Whether it's a fully-restored Victorian, a centuries-old farmhouse, or a fixer-upper Colonial, older homes differ significantly from more recently homes built in compliance with modern plumbing, heating, and electrical codes. But if you don't mind maintenance and quirk, an antique home might be just what you're looking for. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you make the decision to purchase an older home:
• What kind of storage space do I need? Older homes may have smaller closets, but perhaps a giant walk-up attic is calling your name.
• What about low ceilings? Some homebuyers might be put off by having to duck under low doorways or when traversing stairways, while others will consider lower ceilings to be "cozy."
• Can I re-purpose spaces that haven't been previously updated? What are the rules in my town in terms of remodeling older homes? Will I have to make changes to comply with current building codes? If you're considering an older home, you must be prepared for a small project mushrooming into something much larger if house-wide systems need to be updated.
• Are there historic considerations to uphold? What does it mean for me if my new home is recognized as a historic landmark?
If your home is on a historic roster, there may be limitations in terms of altering the building's footprint or even changing the exterior paint color, which could put a crimp in your redecorating plans.
• How much maintenance am I prepared to deal with? Do I have the resources to stay on top of general upkeep? If you don't consider yourself particularly handy, you'll want to have connections to reputable contractors who can do necessary work for you.
• If problems arise, do I have the necessary financial cushion to address large-scale structural problems? When buying an older home, budgeting for the unexpected is a must.
• If I'm updating fixtures, must I look for antique fixtures, or am I willing to settle for an "old look" from a modern supplier like Restoration Hardware?
If you're a purist, you'll want to be prepared to search high and low for original fixtures.
• How much do I know or can I find out about what has happened to the home – and in the home – before I decide to move in? Old homes have long histories, sometimes fascinating and storied, and sometimes unpleasant. Learning whether a house has had extensive damage somewhere along the line might benefit you if there are any long-lasting structural or systemic consequences.
• Is the home updated with insulation, heating systems, new windows, and other energy-efficient conveniences?
• If the electrical system is original, will it support the installation of new appliances? Original, ungrounded wiring from the early twentieth century may not have the capacity to power today's modern appliances, calling for a major overhaul in the home's electrical systems.
Buying an older home comes down to a matter of taste, commitment, and finances. Some people are ideally suited to the minor inconveniences and unmatched charm of living in an antique home, while others appreciate convenience above all else and would be hard pressed to constantly manage the unexpected. Talk to your real estate agent about the real benefits and drawbacks of owning an older home. He or she can guide you in making an informed decision before making an offer.