I may have found an older house to remod...

First of all, thanks to all of you who have helped me in my quest to find and remodel an older house. For those who have not heard, I am relatively clueless about this. Learning as I go!

OK- I found a house that I am interested in. It is an old farmhouse on 8 acres. I have seen it from the outside and it seems structurally sound. It was built in 1914.

I have a walkthrough with the realtor tomorrow. What should I look for? I am no home inspector, but there should be a few key things I should be wary of.


Start in the basement. Look for signs of water damage from flooding or leaking pipes. Check that the floor joists holding up the first floor look reasonably sound.

Check for level floors and cracks in the walls. Vertical and horizontal cracks in the walls aren’t as bad as diagonal ones–problems with the plaster can cause vertical and horizontal ones, but diagonal ones are usually caused by structural problems.

Don’t try to assess it yourself. Get a surveyor to check it out for you first, then you can get quotes from specialists to repair any of the problems highlighted.

We bought our house (built 1901) in Edinburgh 4 years ago, and had a survey (standard practise here). The survey cost about £150, but highlighted problems with the roof and some of the floors that would have to be fixed. We were quoted many thousands of pounds to fix the problems - and we were able to use those quotes as a way of reducing the price we paid.

You don’t want too many surprises when you start doing up an old house.

Good luck.


Another vote for a qualified home inspector. Our most recent inspection showed a badly worn gas heater that was pumping massive amounts of Carbon Monoxide into the house. We negotiated a replacement in the purchase agreement.

Another vote for the home inspector.

And I speak as a man who owns a house built in 1868 which he is (slowly) fixing up.

There’s a reason they’re pros.

I also recommend using a pro. Our house was built in 1919 and has lots of “character,” the most charming of which is its original window which, because of settling, leak like sieves. If you can, find out from the power company what energy costs run for that property. You may be able to negotiate things like new doors or windows or insulation. Good luck! “Old House” living is great!

Of course you’ll get a home inspector later …

But since this is just your first walkthrough, here are some things:

  • Basement: what kind of foundation? Stone? Concrete block? Any obvious leaks or dampness? what about exposed wood–is it damp/damaged? Don’t be afraid to take a screwdriver and jab it into the wood to see if it’s firm or just rotten fluff.

  • heating: oil heat? what does the tank look like? (i.e., is it one of those old, elliptical ones w/ flat ends, or a new one, that is rounded all over?)

  • basement plumbing: any obviously bad plumbing? (i.e., pipes running horizontally/uphill rather than sloping downward, etc.)

  • Outdoors: - check siding for mold/mildew/rot; look for water stains under gutters (look for gutters!); see about the slope of the ground away from the house–good drainage, or does water run into/pool around the house? Ask where the septic tank and well are located (if not hooked up to city sewer and water)–good to know for later

  • Attic: any obviously water damage, mildew, rot? What kind of attic ventilation? Insulation?

  • Windows: any condensation? Mildew? Are they square and close properly?

-Floors: any bowing or sloping? That would indicate that beams/posts/etc. underneath have weakened