What To Know When Buying an Older Home in Seattle

Oh the charm of Downtown Ballard! The allure of Phinney Ridge! The dramatic views of the Greenlake neighborhood! There are so many amazing older homes in this city and you may be craving a Craftsman or beholding a bungalow. However, before you fall in love with an older home, there are a few things to keep in mind before you become the new steward of an older home in Seward Park:

Wiring – Wiring has got to be one of the biggest challenges when dealing with an older home. Some of the house may be rewired, some of it may still be knob-and-tube, and some may be in dangerous disrepair. I say dangerous because house fires are something to be concerned about when we are looking at a home with older wiring. If you are considering a home and aren’t sure about the status of the wiring, it might be a good idea to call in a separate electrical inspector so you can make a plan for repairs or rest assured.

Plumbing – If wiring is #1 then plumbing is #2. Plumbing may be even more problematic because it is more difficult to replace and repair than electrical in many cases. Older pipes may not be up to code, may be corroded, and can leak. Furthermore, some older pipes may contain lead. Again, it is a good idea to call in a separate plumbing inspector to learn more about your plumbing systems.

Sewer Pipes – Speaking of plumbing, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sewer pipe from their home to the sewer pipe in the street. Many pipes have issues, cracks, and roots sneaking in disrupting the flow. This can be a very expensive repair and I recommend a sewer scope for many would-be homeowners.

Insulation – Houses of the past were not insulated well – if at all – making heating bills downright terrifying! However, innovations in energy efficiency may help ward off those drafts. Blow-in insulation and insulating in crawlspaces and attics may be an option. This may be an extra expense to incur but well worth it when the power or gas bill comes!

Windows – Many homes these days have had the single-pane/storm windows replaced with modern windows, but not all homes. According to energy.gov, having a storm window on a single-pane window can reduce heat loss up to 50%, but many older homes are missing storm windows or they no longer fit in the allotted space. Older wood single-pane windows do have charm, so depending on whether or not you want to keep them, I suggest being aware of your heat loss prevention options.

Chimney – If you plan on having a fire in your wood-burning fireplace, I also suggest having the chimney inspected. Years of creosote, rain, and earthquakes are not kind to chimneys and chimney fires are something to watch out for.

Permits – Have improvements been done to the home? Were all the correct permits obtained and final inspections done? This is something to be on top of because you don’t want to buy a home, love the back patio addition, and then learn it was not permitted, finally inspected and does not meet code.

Oil Tanks – Many homes in Seattle used to utilize oil as a heating source. There may be remnants of that oil system today on your property.

Lead Paint – Before the 1970s lead was used in some types of paint. Of course now we know the dangers, but we didn’t then. However, lead paint may be lurking in an older home, so before you begin any renovation work, you need to know how to deal with it. Additionally, if you have flaking paint you need to seal it up. It is not unusual to have leaded paint in a home, but it is important to know how to safely work with it if you do.

Older homes in Seattle can be full of character and charm. Getting to know the home and having multiple inspections is key to eliminating as many surprises as you can so you can thoroughly enjoy it! If you would like to learn more, give me a call at (206) 226-5300 or send an email to sold@windermere.com!

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