Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Is an older home right for you?

In blogPost, forFront on February 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Living in an old house in midtown Sacramento takes a special kind of person.  You have to be able to live with cracks in your ceilings and walls.  If cracked ceilings and walls bother you, you may want to look elsewhere for a home.

You have heard the adage, “Let the buyer beware?”  Buyers should always be aware of what they are getting into when buying a home.  Required legal disclosures provided by your real estate agent will help, but knowing facts about the neighborhood and the homes in it from an historical point of view will help you too.

Recently I attended a talk at the Sacramento Association of Realtors given by Barbara Harsch of Lyon Real Estate.  Barbara’s topic was “Selling Older Homes in Downtown Sacramento.”  As I listened to Barbara’s talk, I nodded as she spoke because many of her points coincided with my own experience of living in an older home in Midtown Sacramento for more than forty years.

Some of the points that Barbara made are worth noting if you are considering an older home in Midtown, Downtown, Land Park, Curtis Park, or East Sacramento.  You may want to consider:
Older homes were built with cesspools or septic tanks.  Most have been connected to the city sewer system.  A dye test can be used to make sure.
Prior to 1906 many homes were built on brick foundations.  If you need to take out a mortgage, make sure that your bank will lend on a home with a brick foundation, as some won’t.
Love hardwood floors?  In some older homes, you will find hardwood floors in the formal rooms like the living and dining rooms and soft wood floors in the bedrooms, which were usually carpeted.  If the living or dining room has a rug, lift up a corner to make sure that the hardwood is under the rug as well!
Older homes with plaster walls in Sacramento will always have cracks in the plaster.  Sometimes the cracks have been repaired, but they will usually come back over time.  I’m sorry to say that in some cases, plaster walls have been pulled out and sheetrock put in.  While this looks nice and smooth, it lacks the soundproofing, weatherproofing, and all around feeling of quality that plaster walls have.  If you mind cracks in your ceilings and walls, you may wish to look in outlying areas for your home.
Do not be dismayed if you notice dampness in the basement during the winter months.  This is common in houses in certain areas, but a sump pump is your friend.  These inexpensive, quiet little pumps will keep the water moved out of your basement without any worry on your part.  Just remember to not place cardboard boxes on the floor of your basement!
If you find a house with a high-water basement, it was most likely built before 1916.  Barbara says that is when the levee system was completed that stopped the annual flooding of Sacramento from the local rivers.  Prior to that, homes were regularly built with a basement that was very high and the living quarters were about a full flight up.  You will notice homes with long stairways up to the front door.  The nice thing about many of these homes now is an additional full floor of living space!
If the house you like was built prior to 1933, you should have the chimney inspected.  After 1933 chimneys were required to be lined, making them safer for fire prevention.  Also, many old houses will have two chimneys but only one fireplace.  That is because kitchens often had a chimney to vent a wood cook stove.  If the home has a very shallow fireplace, it was most likely originally heated with coal.  These kind of fireplaces could possibly be converted to a gas log.
Most older homes, unless they have been retrofitted, will need to have a dedicated line run for your computer system.  A reliable electrician can be your best friend in determining what upgrades you will need to make to your electrical system.  You will need to consider grounding outlets, GFIs, knob and tube systems, and fuses.  As a buyer, you can seldom expect your seller to rewire the whole house as a condition of your buying it, so know ahead of time what upgrades you will need to make.
Parking!  Parking can be a challenge in urban areas and Sacramento is no different.  While the City of Sacramento issues parking permits to residents of most neighborhoods, you may still have a challenge parking close to your new home.  If you find a home with a garage or off-street parking, that is a huge benefit.

Barbara’s talk was very informative for those interested in older homes in Sacramento.  She obviously knows what she is talking about.  I have lived in a house in midtown Sacramento that was built in 1908 for forty years and can vouch for many of the points that Barbara made.  If you are interested in purchasing an older home in Sacramento, my own experience and my long residency in midtown are at your service; I would be happy to help you find the perfect home.  On the other hand, Wieland Realty serves the area from West Sacramento to the west all the way up to El Dorado Hills to the east, so we can help you find a home that meets your needs anywhere in the Sacramento area.  Call us!