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Your Checklist When Considering an Older Home Purchase

When searching for a home you love, there’s a good chance you’ll consider an older home. Whether it’s updated or not, it’s important to look at the details of the original framing and foundation to assess the age of the house and uncover any repairs that may be needed. An old house doesn’t mean a bad house, but there are a few things to know when age is a factor.

The Columbia River Gorge is known for its history and authentic architecture. Dating back to 1920, when Hood River became famous for its apples, development started and many of the original buildings still stand and are home to families today. Not only does Hood River have many historical properties, but the surrounding areas do as well, including Mosier, The Dalles, White Salmon and beyond. Let’s take a look at what you might need to know or do before settling into one of these unique homes.


When deciding if an older style home is right for you, it’s important to “identify possible trouble spots and definite dealbreakers,” says Tim Carter in A checklist for people thinking about buying an old house. First, it’s crucial to check the foundation for cracks and other damage that would affect the stability of the house. If there is a crack that is less than 1/16 inch wide, without any signs of water or leakage, this is most likely not an issue. With older houses, especially foundations 100 + years old, there will be natural cracks as the foundation ages. According to Carter, “it’s normal for concrete to shrink as it cures and that cracks at window-opening corners are as common as flies at a summer picnic.” Remember, not all perceived wear and tear is worrisome.


Next, it’s key to take a look at the framing to make sure there are no cracks or rotting of the wood. In this case, if there are signs of rot or insect damage, there is a high chance studs or wood will need to be shored up or replaced. Damaged framing means instability and this could be problematic if not remedied.


Another high priority component to look at is the mechanical systems, meaning plumbing and electrical. There are many kinds of plumbing, but in an old house you should be able to recognize whether pipes are cast-iron and horizontal or vertical. If you see a horizontal cast-iron pipe with the marking XH, this means the pipes are extra heavy and should be in decent working condition. If you only see cast-iron vertical pipes with no marking, this means there will probably be “smaller horizontal galvanized pipes that drain sinks, showers and possibly tubs. These pipes will almost always be in poor shape and require replacement,” Carter explains.

As for electrical, if a property is more than 30 years old and has the original wiring, it is likely to need updating, at least in part, to meet modern standards, including replacing the fuse box with a modern consumer unit. Many older homes are built using a two-wire system instead of three. This means that instead of their outlets having three-prong holes, they only have two. As times have changed, appliances have become modernized and require higher electrical voltage. Be sure to check your appliances, including washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator, etc. and be sure the existing wiring can handle your modern day needs.


When living in the Northwest, we all know how harsh winters can be. When temperatures drop below freezing during the winter months and rise above 80 degrees during summer, it’s critical to ensure your heating and cooling systems are up to par. This means making sure the ventilation systems are laid out correctly and have adequate input and output for strong ventilation. An HVAC expert can easily determine whether the house will need new ventilation components.

In addition, just a couple decades ago, cooling systems weren’t as necessary due to lower temperatures in the summer. Now, most families in the Gorge are in need of some sort of air conditioning options for respite from the summer heat. Mini splits have become a popular option for retrofitting older homes with a cost efficient cooling system if there’s not already a solution in place.


Last but not least, most homes built before 1967 often contain lead paint inside and outside. Lead paint doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous or needs to be remediated, but it is important to have a lead paint inspection and know how the lead paint in your particular home could affect your health.


Although this checklist doesn’t capture all the potential risks of an old home, these are some of the most important and a great initial checklist when deciding if an old home is right for you. We pride our group of Realtors on being some of the most knowledgeable real estate professionals in the Columbia Gorge. We are happy to tour older homes with our clients to weigh in on these factors and additional aspects that are unique to each home. We also encourage all of our buyers to conduct a thorough inspection when buying an older home and have a vast network of local inspectors and experts to investigate any issues that might arise throughout the process.

Have a question about an older home? Give us a call or send us a message.

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