7 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying an Old Home
In a way, owning an old home is like having a baby—you don’t know what to look for until you’re deep in the trenches, and you’ll spend years vacillating between feeling totally exhausted and terribly stressed—cubs in love (I can say this with confidence, having bought an old house in within two months of the birth of my first child). Beyond the very obvious questions (for example, is the foundation stable?), there are many important questions any potential old home buyer should ask themselves. And believe it or not, they have more to do with personality than anything else. (This is, after all, one of the greatest relationships you’ll ever get into.)
Do you like working with your hands?
Before moving into my old house, I considered myself more of a thinker than an actor. I’ve always loved decorating, but I’ve never been particularly helpful — then again, 17 years of hopping between rentals in NYC didn’t allow me much opportunity to acclimatize. But just as no one can prepare you for what it’s like to be a parent, no one can teach you how to take care of an old house — until your quirks stare you in the face. I have found that the thrill of completing a DIY project is one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever experienced. If you’re like me, you’d probably make a great old homeowner.
How much free time do you have?
Some relatives came to visit us shortly after we bought our house. I remember someone saying, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work!” My husband and I looked at each other and smiled. Because the desire to do work – honest, satisfying, joyful work with our own hands – is exactly what prompted us to buy the house (this relative, by the way, lives in a glass apartment with a full-time maintenance staff).
Working in an old house is great, but only if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, try to make time. If you can’t make the time, you probably shouldn’t buy an older home.
Do you have flexibility in your schedule to deal with the unexpected?
My husband and I own our own business, which I consider to be a huge bonus in entire old home ownership. We work a lot, but we also have a lot of flexibility in our time. When things come up that we weren’t expecting, it’s rarely a problem to have one of us at home to deal with.
In an interview last year with Nicole Curtis, she gave CountryLiving.com readers some solid advice, which I’ll paraphrase here: To enjoy old home ownership, you must have enough time or enough money.
Allow me to explain. If you have the money to pay other people to fix every leak and break, consider yourself lucky. But the rest of us need to pick our priorities, decide which projects we can tackle and which we need to save money to pay a professional to do. Older homes generally require more maintenance than new homes, and it’s important to be realistic about how much money you can and pay others for.
Are you a homebody?
Children do not raise themselves, and old homes cannot survive without constant care. Fortunately, I come from a long line of home objects (thanks mom!) and nothing makes me happier than spending an entire day immersed in a home project. In college this made me somewhat of an outcast, but in an old house, I’m totally at home.
Is your husband as excited as you are?
“Hey baby, what do you want to do today?”
“Let’s go to the beach!”
“Really? I was thinking we could work on stripping away the ugly bathroom wallpaper. I can’t bear to look at it for another day.”
Seriously? But this is the weekend !
Believe me, you don’t want to have this conversation every weekend. Let’s face it: There are people in the house, and there are people who don’t care much about stripping ugly wallpaper. If your husband ends up resenting the house because of your obsession with him, you will have a problem. On the other hand, nothing brings a couple together more than a joint house project and a bottle of wine. If you are on the same page from the start, it will be a much smoother journey. And so fun!
Are you definitely, positively, screwed up in love with home?
you know what i mean. You walk in, and you see the huge potential, and you totally have to own it. Once you have been bitten by an old house bug, there is no need to go back.