Renovating an older residence comes with unique challenges. It’s worth noting that these challenges aren’t limited to historic or extremely old buildings. Houses built just 40 years ago can contain chemical-laden materials, outdated electrical systems, and compromised roofs — all of which negatively impact a home’s resale value and livability.
Old house renovation requires careful planning and execution. In this blog, we’ll discuss what you need to know before taking on such a project, including the pros and cons of renovating an old house, how to assess its condition, and what areas of the home to focus on during renovations.
The pros and cons of remodeling an old house
Renovating a fixer-upper in an established neighborhood allows you to preserve a home’s unique aesthetic without having to purchase a newer home in a less desirable location. However, old house restoration also comes with higher renovation costs and sometimes, stricter compliance regulations. Take a closer look at the pros and cons of remodeling an older home, below.
You can preserve a home’s unique character and charm
Older homes have plenty of character. Old woodwork, intricate moldings, and quirky light fixtures are all common household features of an old house. Even with modern renovations, you’ll be able to preserve at least some of these timeless features. This can help your property stand out among the rest in the neighborhood at the time of sale.
You can take advantage of a home’s location in an established neighborhood
Renovating a fixer-upper in a desirable neighborhood can be highly profitable for a home seller. A modernized, older house located in a well-established neighborhood is likely to attract multiple offers and sell quickly. Depending on the kind of repairs that are needed, renovating an old house in a prime location can be more cost-effective than purchasing a new property in the same sought-after neighborhood. Homeowners can tailor house renovations to their buyers' needs and preferences while benefiting from the amenities, schools, and services found in established communities.
Older homes come with higher renovation costs
Renovating an older house can be expensive. Older homes tend to have long-standing issues that aren’t always easy to fix. The most expensive renovations for an older property are replacing the roof, repairing the foundation, restoring electrical and plumbing systems, and updating HVAC systems. Schedule a home inspection before buying a fixer-upper or investing in your older home so you know what to expect in terms of renovation costs.
It may be challenging to comply with current building codes
Another disadvantage to renovating fixer-uppers is that it can be difficult to keep these properties up-to-date with modern regulations and safety standards. Houses built several decades ago were built with the knowledge of that time. Nowadays, construction companies are more aware of what it takes to keep a house structurally sound. This often includes building or repairing homes with specific materials that are either difficult to find or costly.
Depending on where the property is located, a home’s roof may need to have fire-resistant shingles or water drainage systems installed to comply with local building codes. Some older properties contain hazardous materials such as lead-based paint and asbestos, which should be professionally removed before hitting the market. Following these regulations to the T can add to overall renovation costs.
How to assess the condition of a historic home
Evaluating an older home's condition before renovations is essential for budgeting, preserving history, ensuring safety, complying with codes, and estimating resale value. However, it's not always clear what areas of the home deserve the most attention. Here are four home center renovation needs commonly found in older homes.
When inspecting an old home, check for foundation cracks, uneven floor panels, and misaligned doors, as these could indicate issues with the home’s foundation or support beams. Examine the roof for damaged shingles, sagging rooflines, and attic leaks, as these are often signs of water damage in or around the roof. Problems with the home's frame can be noted through cracks, bulges, and water stains along walls and ceilings.
When examining an old home's plumbing systems look for clogged pipes and low water pressure. If possible, turn on multiple faucets and flush all the toilets at the same time. Slow drainage in sinks, tubs, or showers, could indicate water management issues within the home You'll also want to inspect the home's water heater. Consider replacing it if it's more than 10 years old and promptly address any signs of rust or leaks to prevent further issues.
When assessing an older home's electrical system, make sure all outlets and switches work properly. Loose outlets, flickering lights, or warm switches are often signs of electrical problems. Check the home's electrical panel and circuit breakers for excessive wear-and-tear or outdated materials. Consider installing new ones if they’re visibly overloaded. Exposed or damaged wires are also red flags, especially outdated knob-and-tube wiring.
Another issue commonly found in older homes is poor insulation. Start your insulation inspection in the attic by checking for insulation gaps, thin insulation, or signs of moisture. All of these can negatively impact a home’s energy efficiency. Drafts around windows and doors are also causes for concern and should be sealed correctly to prevent future energy loss. Another way to check for insulation leaks is to review past energy bills for abnormally high costs.
3 valuable home renovations for older homes
Giving a fixer-upper new life requires a lot of time, effort, and money. Since older homes usually have areas that need attention, it’s important to prioritize renovations that will have the biggest impact. This is especially true if you're on a limited budget.
Modernize key systems and infrastructure
Outdated electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems may not meet modern safety standards, which could jeopardize your ability to sell and your family’s safety. A property that can’t pass a home inspection will cause prospective buyers to hesitate when it's time to sign on the dotted line. It can also create unsafe living conditions that put your home at risk for fires, mold growth, and respiratory illnesses. Therefore, homeowners should modernize their older home’s key systems by replacing old wiring with modern materials, upgrading electrical panels, fixing water leaks, and installing energy-efficient features whenever possible.
Update kitchens and bathrooms
Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the most frequently used rooms within a home. No matter how much time you spend outside of the home, chances are you’re in your kitchen at least once and your bathroom multiple times a day. If one or both of these rooms aren’t up to par, it affects the overall functionality of a home, making it less comfortable to live in. When deciding what to do with an older home, consider making necessary upgrades to the kitchen and bathroom first. These upgrades can significantly enhance the efficiency and livability of a home.
Preserve original architectural features
Lastly, a smart way of spending your money on an older home’s renovation is by preserving its historical elements. Preserve special moldings in the living room by either restoring or replicating existing pieces. You can also restore original windows and doors by upgrading only what's necessary for improved energy efficiency and leaving the rest alone.
Many homeowners choose to replace outdated hardware with period-appropriate options instead of modern options. You can also ask qualified contractors to recreate an example of historical paint or similar stain finishes to ensure an authentic restoration process.
Final thoughts on revitalizing an older home
Revitalizing an old house allows you to merge the best of the past with the conveniences of the present, creating a living space that is not only functional but also brimming with character and charm. Although restoring an older home can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor in the long run, it often comes with high renovation costs, making the project difficult to finance.
If you’re considering restoring an old house but aren’t sure where to obtain the necessary funds, consider a Home Equity Investment. Point’s HEI allows homeowners to take out a lump sum of cash which they can use according to their discretion, free of interest and with no monthly payments. Visit Point to find out if you qualify for an HEI and start financing your home renovations, today.