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Buying an Older House
by Garet Dennis

Denver had a strong real estate market through the early-mid 2000s. Denver also has a large inventory of old houses. Many of these old houses are in neighborhoods that were considered less desirable until just a few years ago. They were typically lower income neighborhoods and some of the old houses have been neglected for many years.

People have been moving back into the older neighborhoods and fixing up the houses. For the most part that's a good thing. But sometimes it's not so good. The older houses are attractive for investors. With new carpet, paint, kitchen cabinets and appliances it's not hard to take an old house and make it look nice. With a little spit-n-polish the house is restored to its original charm.
Unfortunately many of these houses need more than just cosmetic repair. I frequently see old houses that look great at first glance. But after a closer look I find major problems with plumbing, electrical, heating or with the structure itself. Sometimes the cosmetic repairs need to be done all over again after fixing these major systems.

What should home buyers do?

  1. Keep realistic expectations. Unless you've been told that all the systems have just been upgraded you should expect that most old houses will need some repairs or upgrading. That's just a part of owning one.
  2. If it looks like there has been recent work on the major systems, ask if the work was done by licensed contractors and if there were building permits. Is there a warranty? Building permits are still required for major work, even if done by the owner. These are public records that anyone can check.
  3. Consider buying a house that hasn't been fixed up yet. Keep an open mind - it's hard to look past the rough edges but with new carpet, paint, kitchen cabinets and appliances it's not hard to take an old house and make it look nice.
  4. Hire a professional home inspector who's familiar with old houses. When buying a house your emotions run high making it almost impossible to stay objective.

Relax and be patient (but persistent) and you'll find that perfect old house!

Resources by Garet Dennis:

old house inspection colorado

Chuck Bralish