What to look out for when buying older homes

Housing Market Written by John Bolton, Apr 10 2009

All styles of home suffer with their own set of problems that can lead to expensive repair bills. The more modern style, monolithic-clad home more than likely will suffer from a problem which has been labelled “Leaky Building Syndrome”. This has turned some purchasers away from these types of homes. As a result, the more traditional home - such as villas or bungalows - has become popular, as buyers believe these homes are typically trouble –free.

Older homes can have their own problems, it is just that generally these are easier and cheaper to fix. Older homes are built out of more durable timber, such as kauri, mati and rimu. However these timbers still require protection from the elements and ongoing regular maintenance. One of the common problems with the older homes is decaying timber foundations piles. These allow the house to settle and give the floor the appearance of an ocean wave. Re-blocking is normally the only long-term solution to this problem. You can expect to pay somewhere in the vicinity of $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the size of the house and nature of the section, to have the home re-blocked.

At the opposite end of the house, the roof more often than not requires attention. Generally villas and bungalows have metal roof cladding (corrugated iron). The common problems we find (due to lack of paint and maintenance) are corrosion to the roofing and flashings, loose or missing nails, paint in poor condition, valley flashings corroded and the spouting and downpipes in poor condition. The top end of the house can cost a similar amount as the bottom end to repair!

Weatherboards, window frames and fascias are all exposed to the weather and can rot if not maintained. Normally this is easily identified and relatively simple to repair, however there will be a cost! There will always be the other minor items to watch for, such as: Broken sash cords, poorly fitting doors, lack of insulation, older wiring and electrical fittings, borer, older plumbing systems and fittings, worn window and door catches, binding doors and windows to mention a few obvious issues.

And last but not least, a few drafts. Nothing these days is straightforward and good older homes are getting harder to find. The advantage of the older home is that remedial works and maintenance can be a cheaper option than having to reclad a leaking newer home.

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