Perhaps you’re at the stage where you have had enough of renting and want to put down some solid roots, or you’re looking to invest in a family home for generations to come. Whatever yourreasons for house hunting, buying your first home is always a memorable experience – and so it should be! These days it’s less a case of trawling around the estate agent windows of the high street, and more about swiping through details on the iPad. You may decide to spend time looking into some Open House weekend visits. If you’re looking for a home and not a house, buying older houses is a sure way to guarantee built-in character.
However, everyone adores a little bit of character. So if you have decided to eschew a modern maisonette, posh penthouse, or Docklands development and step back in time, then there are some things you ought to know about buying an older house before you sign on the dotted line.
Buying Older Houses: The Considerations
Well-Preserved (Like Jam)
Buying older houses is fantastically appealing, however, if they’re well preserved. Graceful Georgian homes, with squarely built lines and imposing doors, are solid examples of older homes. Perhaps you adore Victorian styling or Edwardian? Large rooms, long sash windows and original fireplaces and flooring are all pretty persuading factors, especially if you are moving from a modern box.
However, tuck away those rose-tinted specs – it’s time to get real. Remember the 1986 movie The Money Pit? No? Then watch it and weep. Unless you have several long weekends with nothing to do and a large disposable sum of cash, you might like to think twice about that solid looking red-bricked house on a leafy street in suburbia.
Lead Paint (Not like Jam)
Older houses have more layers of paint than a millefeuille custard slice. Scraping back all that history requires arms like Popeye, many hours of your time and the lingering scent of paint-stripper.
Plus, it can also be dangerous, as lead paint was used up until the 1970’s. According to Wikipedia, “lead paint is hazardous. It can cause nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development. It is dangerous to children because it tastes sweet, therefore encouraging children to put lead chips and toys with lead dust in their mouths”. We’re aware that you shouldn’t Google anything (you are definitely going to die from that cold), but it is dangerous, and you should look at for it.
Bundles of light filtering through original sash windows are unbeatable. They’re also a joy to dress, with the choice of blinds and curtaining available. However, the cords tend to perish, they can rattle, be draughty and you may find they hike up your house insurance bill a little faster than the time it takes to hoist them open.
Original FireplacesBefore you romanticise about where to hang your Christmas stocking and certainly before you strike that match, get a pro to check the fireplace. It will probably need re-lining, a costly affair but necessary if you’d rather not see your house purchase go up in smoke. Then there’s the cleaning – a small child really doesn’t do – the solid fuel bills, the mess and the smoke damage. Not to mention how much heat will escape through the chimney when left unlit.
Electric and Plumbing
You don’t think about this one until you have been jolted upright at 5 am as the heating comes on. The clanging pipework in an old property can seem like a siren at that time and may also be another lead problem in the form of pipes. Bottled water it is then. Electrics are a whole other ball game of worry. So, have the wiring inspected and possibly replaced unless you want to really wow the neighbours next Bonfire night.
Buying older houses will most likely come with beautiful hardwood floors – which you can make gleam with wax – and original ones are always a talking point. But they also have gaps – perfect for your child to deposit your credit card. Stains from where a rug once only covered the centre, bumps, old staples and nails to inflict injuries and tear tights, and they’re usually uneven. They may look low maintenance, but they really might not be.
Older Houses and Their Wood Obsession
So, you’ve understood the risks that we outlined and you’re still considering buying older houses. That’s fine -we’re sure you’ll be very happy… after the hard work. Older properties are saturated with character, with stories and with beautiful accents – and if you’re willing to graft to get what you want then you’ll be onto a winner.
One thing that you may notice with older homes is how much wood is used to create their wonderful accents, which fortunately for you is a material that bows fantastically to being reformed and refurbished.
When you consider how much people pay to have fake wooden floors fitted in their homes, it seems ridiculous not to make the most of your natural feature!
There’s a number of ways you can do this, and it shouldn’t require investing in a tool shed or breaking the bank (sigh of relief).
Fixtures and FittingsIf you’re decorating, don’t just fill a skip and replace things straight away (however, there’s no saving that pink swirled carpet). Before bulldozing through take a second look at original fixtures and fittings, paying particular attention to doors and floors.
A good idea is to give yourself a few weeks to live with what you’ve got. Then when your surroundings begin to look familiar, you can start making changes that you’ll have to live with.
Accessorise your Doors
Pick up brassware and traditionally styled lever handles to accentuate the authenticity. A source from firms that supply vintage, original and salvaged door furniture for the most authentic look.
You’ll receive stunning doors as a reward, all they need is several coats of wax in either a neutral colour or shade to suit your floors.
Speaking About Floors…Once that carpet is well and truly in the skip, what’s underfoot? You might prefer tiles in the bathroom and kitchen but living and dining areas look their best with natural wooden floors. If you have the originals, it’s best to reveal them. Just consider the purpose of the room beforehand.
Do it Yourself
It is where DIY is certainly possible. Hiring a sander for the weekend, or maybe the next few weekends will uncover strips of thick pine or oak. Holes or damaged boards can be easily fixed or replaced and a floor with some blemishes and knots speaks far more than a uniform one. Varnish floors with heavy traffic, apply a few coats of wax to bedroom floors – for colour and warmth add scatter rugs.
It’s quite economical to work on your floors yourself – and so rewarding when the final coat of wax is down. It’s not a difficult task and the sanding machines for hire often have suction bags attached to remove the dust as you work your way through your new home.
Watch a tutorial on using the sander before you begin.
Use A Professional
If you’re not sure, then employ the help of professionals. The last thing you want to do after investing in a beautiful old property is to ruin or tarnish the original character, so if you’re not 100% sure or confident then it’s time to wave a white flag and get the builders in.
Are you still considering buying older houses? Let us know on social and send pictures to feature!