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Buying an old house? 11 Things to look out for

For visionary homeowners, it’s all about befores and afters. Here’s what to look for when buying an old house.

What to look for when buying an old house

Article summary

  • Even before an ooba Home Loans consultant has helped you prequalify and obtain bond approval, make sure you assess any other costs you might incur when you purchase or upgrade an old home.
  • Check the roof and windows first. These are the most important.
  • The kitchen and bathroom usually come next. Do your appliances fit into the kitchen area? Can the bathroom do with new tiles?
  • Insurance is also a factor to take into account.

Many young adults raised by parents who have owned their own homes, and possibly even additional holiday homes or investment apartments, learn at an early age that property is one of the best ways to secure your financial future.

If you’re one of those young adults, you’ve probably made owning your own home a priority soon after entering the job market – setting your sights on saving up for a deposit or managing your money well enough to impress the banks into granting you a 100% bond. And if you’re a little older, and more established, you might even be looking to expand your property portfolio by buying a second property.

Is buying an old house the way to go?

Real estate agents will often recommend buying the worst house or apartment in the best area. It’s all about location, which means you could be looking at investing in a fixer-upper.

But have you ever been so determined to access the world of property ownership that you bite off more than you can chew? Meaning that you’re so fixed on making it through the bond prequalification phase and getting bond approval that you forget about (or turn a blind eye to) what to look for when buying an old house?

As South Africa’s leading home loan comparison service, ooba Home Loans can guide you through the prequalification process, help you work out what you can afford on your monthly home loan repayment, and establish which of the banks will grant you bond approval.

Old is gold

In this scenario, when you’ve got your ducks in a row from a financial perspective and can actually afford to buy a property, this is almost the easy part. The tricky bit is the renovation, the implementation of which will depend on your budget, your creativity and your patience.

What qualifies as an old home?

The general rule of thumb is that homes built before 1990 are considered older homes, while homes built before 1920 are considered antique.

There are a few tell-tale signs for identifying a home. Of course, the structural condition is one. The style of the home is another.

You may consider keeping the stylistic elements in place when you update the home. For example, a Cape Dutch or Victorian-style home can be updated to include modern facilities, while still keeping certain stylistic elements, such as the Victoria-style fireplace or the Cape Dutch-style roof, lending the home a special charm.

Buying an old house: What to look out for

Here are 11 things you need to know when buying an old house:

    1. You need time and money. That’s where the patience part comes in – your vision may take a while to realise if you’re short on either or both. Remember, you can also apply for a home loan that includes the cost of renovations, so ask your ooba consultant about this option upfront.

    2. The structure of an old home might be a little tired – check things such as waterproofing, roof insulation, how well the windows seal when they’re closed and root networks that may interfere with paving.

    3. If you’re allergic to dust, you may want to pull up carpets. What do the floors look like underneath and what are they – concrete that you could possibly resurface with a modern decorative screed application? Wood that needs sealing and varnishing?

    4. How sustainable do you want your new home to be? Ask an architect to advise on what eco-friendly systems will work for electricity generation and water management, and at what price.

    5. What about insurance? Will insuring an older home that needs work be more expensive than a new one? Or does it contain antique fixtures, doors and door frames that will be pricey to replace if damaged, that is if they can be replaced or repaired to their original condition? Get a quote from an insurance broker at oobainsure to help you decide.

    6.Kitchens and bathrooms are often the first things people want to update or change. That’s if the roof and windows are in good nick. How much work do the kitchen and bathroom need or can they be transformed with minor tweaks? A coat of paint, new tiles, more modern appliances?

    7. Remember that you can combine old with new successfully in an old house. You can create fresh looks with clever placement of contemporary décor pieces to offset the charm of the existing structure.

    8. Will your furniture and appliances fit the new space? If not, what will it cost to replace them?

    9. It’s very important to check if there are any limitations to your planned renovations that might be imposed by an historical society if you’re buying into a heritage building.

    10. If there’s a wood-burning fireplace, what is the extraction like?

    11. Check for tell-tale leaks that might indicate a damp problem – or look for signs that those have been touched up with a fresh paint job in preparing the home for sale. Rising damp can be a nightmare to detect and repair properly.

Note: If you’ve never had a renovation done before, be sure to get quotes for all the work you intend to have done and the items you intend to have replaced, so you have a clear idea of what you’re in for.

Unleashing your inner architect

Purchasing an old home provides you with an opportunity to unleash your creativity, as you reforge the home in your image.

If you feel you’ve got all the bases covered, go for it. Embrace the experience and enjoy it. The rewards are endless.

ooba Home Loans can make the home buying process a lot easier by providing a range of tools. Start with their Bond Calculator, then use the ooba Home Loans Bond Indicator to determine what you can afford. Finally, when you’re ready, you can apply for a home loan.

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DIY with our online prequalification tool, or speak to an expert.

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