizes of bedrooms and other spaces, and even decors.

The type of floors can vary depending on the age or the period the house was built. Late Victorian homes, for example, are more likely to feature hardwood floors. Cork floors, meanwhile, became popular during the 1930s. Those constructed in the seventies and eighties may have vinyl instead of wood.

Many old houses also don’t have subfloors, as homeowners back then might have thought they were expensive and unnecessary. In reality, they are more ideal if the property uses concrete flooring.

Besides flooring, there may be a stark difference in kitchen design. Kitchen spaces in Cape Cod-style homes may feature all wood (preferably planks) painted with white, although one may also see subtle hints of different shades of blue. The purpose is to imbibe a beachside feel into the space.

Kitchens may also differ in the countertops used over the years. Homes built in the twenties might have used Monel, which is a combination of nickel and copper alloy as their countertops. Formica, on the other hand, might have debuted in homes in the 1940s.

Existing homeowners may choose to retain the features or enhance them depending on the market demand. For instance, a lot of home buyers still favor wood. But one may need to call on tile setters to update vinyl or laminate countertops with perhaps granite, marble, or quartz. This can help enhance the appeal of the house that would be put up for sale.

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2. Roofing

Many old houses seem to have plenty of problems with roofing. Late Victorian houses, for instance, typically used natural slate, which is a long-lasting material. However, the nails used can experience corrosion, increasing the risk of a shingle falling.

Homes in the 1940s might have either hipped or gabled roofs. Hipped ones are actually complicated to maintain, and they can be more expensive to renovate than gabled designs. However, gabled roofing may not be the best option when winds are strong. Washington can experience strong windstorms once in a while.

Even the most beautiful roof may also have holes that cause a leak. Water can then penetrate the foundations, which are likely to be made of wood. Rotting can increase the chances of a weak structure in the future.

3. Plumbing and Insulation

Two of the biggest issues one will normally encounter in old houses are plumbing and insulation. Now, unlike other states, plumbing came way early in Washington.

By the late 1800s, the state might already have a central sewage system. In a lot of properties across the country, they wouldn’t know about indoor plumbing until around the 1940s. In fact, in a paper by James Lutz of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, over 25 percent of homes in more than 15 states didn’t feature flushable toilets by the 1960s.

However, the data about Washington plumbing also indicates two things. First, houses built before the 1800s are more than likely not to have any flushing system. But the pipes of homes constructed past the 1800s may not be as durable as they are now.

They may already be showing terrible signs of corrosion. If they are copper or lead, they may already be leaking into the water supply.

Another potential pertinent problem is insulation. This one is often missing in homes built before the 1940s. If they did have one, there’s a good chance that the preferred insulator was asbestos. This material made from silica is dangerous when it breaks down. Humans can inhale the microscopic particles, increasing the risk of severe respiratory illnesses.

The bottom line is, regardless of the age of the Washington house, it may be best to upgrade both the plumbing and insulation systems.

Pretty old homes can command a good price, but they also need to be more than just eye candy—they have to be livable. Hence, inspecting and upgrading them when necessary can make them even more attractive in the market.

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