What to Evaluate When Purchasing an Older Home


Getting insurance for older homes is not nearly as straightforward as when the home is new – here are some things to look out for in your home when evaluating it.

While new homes are great for many people, older homes also have a lot of charm and appeal. Older homes are usually found in more-established neighborhoods, they sometimes come with unique features not found in modern homes, and often have an abundance of character and offer a one-of-a-kind feel. 

However, there are sometimes unexpected costs associated with these types of homes. With the help of The Cincinnati Insurance Companies, let’s explore some of the hidden expenses that may come with your purchase of an older home. 


Foundation issues can be caused by the normal deterioration that comes with age, constantly wet soil, tectonic activity, hydrostatic water pressure, or tree roots. A structural engineer will be best suited to assess damage and create a repair plan, but here are some things to look for yourself when you inspect the home: 

  • Cracks in the foundation interior or exterior walls
  • Evidence of previous foundation repairs that could indicate ongoing issues
  • Uneven floors
  • Windows that are difficult to open


At some point every home will need roof maintenance or replacement. How long a roof can last depends on many factors including roofing materials, weather, maintenance record and installation quality. Here’s what to look for when assessing your roof: 

  • Missing shingles or tiles
  • Loss of granules from the shingle
  • Moss or discoloration
  • Leaks or moisture in your attic


Older homes may have dangerous materials that are no longer used and could be hazardous to your family. It could be costly to replace those items due to extra precautions the workers would need to use to remove the hazardous materials. It is a good idea to ask your real estate or insurance agent what concerns to look for in your area, but here are a few basic things to look out for:

  • Asbestos
  • Galvanized plumbing
  • Non-grounded outlets
  • Lead paint
  • Clay drainage pipes
  • Bituminous fiber pipes


With all the technology we use daily, the electrical system in old homes cannot typically keep up. Older homes may have partial or entire electrical systems that are unpowered or even unsafe. If a home still has knob and tube (insulated with wool versus a sturdier coating) or aluminum wiring, you may find it difficult to get homeowners insurance. Here are some typical items to look for that affect insurance for older homes: 

  • Frequent power outages
  • 2-prong outlets
  • Flickering lighting
  • Light switches or outlets warm to the touch
  • Defective circuit breakers


Older homes can have countless concerns with plumbing that could be expensive and problematic. Lead pipes could affect drinking water safety; polybutylene plastic pipes tend to corrode, crack and leak over time when exposed to bleach and other cleaning products; and galvanized pipes can be toxic when they lose their zinc coat. In addition, old trees can grow deep roots that can obstruct the plumbing system. These may be hard to detect, but here’s what to look for: 

  • Low water pressure
  • Slow draining skins, bathtubs and showers
  • Leaky faucets


Mechanical systems can be very expensive to replace and need routine service for a long life. Such systems include furnace, air-conditioning unit, water heaters and pool equipment. Improperly maintained water heaters and air conditioners can leak, damaging your flooring and anything below the unit. Beyond obvious damage, look for:

  • Unevenly heated/cooled rooms
  • Loud furnace or water heater
  • Puddling around water heater

Of course, there are always other things to consider, from building materials to restoration rules in the district where your new home is located. If you are considering an older home, be sure to obtain a home inspection by a qualified professional and discuss your situation with your insurance agent to make sure you have the appropriate coverages to protect your home investment. If you’re in upstate New York, we invite you to contact the Feltner Group to get a quote for insurance for older homes.