Tips for Buying an Older Home

Ethan-CollierThink holistically when deciding what you want your home to be. If it’s a 1950s style, updating the kitchen to 2016 styles will make the home feel disjointed. There are many options available to modernize without losing charm. Get a contractor’s advice. Don’t close without having the contractor look at it and review your goals. That wall you want to take out may be load-bearing, and a contractor can help you avoid headaches. Finally, make sure that the total renovation costs and purchase price don’t exceed 10% of the price of neighboring homes, otherwise it can be hard to recoup your investment.

Ethan Collier, Collier Construction

Jay-CaughmanBesides the obvious “home inspection” stuff (lead paint, knob and tube wiring, termites, worn out roof, etc.), as an architect, the thing I look for is character. Wide-plank wood floors, heavy timber beams, beautifully carved mantels, wraparound front porches… the list of reasons to love an older home could go on forever. It’s the small details that today’s mass-produced homes lack that give older homes their charm and elegance.

Jay Caughman, Caughman+Caughman Architects

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Leslie-MoralesRoofs and windows are the two updates that must be done first and should be made a priority in older homes. If a roof is older than 10-15 years, it will need replacement sooner than later. Older windows are usually single pane with very low insulating properties, so be on the lookout there too. Before buying, put these two repairs at the top of your to-do list. Hopefully you’ll get lucky and find an older home whose owners recently replaced the windows and roofing.

Leslie Morales, Smart Furniture



Jimmy-AdamsThe first thing is to determine your budget. Second, will you do all the work up front or will you live in the house while you remodel it? Get estimates on what you plan on redoing – they are the only thing about remodeling a home that is free. Research your vendors and make a list of questions to ask them. Ask for references and jobs that they have completed that you might see. Also make sure the property is inspected by a reputable inspection company. Pay attention to the big ticket items—like roofing, structural foundation, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical as well as possible termite damage—to make sure the home is in good condition.

Jimmy Adams, Nell’s Home, Gifts, & Interior Design

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Clay-HenleyI’ve been renovating older homes since I was 12 years old. The first thing I look for when buying or renovating is the foundation and framing. If these are in bad shape, you may just be buying a lot. The second most important thing is the electrical. It’s hard to rewire an old home without damaging the walls and ceiling, therefore there is a higher cost to factor in rewiring. Then you have the plumbing and HVAC to consider. I always like to put an estimate together to see how much the home is really going to cost. This helps me to determine how much to pay or to walk away. There are very beautiful older homes in Chattanooga and many deserve to be restored. They are well built and the framing lumber was superb.

Clay Henley, Henley Brothers Construction Company



Louis-WampOne of the big things with an older home is infrastructure. Check the plumbing, electrical, and mechanical. Are they up to code? If not, you have to bring them up to code for safety, which can be costly. On the other hand, keep an eye out for the craftsmanship that is often found in older homes – fireplaces, doors, molding, and more are all things that might inspire you to purchase an older home.

Louis Wamp, Louis Wamp Architect & Associates, Inc.



John-CoffeltThe advice I give most people who are purchasing an older home is to resist the temptation to do everything you want to do to the home before you get a chance to live in it for a time, if it’s practical. I realize many people have a great sense of what it takes to make a house a home that meets their needs; for the other 98% of us, immediately take this as a friendly word of caution. I make a fair amount of my money removing well intended, but short sighted, home modifications – and that’s all before we get to do the fabulous stuff you really want!

John Coffelt, HGH Construction

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