So you’ve decided you really want to buy a historic home in the downtown Phoenix area. Those Tudor revivals, Monterrey’s and Bungalow are so sweet and the thought of living in a cookie cutter home gives you nightmares. If buying a historic home is in your dreams, then you’ve come to the right place… we love historic homes. Perhaps more important, we love helping people find a home that has long term value, isn’t fraught with problems and matches your historic living dream.
You’ve probably heard horror stories about problems with older homes. Some are true and some urban myth. This article is designed to give insight into some of the major problems associated with older homes. Before we go any furthers please heed the following advice…
Never ever buy a home without getting a professional home inspection. If you are buying a historic property, make sure your professional, licensed inspector has LOTS of experience with historic properties.
Things to Look at When Buying A Historic Home in Phoenix, AZ
FOUNDATIONS & LOT GRADES:
A large percentage of historic homes are brick or block construction and many are on raised foundations since the early days in Phoenix saw a fair amount of flooding. Cracks in walls, ceilings and stem walls are a sign of both old and new problems.
Often we see where previous homeowners put flower beds up against the home and water from them is causing ongoing settling and movement of the ground. Poor grading of the lot can cause the same destabilization problems as water is moved towards the foundation of the home verses away.
Ceiling and wall cracks, hard to close doors and windows, sloping floors, uneven walls are all signs that make us look at foundation issues.
Today’s demand for power is very different from the old days. Today we like 200 Amp service, 3-wire electric circuits, fully grounded receptacles, lots of outlets and ground fault interrupters in kitchens, baths and laundry areas.
If you buy a home that hasn’t been professionally updated it is not the end of the world. All things are possible with time & money. We strongly recommend you get a couple bids from historic knowledgeable electricians during your inspection period so you know what is involved to bring the home to current standards. There are a lot of variables that can affect retrofit costs such as lath & plaster walls, need to replace 2 wire runs with modern 3 wire circuits, poor quality pre-existing repairs and more.
The most common plumbing problem with historic homes is galvanized piping. Older galvanized pipe has a reputation for leaking and clogging. The problem with leaks is self explanatory and clogging can cause low flow to faucets, showers and such. At one point, most historic homes are retrofitted with copper pipe. Re-piping a historic home can be more difficult than newer homes because of lath and plaster construction. Let’s just say that drywall is a lot easier to work with than lath and plaster. Just an FYI… plumbers do not generally fix the walls they cut open during a re-piping job. Make sure and include the price of repairing walls and repainting to the overall project budget.
WOOD & PAINT:
Wood trim and accents, both interior and exterior, are often a significant architectural feature in historic homes. The expose wood work of the Tudor Revival, the porch rails of a Bungalow, crown moldings, arts & crafts door trim and more add to a home’s value and distinction. The care and maintenance of a home’s wood is important, failure to do so can be costly.
Paint is another place to pay attention. Some homeowners have dutifully stripped off old paint to bare wood and started fresh; this is ideal. One must take care when removing old paint due to the use of lead based paint in older homes. Again, it is not an insurmountable problem as long as proper care is taken or you hire a professional with the right skills and knowledge.
MESSED UP BEYOND RECOGNITION:
This is kind of a strange and subjective area, yet we feel passionate about. Some historic homes have really been messed up… FUBAR is probably a good term here. We’ve seen room additions so bad they should be torn down. Lots of times we see where prior owners have taken the historic out of the home.
- Vintage hardware removed and replace with Home Depot’s cheapest.
- Cheesy “track home” cabinets in kitchens and baths.
- Synthetic flooring over original wood floors.
- Period correct door trim, baseboards and other wood finery replaced with the cheapest stuff they could buy at a box store.
- Modern doors replacing the style used back in the day.
- Not-to-code window replacements. A home in a designated historic district must go through approvals prior to changing exterior elements including windows. Not a hard process and it helps keep a home’s historic worth.
- Room additions using dissimilar building material from the original home. Most often we see a beautiful brick or block home with a room addition made using 2×4 construction and covered with stucco or tacky wood siding.
Historic homes have inherent value…They have charm, tell a story, and frame a piece of history. The stories and substance are expressed through authenticity, care and passion. When these elements are put into a historic home something special happens; it is a type of magic.
We hope this information has been helpful.
Gene Urban & Ron Urban
The Urban Team at Realty Executives
connecting people to the perfect place