Ominous yet romantic, Victorian homes are a living example of timeless elegance and longevity, which is one of the main reasons why houses dating to this era are extremely popular among homeowner hopefuls. Still, every piece of property has its perks and downsides, and the same is true of Victorian homes. Underneath their beauty and complex trims, houses built in the second half of the 19th century can hide serious hardware issues, which is why home buyers need to be extra careful when inspecting their home-to-be with over 100 years under its belt. Here’s a brief list of the most common problems lurking beneath lavish Victorian frills to help you tell a money pit from the real value deal.
1. Weak-legged Victorians
Foundation issues are all too real a problem in old houses. However solid, the base of many a Victorian home can shift due to land subsidence, resulting in further structural hitches such as cracked or bulging walls, door and window defects, and even plumbing and wiring problems.
When inspecting your future love nest, look for floor and wall flaws, door and window latching problems, and foundation chipping or flaking. In case you detect signs of foundation glitches, a structural engineer may need to step in and see whether, where, and how the damage can be repaired.
2. It never rains but it pours
Roof defects are a chronic problem of old property, and Victorian homes are not an exception. Leaks, faulty flashing, missing shingles or tiles, and poor insulation upstairs are red flags which you shouldn’t ignore when looking for a place to settle down.
During preliminary home viewing, check the walls and ceiling for signs of staining and peeling paint that may point to water intrusion. Broken or damaged roofing material can be replaced, insulation can be upgraded, and flashing flaws can be taken care of, but you’ll need to be aware of the total repair costs before you can call the property a home-sweet-home.
3. Budgeting down the drains
If the basement of your Victorian property find is smelling a bit worse for old age, it may be a good idea to check it for signs of mildew infestations. Mold and musty odor below ground level can point to plumbing faults, perimeter and underfloor drainage issues, or even foundation waterproofing hitches, which you’ll need to tend to and upgrade to contemporary standards before you move in.
In case you smell trouble in the basement, hire a professional to conduct a thorough inspection and estimate the upgrade scope and cost. This will help you get a better image of the post-move repair and upgrade expenses which play an important role in initial capital required to make the place livable.
Victorian doors and windows do look spectacular, but unless they’ve been updated in the past decade, you’ll probably need to have them checked, replaced, or repaired before you drop your gear on the floor.
When inspecting your future Victorian-age property, take a quick look at the frames, panes, and surrounding insulation: stains, cracks, mold, and other forms of damage can add a few figures to the post-purchase update bill. Also, be aware that certain features of an old home can’t be remedied due to their historical value – which is a real deal breaker.
5. Looming layout layovers
Victorian homes usually have narrow hallways, tiny kitchens, tight and steep staircases, and modestly sized bedrooms, which can be problematic if you’re set on buying property for house flipping projects that promise a big bang for your buck. Modernizing a true-blue Victorian home will probably require extensive layout redrawing, and such endeavors are by far the costliest update in the fix-ad-flip lot.
For this reason, be very careful when selecting old houses to flip: Victorian charm is an asset only if the renovation doesn’t involve comprehensive floor plan changes and wall relocations.
Modern Victorian style is in – but the fact that antique houses are currently in high demand on the real estate market doesn’t mean that just about every old place is worth your cash. Double-check the critical property points before you sign the contract: a little extra care and inspection can save you thousands in the post-purchase update process. Good luck!
Zoe Clark is a journalist, freelance stylist and blogger. She is a visual storyteller and aesthetician by heart who often writes about decorating and DIY ideas. She loves sparking creativity in people and giving them ideas for their own spaces.