Home Buying in Wilmette>Question Details

Aac, Home Buyer in Chicago, IL

We are looking at a house that is 60 years old. What are some things to look at to ID good/bad structure?

Asked by Aac, Chicago, IL Thu Aug 28, 2008

The basement is super old and doesn't appear to have been used in YEARS (20-30) except to do laundry. Before we make an offer - what are something that I can look at to ensure the structure is sound, not leaking etc. Do I look in the basement and the outside of the house around the permimeter? I am gun shy and trying to ID what I will have to do to fix up structure to ensure a safe house (roof, HVAC, basement etc.,)

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AAC: Not sure if you're still in the market but your question is timely and one that many more home buyers ought to ask before writing a contract. My experience has been that when buyers visit older homes they are often amazed at how the present owner "lived" (or "lives") in the house. Humans are quirky and able to put up with a lot of inconveniences. Often simple inertia takes over and we get along with the leaks, cracks or messes. One thing to know: in Northern Illinois, the (NSBAR) purchase contract contains a "Professional Inspection" clause. Once the contract is accepted, the buyer has 5 business days to have a pro inspect the house. The issues identified are negotiated; this often involves requests for credits or changes.

In your situation, and BEFORE writing a contract, you can ask to bring in a contractor/inspector who can identify issues to be aware of. This is not a true home inspection but rather due diligence on your part. Doing this home evaluation first accomplishes several things: (1) it arms you with info about the house that can shape your offer and set an upper limit on the price you are willing to pay; (2) it highlights items that may not be inspection issues (low water flow, cracked walls, etc.) that are more qualitative factors you would have to address as the new owner; (3) it can be a make-or-break decision point for you if you have another house in mind.

Items you 'll want to assess are the big ticket items: roofs, walls, machinery, carpentry work done professionally or otherwise; consider how the yard is graded and it's ability to move water away from the house. SMELL the basement - a great indicator if whether there has been/is a seepage problem. Ask about the sewer hook up and lines. (A really expensive project.) Tuckpointing, gutters...the list can get really long. I've found that if you can find a good contractor who also does home inspections, he may be your best firend. Let him know what your concerns are and ask him how he/she would evaluate an older home.

Old houses can be wonderful homes. I live in a house built before 1880. But I suggest "Caveat Emptor" be your guiding principle with homes in lesser shape.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 11, 2009
The first thing you want to do is have the home professionaly inspected. You and I could guess at what may be wrong with the home all day long, but these guys get paid to scrutinize property. You want to know every little thing. I am not familiar with your states contracts, but you should be able to have a contingency that allows you to get out of the contract if the inspection comes back a mess.

Have a blessed day!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2008

I strongly suggest that if the home appears to be in good condition on the surface, then write a contract. Make sure the contract allows for you to have a home inspection. The home inspection company will be your cost and it will allow you to let the home inspector find any problems. If they find something, then the contract allows for you to go back and re-negotiate with the home owner. If you can't come to a conclusion, you get your earnest money back and the contract becomes null and void.

Good Luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2008
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