There are so many beautiful and established older homes available in Lexington, KY, and the surrounding areas. It is easy to fall in love with the style of an older home. You cannot help but feel nostalgic about a home that is a piece of history. Older homes do have the potential for their share of issues. It is important that you are aware of those possible problems before you begin your hunt for a new home. An experienced real estate agent knows all the potential issues that might befall an older home and can help you navigate your way through them. There may be some homes that the potential problems make them all wrong for you. However, a great real estate agent can help you understand what are real problems and what you can fix.

Common Problems Found In Old Homes

Before you get caught up in the rapture of an old home, you should make yourself aware of the potential pitfalls that you might not otherwise know. When a house seems like a great bargain, just know that there could be hidden problems that may cost you a lot more than you intended. Always do your research before purchasing a home. Your real estate agent should be able to help you find out the details of a house in which you are interested. If you are looking at a house that is more than 50 years old, make sure you know all the details about it.

This article outlines items to watch for when buying an older house. Follow these tips to avoid problems that might show up later. Keep in mind, the older the house is that you are considering, the more problems you might have. A home inspection is incredibly important for an older house. Do not overlook this step.

Lead Paint

Lead paint could be the biggest problem you find with an old house, especially if you have young children or plan to have children. If you have children under the age of 6 in the house, federal law requires you to remove all the lead. You really want to regardless of what the law states. When lead is consumed, it causes significant health issues, especially in young children. If the house was built before 1978, it may have lead paint. If it is built before 1978, the owners must disclose that the house may contain lead paint. You must be careful here because it is possible to paint over the existing lead paint, but that does not get rid of the harmful lead. Be sure you understand your right and legal requirements as a homeowner and do research about lead paint and its removal.


Asbestos is a common material used in older houses and buildings. It was used as a flame retardant and was excellent at it. However, it has been found that when the material is in the air, and you breathe it into your lungs, it causes a life-threatening form of cancer. It was finally banned in 1989. After that date, it was no longer allowed in building material. Before then, it was used often.
Due to the cancerous nature of the material, many old houses have had it removed. Not all have, though. You need to know if the house you want to buy has asbestos. Removing it can be incredibly expensive. Your home inspector will be able to point out what he thinks is asbestos, but you need to have the house tested to be certain. Typically, you will find it wrapped around pipes in basements and insulation between the walls.

One place that it may be in an older house is the floor. It may look like dull linoleum to you, but could be asbestos. As long as the floor is in good shape and intact, it should not be an issue. If the floor is cracked or flaking, it is a big problem.

Foundational Problems

The older the home is means the older the foundation is, too. The foundation of old homes can be cracked, sunken, or even leaning. The foundation is what everything else in the house is built upon, so if the foundation is sinking, so is the entire house. It can be a safety hazard if there is a problem with the foundation. Please keep in mind, that as the foundation settles, you may see some cracks, and that is normal. However, you need a home inspector to tell you what cracks are normal and which are problematic. Repairing a foundation can be costly, so keep that in mind when you are looking at the price of the house.

There is a sill plate on top of the foundation of a house. The entire house sits on the sill plate. Many older houses have damage to the sill plate. You should make sure that you have an experienced home inspector checking the foundation and sill plate of the house. The sills can be repaired, but it may require the house to be jacked up, which must be done carefully, or there may be damage to the walls.

Electrical Problems

Electrical systems in houses have come a long way, so the older the house is, the less the electrical system can keep up with modern technology. Today, we have computers, televisions, HVAC, mobile devices, and appliances that all use electricity. Most of these modern conveniences were not around 50 years ago. The electrical systems built for old houses just cannot handle the amount of technology we use today.

There was a particular kind of wiring used in the late 1800s until the 1950s. It is called knob and tube wiring, and it is common in old houses. This wiring uses single insulated copper conductors that run in the walls and ceilings where it goes through the joists in tubes that insulate it. What is most important for you to understand is these systems do not give an adequate amount of power for all of the electronics in your home. Often, homeowners tend to replace fuses with one intended for higher currents, which has more current running through the wiring than it can handle. This causes heat damage and the potential for fire.
The knob and tube wiring tend to get damaged by home renovations. The insulation tends to dry out and gets brittle easily. Rodents also like to chew on the wiring, which damages it.

Homeowners insurance companies do not like to cover homes with this type of wiring. They may insist that you have the wiring replaced by a certified electrician. They will require written certification that the wiring is in good working order. You may also have a difficult time getting approved for a mortgage for a home with knob and tube wiring. If you know the house you want has this type of wiring, you should speak to the insurance company and mortgage lender ahead of time.


Most of the old houses have outlets that are not grounded. It is easy to spot them because they only have two holes in them. If you have outlets that have only two holes, you will not be able to plug-in devices that require grounding. Most electronics today, such as the flat screen tv or laptop, require a grounded outlet. You can use adapters that you find at the local hardware store, but they are not a good long term fix. You will need to hire an electrician to change out all the outlets in the house. This may not need to be a deal-breaker for you, but it is important to understand what it means when you buy a house with outlets that are not grounded.


No matter what house you are buying, if it is not a new construction, you need to look at the condition of the roof. If you see missing shingles or patches of new shingles over top of old ones, those are indications that the roof needs to be replaced. You may also see moss growing on the roof, which indicates it is old. You should have an inspector take a good look at the roof because there are problems you cannot see from the ground.


Old houses tend to come with old water systems. Many old houses have hand-dug wells as their water source. They tend to have significant issues such as a higher risk of contamination. If the house has a well, you should make sure you have a well test. You do not want to mess with the water coming into your house.


Old homes tend to attract all types of pests, such as rodents and insects. Many of these types of pests can be hazardous to your health. Termites are a huge issue that may cause the need for an expensive repair. You should make sure that have an inspector check out the house for pests. Insects are common in an old house because the old wood may have water damage. An inspector may also find an insect such as powder post beetle, which causes a lot of damage. Even if they are not active, they can damage the structure of the house.

Not Energy Efficient

Old houses are not energy-efficient because when they were built, it was not a consideration. Many of the old houses do not even have insulation. If they do have insulation, it may not be effective. Windows in old houses are single pane, which means it does not keep the heat in the house and the cold air out. To make sure you get the most out of your heating and air conditioning system, you must improve your windows and insulation. To find out how energy efficient the house is, you can have a home energy audit. This audit also tells you the best ways to upgrade the home to make it more energy-efficient.

Last Thoughts

It is important that you find the right real estate agent to help you find the right home for you. If you find a real estate agent that is experienced with new and old houses, that agent can find the home that is the right fit for you. The right real estate agent will have some experience selling old houses. They know all of the potential problems that come along with an old house.

Purchasing a home is a huge undertaking, and you want to make sure you get the right one for you. Finding the right agent is an important step to finding the right house. Do not skip over the home inspection. This is an important step in the home buying process and important not to miss it. You also want to make sure that your real estate agent also attends the home inspection.