Home Buying in Portland>Question Details

Ds, Home Buyer in Portland, OR

Advice about buying an older home in NE/SE Portland

Asked by Ds, Portland, OR Tue Jun 29, 2010

I am a first time home-buyer looking to buy in Portland, OR. I love the NE/SE neighborhoods but buying an older home there concerns me because more things can fall apart with an older house. I would really appreciate reading about people's experiences with this. Especially issues with foundation problems. Thanks.

Help the community by answering this question:


As with any home purchase, the more you educate yourself about the possible flaws the better prepared you will be in making an informed purchase. Older homes can be a wonderful experience, just remember you are not buying new construction build under current codes. In many older homes, the out-dated plumbing, wiring, structural design and so forth are not always required to be updated. Remodeling will generally require updating those systems affected to be brought to current standards. There is a good possibility that signifcant remodeling/updating has occured over the years that was done without a permit.

Do not go cheap with the inspections. The Professional Inspection addendum allows inspections for hazardous materials (asbestos), plumbing, sanitary lines, surveys, structural, electrical and so forth. These inspections go far beyond what you would receive in the standard professional inspection. Spend the money upfront and determine what problems exist and how much the repairs will cost. You are still in the negotiating stage and you would be in a position to ask for repairs to be done or a price reduction due to the condition of the home.

Some of the inspections take additional time, especially structural inspections. The availability of structural inspectors seems to be between 2-3 weeks from my experience. Plan accordingly. Good luck. If you need a qualified Buyers agent, please give me a call. Thank you, Howard Page 503-516-7121
Web Reference: http://www.HowardPage.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
HI Ds,

Larry Morris mentioned the possibility of you considering using an FHA 203(k) Rehab loan if your older home you want to buy needs work or updating. However, if the work needed or wanted is <$35K and does not require any structural modifications, you could use the FHA 203(k) Streamline loan.

Contractor Directory for the FHA 203(k) Program
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 30, 2010

Older homes are great...so much character and the construction back in the day was so much better than today. Get a good home inspector, go over the details....then scoop it up. I have lived in older homes my whole life and couldn't be happier. If you need some advice please feel free to contact me.

David Waite-JLSMC
503-887-5323 or waite-david@msn.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 30, 2010
I'm happy to answer because I own a 1910 home in NE Portland and I love it. Yes, they could have many issues and you'll need a very good home inspector. The list of potential problems is a mile long - from siding to sewer lines. However, many of these older homes have already been extensively updated and have little to no issues. Most of the construction done on these older homes is sturdy and will last many lifetimes. The resale value of a well maintained older home is fantastic. I highly recommend one.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
Hi Ds
I will chime in with everyone and say I too live in NE Portland, having grown up in a local suburb. and i LOVE it! I have a 50s home. When I first got into the business I thought like you that older homes held the potential for more problems and no doubt that's true. However, a home inspector pointed out to me that the older homes were built with old growth timber alot of times. There were many homes built by craftsman with high level skills. How a home has been maintained over the years is the key.
As everyone says. there's inspections to ease your fears as part of your due diligence.
I have two suggestions... I have a home inspector that I use sometimes and he has great pictures on his website, showing the good but mostly the bad. They can be very funny but also sad and informative! but you can check those out by visiting his site which I will add below. Also if you do have questions about basements there are several water intrusion experts around.
Another company I have heard speak really sounded experienced in Oregon basements which of course, mostly is about water problems in our locale. His company is John's Waterproofing and he's been working on Portland basements for many many years. That's a guy you want around! I've never used his service but he did seem particularly knowledgeable His contact info: 800-810-5883 and web at johnswaterproofing.com.
and visit the site below for Portland Home Inspections for some interesting pics. Hope it helps and best to you in your search for a new home in the fun neighborhoods of inner city Portland. I'm available to help if you need it, of course! just give me a call
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
Hi Ds
I live and work in NE and own a 1923 PDX, I love the house and all it has to offer as an old historic home and yes the inspections and repairs are great, but I think owning a newer home or a complete remodeled home would the best if you don't like to paint and do repairs every year.
You should be able to find an updated or newer home in NE and SE Portland, and have the best of the both world.
All the best,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
I agree with all of my peers. A good Inspector is worth his/her weight in gold. But make sure that you get one yourself rather than use one the seller provides. Also, make sure taht you get a Home Warranty added to the purchase contract. These can help if something major happens in the next year or so.

My first home was in NE Portland and was built is 1942. I bought old because I felt that there would be less surprises and the quality of construction is often better with older homes. No I'm in a 1992 home and am just starting to have to replace a lot of the stuff.

Don't let a lot of the cosmetic stuff get in teh way of your decision. Things can be changed, and if it's bad enough, an FHA 203k Rehab loan might be the ticket.
Web Reference: http://www.pdx-mortgage.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
All of the above are spot on. A good general home inspection is an absolute necessity.

Keep in mind that new homes have problems, too. A friend once bought a
new condo that turned out to have major mold problem.

What I like about older homes is that time and use has revealed most of their problems and are easier to identify. The problems lurking in newer homes may not yet have presented themselves.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
Problems are a potential in any purchase. The best way to decrease the potential for a problem is to have a thorough whole house inspection by a qualified, competent inspector. I recommend an inspection to every purchaser, no matter what the age of the home. Even before you submit an offer and hire an inspector, make sure you take lots of time looking through the houses that interest you. Don't let yourself be rushed.

Feel free to also have a friend or relative walk through with you. The more eyes the better.

Your real estate broker also should be attentive, and should point out any problems he/she may notice. Once you've narrowed your search to your top picks, start with your favorite. Make an offer. Once it's accepted, have the property inspected by a professional. Ask friends for references. If they don't know of any, ask your broker. Also check professional organizations like ASHI, OAHI and NAHI (find them on the Internet).
Web Reference: http://www.bybryson.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
Hi there, you won't have any trouble finding a beautiful older home in either of those areas! I live in a 1915 home in NE Portland and love it. One thing to keep in mind, is that most of these home have been standing for close to 100 years and were built well. A home inspection will help to reaveal issues that need to be addressed and there are great foundation companies that will help with any foundation concerns.

During your home inspection period, you will negotiate any repairs to be made with the seller and hopefully come to an agreement that meets your needs. Other inspections in addition to a whole house are Sewer, Oil tank and Radon inspections. I work with really great inspectors, you can find them on my site at http://www.traceyhicks.com.

Good luck and have fun buying your first home!
Web Reference: http://www.traceyhicks.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
Hi, Ds,

My recommendation is to get expert help during your inspection process. If faults are serious you may be able to negotiate the remedies to be made prior to closing. Believe me, the upside can be well worth it. The neighborhoods are fun and active. The prices hold their own due to the charm of the home and the location. Just do it! It's my favorite part of Portland to purchase and sell!

Mary Jean Harmon
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
I'd recommend a good home inspector. If you have a Realtor that you trust they can give you a couple different names of well-qualified ones. The inspector would be a good resource for general information about the property. For something like a foundation, if there is a serious issue they may recommend a structural engineer or something similar. My wife and I have bought three houses and the home inspection has always been a crucial component.

Good luck! I have been in the NE area since 1977. I love the older houses too.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 29, 2010
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