A quick resident’s guide to purchasing an old home

The Australian home ownership dream often features a detached character villa and a few hundred square metres of lush lawn. In fact, a recent study by Grattan Institute found almost 70 per cent of Australians think a residence being detached is one of the most important features when buying.

When purchasing such a building, there’s a good chance it’ll be on the older side – which may give it plenty character but can also cause you trouble if you’re not prepared for every eventuality. So, to ensure unforeseen costs don’t lead to emergency home loan refinancing, we’ve whipped up this quick resident’s guide to buying an older home.

Organise building and pest inspections

For obvious reasons older homes sometimes have issues with plumbing, electricity and structure, as well as the occasional pest problem. A structural fault or termite infestation can be  costly to fix – in fact according to the Australian Pest Control Association, the cost of merely treating a termite problem can exceed $5,000 – so protect yourself by hiring a professional to perform a pre-purchase building report.

Spend some time in the building

Part of the character of an old building comes from its quirks and oddities, which are usually endearing but can be testing.  After obtaining a pre-purchase report, the best way to uncover such issues is to simply spend time in the home. According to a NSW Fair Trading fact sheet, it should take between half an hour and and hour to inspect the building yourself, getting a feel for the home while searching for signs of mould, rot and cracks on walls, and to review the hot water system’s size and age.

Leave some wiggle room in your finances

When purchasing an older building it’s a great idea to leave some extra “just in case funds” in your home loan. This can help cover issues that pop up after you’ve moved in or you might have missed during your own inspection, and can even go toward any unexpected or unavoidable disasters that may occur. It’s important that you have this wiggle room so that you can hire a professional to quickly rectify these problems without having to refinance your home loan or descend into panic.