Home Buying in 92131>Question Details

Michael, Home Buyer in Lone Tree, CO

Older homes, the risks? What specific risks should I be concerned about when buying an older (1950-1980s) home? Electrical comes to mind.

Asked by Michael, Lone Tree, CO Wed Feb 6, 2013

Looking in SoCal...a significant amount of the homes I'm seeing are quite old. A guy that works for home owns a fair number of homes (outside of CA), and said new homes are not built that well (advised checking the rep of a builder before I buy). Older homes are more solid but can have expensive electrical, plumbing, other issues. Seems like no way to pre-evaluate these things when looking online?

Help the community by answering this question:


One of the biggest advantages of buying an existing home is that you can determine the long-term value of the home more easily than you can with a new home.

Also, you can know more about the schools, your potential new neighbors, and the area before buying the home. In a newly-constructed subdivision, all of those factors are unknown.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 13, 2013
Michael, interview and find yourself a good home inspector. Both new and old homes can have issues. A good home inspector will let you know exactly what you are getting into. I would not shy away from a home just because it's a little older. I see many older homes, some in better shape and quality than new construction...

Good Luck,

Wesley Guest
Broker Associate
Web Reference: http://wesleyguest.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 10, 2013
Hi Michael,
I see you got a lot of answers to your question, and that is good thing, I just wanted to let you know I have purchased new home in the past and I purchased one four months a go. I have been happy and never had any big issue with the house. If there are new constructions in the area of your interst, please do some resarch on the builder. It also depends on the builder you choose. If you need more help please let me know. thanks
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 9, 2013
What price range are we talking about?

Let's say that the systems are shot. How much does it cost to replumb, rewire, replace the HVAC?

In an $800,000 house, systems upgrades are a lot cheaper than cosmetic upgrades, don't you think?

But. I think you're barking up the wrong tree. If you were my client, I would tell you to forget all of that, and instead think about how you want to live in a home and find a floor plan and location to satisfy that desire. Because, you can find the best house in the best condition and hate living in it, and still have a $4000 monthly mortgage payment on it.

All the best,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 8, 2013
Mission Hills, Kensington and other metro neighborhoods in San Diego are full of classic beautiful homes, many have been kept up to date. You should always get a home imspected, it can save you money in the long run PLUS the sellers may pay for some or all of the repairs if needed.

1. Most sellers will have termite inspections done within days of listing the house.

2. The California purchase agreement (RPA) really protects the buyer, most new homes condo's
in California come with warranties that last for a few years.

3. Check Senate Bill ( California State Senate Bill 800 ( SB -800 )

Look on-line - then check it out for yourself...good luck
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 8, 2013
I live in a home that has been in my family since 1937 and over the years it has been upgraded to current codes. It is a delightful home in a great neighborhood. If you are interested in a well established neighborhood, then you will have to consider older homes.
The building inspector will check for structural and mechanical problems with the home. He will let you know if the home meets current code or the code that was in effect at the time it was built. They will also detail any health and safety violations.
You cannot tell just from the pictures the status of electrical or plumbing. It is rare to find a home these days that does not have circuit breakers rather than fuses or has galvanized plumbing rather than copper.

Local Help with Your Real Estate Needs

Jerry Heard
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The San Diego Property Shop
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Office 619-269-5545
Fax 619-269-9168
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
That's why property inspector have jobs! When you find a home you are interested in, you must have an inspection. San Diego does have a lot of older homes...they often possess greater charm than newer ones. Electricians and plumbers are abundant....so my suggestion is to go with the type of home that fits yours and your family's needs.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
HI Michael,

As you can see, the agents below have offered many of the things you may need to look out for in buying an older, or for that matter, ANY home. I think all the fabulous info below validates how important it is to have a great realtor, who has been in the business a while and "seen it all" so to speak. Those agents are more qualified to guide you away from the problematic homes and towards the good ones.

In my 10+ years as an agent, mostly in Minnesota but now back in San Diego, I have rarely had a buyer walk away post-inspection - and that's because we know how to pick the good ones. I had my contractor's license in MN and have also flipped over a dozen homes - so it helps to have an inside perspective. That said, even an agent can't know what might be an issue by looking at a home online - we've got to walk through it too.

I like all home styles and eras - from the late 1800's to the present day - but my favorites are pre-1980's. Often I feel the older home is more of a testament to quality and stability - after all, it's lasted "this" long. Cheaper materials and quick construction have contributed to many issues in newer homes - but it depends, as you say, on the builder.

Once you get here, be warned, it's a crazy competitive market right now and "getting" the house is often the biggest hurdle. We are seeing multiple offers on most homes under $800k, especially under $400k. Prices are up 10-30% in varying neighborhoods. Some sellers won't negotiate on inspection items, especially in the case of short sales where the seller has no money to fix things.

Your best defense will be a great realtor to help you with the obvious things and an even better inspector to do a thorough evaluation of the home. Inspectors often recommend specialist evaluations of other items they aren't fully qualified to analyze. What's nice about CA is you have a full 17 days to get your inspections done an assess whether you want to move forward with the deal - if something strange comes up that scares you, or a seller refuses to repair something - you can walk away and get your earnest money back (but, you'll be out the cost of the inspections and possibly the appraisal).

Let me know if you'd like more info on specific neighborhoods or areas throughout SD. SD is the 8th largest city in the nation - so it's more sprawling than most people realize and where you live is often predicated upon what you can afford. Once you know your price point/neighborhood - you'll have a better idea of what to expect in the style/age/condition of the home.

Either way - you'll love living in Southern California!!


Sarah Wilkey
Century21 Award
The Ruth Pugh Group
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Hello Michael,

There are a lot of good answers below and no need to beat a dead horse. What I would like to point out is that the seller has to make disclosures of any material facts (ie...anything that would affect a buyer's decision to buy/not buy their place). If they don't make those disclosures and something ends up coming to light that should have been disclosed, there are legal ramifications. On the flip side, as the buyer, it is your responsibility to have any inspections that you deem necessary. Of course, you'd want a home inspection from a well respected, certified inspector. From here, that individual, along with your agent should be able to provide guidance on any other inspections that you should get. In addition to the Natural Hazard Disclosure Report, I'd make sure you get a CLUE report (lets you know of any insurance claims on the property in the last 5 years).

If your concern is about major appliances, be sure to find out how old they are and if any of them are still under warranty. Even the newest of places have their own set of issues. Thus, it is highly advised to have a home warranty plan (something I always ask for when representing buyers) in addition to your homeowner's insurance.

In closing, I wouldn't necessarily be deterred from "older" homes. Regardless of whether you get a new home or an older one, there are very real costs in home ownership and if you are operating on a certain budget, it is good to make sure these costs are accounted for. Having said that, there is a reason owning a home is the American Dream. Fortunately for you, you will have the best of both worlds! Having the American Dream in America's Finest City...doesn't get much better than that!


Chad Basinger, REALTOR®, CPA, CFP®
Web Reference: http://www.chadbasinger.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Older.... is all relative. Some would consider an 1830 home as newer construction.

Seriously, with older homes, it's all about how well the property has been maintained and upgraded as needed. Beyond any possible structural issues, buyers of these homes should pay close attention to possible "big ticket" issues. Roof, HVAC, appliances, WDO's, mold, wet basement, kitchen, bathrooms, wiring, plumbing etc.

Play attention to basic maintainence of the home. warn carpet, cracked or broken windows, casic clutter, dated appliances, dripping faucets, unkept grounds etc. can all be indications of possible bigger issues that are waiting for the new owner.

Absolutely, conduct every possible inspection necessary to protect your interests.

Good luck,

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Desmond Collins, Agent, San Diego, CA Hi Michael.

Older homes can have a lot of differed maintenance problems if the up keep of the previous owners was not maintained. There could also be lead based paint issues that need to be addressed. Some older homes could have roof leaks and hidden mold problems inside the walls that could later turn into structual problems if the roof was not replaced or at least patched after leaks. Mechanical and electrical systems may need replacing or at least bring up to code.My advice is to hire a licenced Buiding Inspector or Contractor to look for issues that could present a risk when buying. I can recomend a good on if needed. I hope this has helped.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Hi again Michael,
Older homes may have lead paint, asbestos (tile, insulation), aluminum wiring and old, filled electrical panels. That would mean there's no room to wire a spa or hot tub if they are not already on the panel. Some older homes lack the GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) for electrical safety. Some San Diego-area homes have "Rampart" fireplaces" which can pull away from the structure. If your older home was built in the 1970's you may have this.
Most So-Cal homes do not have basements, so the plumbing is buried in the cement slab. Some owners re-plumbed to avoid the dreaded slab-leak or to repair a leak, others still have had the plumbing in the slab. Polybutelane (plastic) plumbing was all the rage in the late '70's through the '80's so you want to find out if the home has copper pipes or polybutelane pipes.

All homes have to pass a pest inspection for dry rot of wood, termites, bees, rodents, etc., regardless of when they were built.

Newer homes can have their issues as well. In general, the paints used are water-based and everything is up to code (stairway railings, wider doorways), but newly built-homes need to be carefully inspected. We've found ungrounded outlets, windows that won't open (or close) or other items that are construction defects.

The answer is to have a good home inspection once you're in escrow. The second step in negotiating a home purchase is getting the repairs completed or receiving credit for repairing them after the home is sold. A home warranty is also a must for problems that might arise after the close of escrow. The seller typically pays for a home warranty, but again, it can be negotiated by your agent on your behalf.

I'll be glad to to help you once you arrive in San Diego. I've sold new and old homes all over San Diego County.

Mary Lawler, Realtor
Realty Executives
Web Reference: http://www.MaryLawler.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Older homes typically have very good bones but there can be items that may be a problem.

Some common issues are:

Knob and Tube, cloth, or aluminum electrical wiring
Lead paint (if the home was built before 1978)
Steel plumbing (can corrode on the inside and get blocked)
Asbestos (insulation on plumbing, floor tiles, exterior shingles,siding)

Usually, these problems can be fixed but you need to be made aware of them.

When you purchase any home, you should elect the property inspection contingency and hire a really good inspector to go through the complete home to check everything out for you. If a problem is found, you can attempt to negotiate with the seller to have the problem corrected or terminate and move on to another home.

I hope this is of some help.


Joe Finnerty
Prudential Patt White Real Estate
Lehigh Valley, PA
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
Hi Michael,

Older homes may have electrical, plumbing, and appliances issues. I would recommend to get a general home inspector when you find the fit home, and depending on their results, maybe a specialist in electricity and plumbing.

If the home is on a hill, a sewer line inspection is highly recommended (an inspection with video to see the inside up to the curb hook up).
Web Reference: http://www.douglaslagos.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2013
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