From carpentry and the electrical system to hidden defects and lighting: We tell you the main elements that you should be aware of.
Buying a second (or third) hand dwelling is a very common option. New homes are more expensive and are generally located on the outskirts of cities, so many people choose to buy an older property that is cheaper and in a better location. But, be careful: it is not the same to buy a house that is 20 or 30 years old than one that is more than 50, since a farm with these characteristics can entail technical and legal problems. The following are some valuable tips to avoid unpleasant surprises.
What to look for before buying an old apartment
Until June 2022, in Spain the number of home sales has been 330,997. Some of them will surely be over 30, 40 or 50 years old. Should you buy a 50-year-old house? It depends on the conditions it is in, and the capital you have to reform what needs to be changed.
To avoid technical surprises, time and experience are key. We recommend always visiting the house in which we are interested with natural light and without rushing to look at everything from top to bottom.
Seeing possible damage is often a matter of experience. Going accompanied by an expert is the best option, but if it is not possible, you have to take time. Look at the house as if it were yours and do not it in 10 minutes.
What to look for when buying an old house?
Open doors and windows. Many houses over 50 years old have wooden windows. If we open them and see that the frames have given way, something has happened to the building.
If they are not made of this material, the same can be seen in the doors: If they do not close properly or have lost their right angles, it is a sign that the building has had structural movements. It should be remembered that wood is precisely one of the most recurrent construction materials in houses of this age.
Attention to the tiling and dampness
If we hit the bathroom and kitchen tiling and it sounds hollow, it could be for three reasons: that the bonding paste has lost its effectiveness; that there are water leaks and the products have lost that effectiveness; or that these are of poor quality.
Another point that we will have to take into account, according to the expert, are damp spots, since they may have been caused by water leaks that have affected the building’s structures.
Looking down: the importance of floors
Old pipes and wiring, damp walls… and floors in poor condition. Finding this is something that happens when a building is old. The floor is one of the elements that does not withstand the passage of time well, and not only because of fashion (terrazzo or imitation marble floors had their moment, but now they are not in).
Wooden floors are usually very damaged after five or six years of use and almost always have to be repaired, knifed or replaced. You have to take into account the cost of this operation before buying the house.
Termites and other hidden vices
With wood you have to take special care, since many buildings can have a termite problem. In north Spain, for example, there are catalogued points of termite mounds. I have seen how a 20 × 20 wooden pillars had been reduced to 5 × 5, he warns. This is a very difficult problem to appreciate, as these insects seek out the darkness of building structures or the inside of door frames.
A plague of termites would be part of what are called hidden problems. In other words, problems with constructions or real estate that we are not able to see with visual recognition, but then they are there. These problems result in disbursements that the new buyer will have to face, unless she can prove that the property has been sold in bad faith.
It is almost impossible to prove that the seller knew the state of the house in advance and that, in any case, it would entail a long judicial journey where the easiest thing is for the judge to consider that the buyer is responsible, for not having been informed correctly.
Let yourself be advised
I strongly recommend to have a survey done by a trusted architect before you commit yourself to carry out the purchase. This type of purchase is often the most important investment a person makes for the next 30 years of their life. I consider that it pays to spend 1,500 or 2,000 euros on a architect who comes to your house when you are paying 200,000 euros for it. But most people don’t and then regrets it for years to come.
A complete rehab or a facelift?
A characteristic of buildings over 50 years old is, frequently, their poor state of conservation. For this reason, purchases are usually accompanied by comprehensive rehab. Many times, it may seem to us that it is renovated, but it has simply been given a facelift to be able to sell it at a better price; You have to be cautious and not be attracted by appearances.
Refurbishing an old flat, what works are most common and how much do they cost?
To renew: The main services such as plumbing, electricity, new boiler and carpentry. A reform budget can be as high as one can afford, if specific high-quality finishes are selected and there is a specific design to build to; but it also entails a minimum of costs with aspects that should not be ignored under any circumstances.
There are two essential reforms: plumbing and electricity. The worst thing we can do is carry out a reform without having taken those first two steps. I know of a case in which, because the plumbing was not changed, the house suffered 12 leaks in 10 years.
After these two issues would come, in order of importance, the exterior carpentry and the boiler system, important for safety and for the economy. An efficient thermal insulation can save a lot of money. For exterior carpentry, double-glazed windows with thermal bridge is called for now days; and with heating, the more independent it is, the better. Communities with a central boiler are very inefficient.
If you do a rehab, do it with a professional
Depending on the available budget, you can complete the rehab with the rest of the changes that one can afford: demolition of partitions, interior carpentry, bathrooms and kitchen, floors. The important thing is that only trust proven professionals, because if high quality materials are used but they are badly laid or installed, the disbursement will not serve any purpose. What is cheap can be very expensive.