Careful of Those Hiring Bonuses

Nov 8, 2018 by

Careful of Those Hiring Bonuses

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Buying a 100-Year-Old House? Know What’s Behind Those Walls

Nov 26, 2015 by

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Residence in the French Quarter N.O.
ShutterstockIn New Orleans’ French Quarter, much of the housing stock dates from the first half of the 19th century.

By Geoff Williams

If you like old homes, you may have aspirations of living in a century-old farmhouse or perhaps a row house constructed in the 1800s. It’s not for everyone, but for some people there’s something charming and almost whimsical about living in a house that’s been around longer than your grandparents. It’s the history, it’s the look and it’s certainly the construction. They just don’t build them like they used to.

That’s meant as a compliment, but it’s possible to purchase a house that’s 100 years old — or even 200 years or older — and eventually long to live in a cookie-cutter home that looks like every other residence on the block. As Kent Owen, an insurance agent from Silverhill, Alabama, puts it: “Older homes may look nice at first glance, but think of them like a person who has been divorced a few times. You might be able to make it work, but you’ll be finding problems from the past in there somewhere.”

That might be fine with you, especially if you enjoy do-it-yourself projects. But if you’re thinking of buying a century-old house, you want to know what you might be in for — and get out your wallet. These are some issues century-old homes tend to have in common.

Faulty, Dangerous or Old Wiring

Here’s the good news. If you’re buying a house that is 100 years old, the wiring probably has been replaced, says Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector with Inspections by Bob, headquartered in Boyds, Maryland.

Sometimes, Sisson says, she and her husband will find houses with the original wiring, “and it’s almost never in good working order.”

Here’s a fun fact: “Old houses with electricity frequently had knob and tube wiring, which relied on exposed wires running through porcelain tubes and around porcelain knobs,” Sisson says.

If you hear a homeowner or realtor refer to K&T wiring, they’re referring to knob and tube wiring. And a not-so fun fact: “Many insurance companies will not issue coverage on homes with K&T,” Sisson says.

Corroded Water Pipes

A major problem for city governments around the country is that water lines have to be replaced. They don’t last forever. In fact, the American Water Works Association’s 2015 State of the Water Industry report says that replacing aging water lines is currently the most important item on the industry’s to-do list. Not surprisingly, if you have a house that’s 100 years old or older and previous homeowners haven’t replaced the pipes, that job will fall to you.

Heather Brewer, who has a public relations firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says she owns a beautiful craftsman house built in 1919 (OK, just shy of a 100-year-old house), and water issues have often been a problem from the beginning.

“Once, as I was cleaning out my desk, my almost-3-year-old son saw my checkbook, pointed to it and said, ‘That for the plumber.’ Literally, the only time he ever saw me write checks was to the plumbing company,” says Brewer, whose son is now almost 4 and likes to pretend he’s a plumber when he plays with his toys.

There are many reasons for water problems, according to Randal Weeks, a designer, architect and founder of Aiden Gray Home, a home furnishings and decor manufacturer in McKinney, Texas. “Houses like this have been occupied and not throughout the years. That resting water damages and decays the pipes, thus leading to leaks and basically dirty water that takes time and may or may not flush out,” Weeks says.

And water issues that come with a 100-year-old home won’t likely be covered by insurance, Owen points out. Not if those problems have been festering for years, anyway.

“Preexisting conditions and slow damage that is preventable over time isn’t covered,” Owen says.

Limited Bathrooms

At least you’ll know this going in, and it won’t be a surprise. But it could take some getting used to.

“Most old homes only have a single bathroom. Having multiple bathrooms in a house is definitely a modern creation,” says Rob Williams, a real estate agent at DC Home Buzz, a real estate brokerage in the District of Columbia.

Sagging Floors

It isn’t an issue you would typically think about, but you’ll find it in a lot of old homes, says Tracy Abriola, a marketing and communications professional who lives in Philadelphia. She and her husband, a real estate agent, are living in her second 100-plus-year-old house.

“A lot of times,” she warns, “you’re spending a great deal of money to refinish the hardwood floors, but then find added expense addressing uneven flooring.”

Lilli Keinaenen agrees. A freelance graphic designer in San Francisco, she owns a house built in 1908, and says that if the floors aren’t always even, something else may not be either.

“It came as a pretty big surprise when we noticed our room ceiling heights aren’t the same,” says Keinaenen, who is still renovating. “But also, the floor height between one side and the other vary, too, due to one part of the house having been a porch at some point. So our master suite will have odd steps, ups and downs. That’s all part of the charm, we hope.”

Landscaping Issues

That’s right. Your old house may have problems beyond the house. If there are 100-year-old trees near the home, for instance, those may need serious pruning or need to come down, Abriola says.

Of course, none of this means you shouldn’t buy house that’s a centenarian. It does mean that if you’re looking for a starter home, make sure your 100-plus home has been maintained well over the years, or be prepared for a lot of updates.

That wasn’t exactly the case with Keinaenen’s home. She and her husband have had to replace their home’s foundation, roof, wiring and plumbing over the last few years. They replaced the entire sewer lateral line, rebuilt the front and back stairs, repaired windows, painted the outside and the inside, added water heaters — and will soon be involved in kitchen and bathroom renovations.

Keinaenen says she has no regrets. But you may, if you have big dreams but a small budget. You don’t want a starter home to finish you off.


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For-Sale Craftsman Homes, Like Those on ‘American Dream Builders’

Apr 21, 2014 by

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This light-filled home in Seattle is adorned with leaded-glass windows, boxed beams and a built-in dining room buffet.

Zillow This light-filled home in Seattle is adorned with leaded-glass windows, boxed beams and a built-in dining room buffet.

Craftsman homes, an early 20th-century architectural style, feature high-quality craftsmanship not always found in new constructions.

“It’s elegant artistically: classic materials, bay windows, the low-hanging eaves,” said host Nate Berkus this week on NBC reality show American Dream Builders. “There is nothing more iconic American than that.”

During this week’s episode, the designers renovated two Craftsmans in Glendora, CA. Team Red received $ 5,000 extra to put toward their renovations, while Team Blue got two extra carpenters to bring their designs to life.

Making critical upgrades led to a 35 and 37-percent increase in the Zestimate(R) home values for each property. While the Zestimate is not a substitute for an appraisal, it is a great starting point for determining the value you can add by updating an older home for a contemporary lifestyle.

Craving an updated Craftsman of your own? Here’s a look at some Craftsmans for sale across the U.S. Click on the links below to see each home’s Zestimate, square footage, interior photos and more.

Minneapolis, MN

4056 12th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN
For sale: $ 189,900
Minneapolis, MN
This charming, Craftsman bungalow has beautiful woodwork including dining room build-ins, hardwood floors and oak molding. Several updates have been made to the home since its 1922 construction: new windows in 2009, a new roof in 2004 and a boiler in 2003. The home sits on a 4,356-square-foot corner lot with southern exposure and lovely perennial gardens.

Tampa, FL

309 W Hanna Ave, Tampa, FL
For sale: $ 255,000
Tampa, FL
From tapered, square columns to a front porch and exposed roof rafters – this Tampa, FL home has several classic Craftsman features. Inside, the look and feel continues with built-in living room shelving, an ornamental fireplace and antique white kitchen cabinets.

Seattle, WA

1834 N 54th St, Seattle, WA
For sale: $ 699,950
Seattle, WA
A quintessential Seattle Craftsman, this light-filled home is adorned with leaded-glass windows, boxed beams and a built-in dining room buffet. French doors allow the indoor entertaining space to flow seamlessly outdoors onto a new covered deck.

Santa Barbara, CA

329 E Anapamu St, Santa Barbara, CA
For sale: $ 799,000
Santa Barbara, CA
Located in the heart of Santa Barbara, this 1920-built Craftsman features an inviting front yard and porch. The 1,054-square-foot interior has 2 bedrooms and 1.5 baths. The kitchen has been remodeled with stainless steel appliances and cherry cabinets.

Portland, OR

3133 NE 40th Ave, Portland, OR
For sale: $ 939,000
Portland, OR
This Portland home was redesigned to have an open floor plan while preserving its 1920s Craftsman roots. The 4-bedroom residence features several architectural details including a breakfast nook in the kitchen and a floating fireplace wall separating the dining and living rooms.


Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.


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For-Sale Cabins, Like Those on ‘American Dream Builders’

Apr 8, 2014 by

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739 Tehama Dr, Big Bear Lake, CA
ZillowThis cabin on Tehama Drive in Big Bear Lake, Calif., is a short walk from the Big Bear Mountain Golf Course.

By Catherine Sherman

Ready to put on your hiking boots and head to the mountains? Leading designers and builders renovated historic cabins in the latest episode of NBC’s reality show “American Dream Builders.” The classic American getaway represents a simpler way of life where families can gather and enjoy the great outdoors.

Some cabins are built from logs with a simple one-story construction, while others have tin roofs, timber supports and unique elements from nature. But architecture isn’t what they’re necessarily known for. The true sign of a cabin is a rustic, lived-in feel that becomes more rich over time.

On the show, the contestants tried to preserve each cabin’s character, while adding some much needed repairs and upgrades. By doing so, they nearly doubled the Zestimate(R) home values. The Zestimate is not a substitute for an appraisal, but it is a great starting point for determining a home’s value.

Want to see more rustic retreats? We’ve gathered a few on the market starting at $ 105,000. Click on the links below to see each home’s Zestimate, square footage, maps of the surrounding landscape and more.

Gatlinburg, Tenn.

507 Hoot Owl Way
For sale: $ 105,000

Gatlinburg, TN
Nicknamed “Blueberry Hill,” this cabin is ideal for snuggling up with a good book by the fire. The one-bedroom, one-bath home has a log fireplace, heart-shaped jetted tub and a hot tub. It’s also within walking distance of the Mountain Shadows Resort pool and just minutes from downtown Gatlinburg.

Big Bear Lake, Calif.

739 Tehama Drive
For sale: $ 225,000

Big Bear Lake, CA
If you fell in love with the Big Bear cabins on the show, you’re in luck! This cabin is a short walk from the Big Bear Mountain Golf Course. The 1962 construction has a unique A-frame entrance, cozy brick fireplace and a large lot filled with pine trees.

Kalispell, Mont.

4216 Foothill Road
For sale: $ 350,000

Kalispell, MT
From the snowshoes hanging on the wall to the rocking chair in the master bedroom — this cabin is filled with rustic details. The property spans nearly five acres with three garages and a guest cabin.

Placerville, Colo.

4444 Wood Road
For sale: $ 895,000

Placerville, CO

This custom, Colorado cabin has designer touches throughout. Antlers, animal skin rugs and fluffy throw blankets give the place a mountain-lodge feel. A rooftop deck is prime spot for soaking in views of the peaks and relaxing in the hot tub.

Camano Island, Wash.

2441 Bretland Road
For sale: $ 299,950

Camano Island, WA

With views of Port Susan, the Cascades and Mount Baker, this Camano Island cabin is a Pacific Northwest gem. The 1978-built home has tall, wood-vaulted ceilings framed by a wall of windows overlooking Puget Sound.

More about cabins on “American Dream Builders”:
American Dream Builders: Episode 4 Recap
Get Amy’s Take on American Dream Builders Episode 4
American Dream Builders Episode 4: Before & After

More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to
calculate mortgage payments.
homes for sale in your area.
foreclosures in your area.
Find homes for rent in your area.

Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.


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Don’t Delay Those Repairs

Oct 23, 2013 by

After you’ve made an offer that’s been accepted, your immediate step is to have the property thoroughly inspected. Most needed repairs can be easily performed with a little elbow grease and a trip to the hardware store. Sometimes all the property might need is a fresh coat of paint. Other times however, the property has been in such a state of disrepair for so long that the cost to rehabilitate the investment far outweighs the benefits. Property owners who neglect maintenance issues can find the value of the property has fallen so much that it’s no longer an investment but a tear-down.
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