Beyond the White Picket Fence :: Lessons Learned From Buying a “NewOld” Home

Several months after my son was born, I was blindsided by a major realization. It wasn’t the one where I realized that many sounds he made would automatically make me run through a mental list of possible ailments. {Pneumonia? Croup? RSV?  Oh wait, he’s just pooping.} Or the realization that getting out the door to see the outside world with baby and dog for a 20 minute walk would be my daily goal. It was the realization that happens when you look around your current home {in our case, a 3 story townhouse} and think, “This isn’t going to work anymore. We need to move.”
Buying an Old Home :: Beyond the White Picket Fence | Houston Moms Blog

After my husband and I accepted this realization, it was then time to decide whether we targeted an area that had newer/updated construction or older, built-in character homes – “NewOld” {new to us, but older construction}. We chose the NewOld route since those homes heavily populate the area of town in which we really want to build memories.

Now, we felt like we were pretty educated on the home searching/buying process. We had done it once before with the purchase of our 2008 townhouse, and I had read Home Buying For Dummies, after all … piece of cake, right? That assumption was almost as laughable as pre-baby me thinking that sleep deprivation couldn’t be THAT bad.

When you are looking at buying NewOld homes, it’s a different ballgame. Just as I had wished someone sat down pregnant me and had real-talk about what to expect in those first newborn weeks, I also wished the same after we were done purchasing/moving into our NewOld home. So, for those in the same boat as us, consider this our mom real-talk to hopefully maximize your negotiating power, or simply educate yourself to ensure you are making a purchase that works for your family.

Along with how your couch will look in the living room, keep some of these items tucked in the back of your mind.

Knock On Doors — Be Nosy

The how-to guides recommend that when you find a potential home, you drive through the area at different times of day to see what goes on. For older neighborhoods, I would recommend taking it a step further and going door-to-door salesman style and knocking on doors to chat with neighbors. Odds are you will talk-up at least one person who is the street veteran with the inside scoop. They can provide specifics {like the award for most annoying neighbor}, and practical information on how the street/houses did during the historic storms earlier this year. The reality is that many areas are responding differently to heavy rains, so why not see how that area did?

Had we asked this question, we would’ve been much more prepared as we stood on our front porch watching helplessly as the waters rose way too quickly in our front yard. In fact, we would’ve realized that everyone on that street knows that waters rise on the lawns even in a normal storm. Instead, we watched the water come uncomfortably close to our front door as I repeatedly asked my husband if he was positive that making a barrier of towels would not be effective. I was ready to just lay my body down in front of the water to prevent it from coming in. Flood waters are no joke, y’all.

Or get really crazy and ask questions specifically about the current owners of the house. Do the current owners appear to take care of the home, why are they moving, etc? Get creative with your questions. The worst someone can say is, “I don’t know,” but best case they can give you the scoop to educate you in your decision.

Do Your Research — It’s Not Always an Easy Fix

NewOld homes come with older roofs, siding, foundation, water heaters, electrical and plumbing work. If your inspection flags an item that notes for a licensed professional in that area to examine further, then at least call a couple professionals to ask the estimated cost to fix. It may have been naïve of us, but there were certain items that didn’t SOUND that bad, but when we consulted with a professional, we found it could be pretty pricey.

Open the AC Vents — You Never Know What Friends Are In Your Ducts

As we all know, the humidity levels in our area are around 987% on any given day. As previously mentioned, in an older home you are dealing with older equipment, but did you think about your friend, Mr. AC Ducts? Yea, me neither. Turns out, Mr. AC Ducts have a typical lifespan of 20-ish years, and after a while his material make-up slowly starts to deteriorate. Add in that 987% Humidity, and you have yourself a perfect friendship for microbial growth.

The moisture associated with our area, the ductwork in the attic baking in Houston temperatures, and years of air particles creates a gross situation which results in black stuff coming out of your AC vents. In some cases, a good cleaning will do the trick, but in our case a replacement of the entire upstairs ductwork was the resolution. So while you are walking around “oohing and aaahing” at the charming crown molding, take a gander at the AC vents and see if you spot anything that looks like dirt. Even better, if you have the blessing to take the cover off, then swipe the actual duct with a cotton swab and see what you find.

Determine the Type of Electrical Outlets

When your child hits that baby-proofing stage, you view everything in your home differently. The TV stand now becomes a possible death jungle gym, the window blind cords are swinging tassels of terror, and electrical outlets are little slits of wonder that baby fingers are attracted to no matter how many toys they have out. As a mom, you are constantly playing the guess-the-safety-hazard-before-the-baby game. Take it a step further in the NewOld home and pay attention to the electrical outlets – original or updated? I’m not an electrician, but from what I understand, current building code states that GFCIs are required within a certain distance of all water sources, and tamper-resistant receptacles are the norm. Obviously, current electrical building codes are not the same as they were 30+ years ago. Identifying this could open the door to price negotiation, or at the very least prepare you for the expense of updating the outlets.

Side note, if you do update to the tamper-resistant receptacles, you can kiss goodbye all those annoying outlet covers as they are a “No-no” in TP receptacles. I would’ve like to have known that prior to purchasing what feels like 500 outlet covers. Oops.

Show Some Attention to Your Main Sewer Line

I’m sorry, the what line? Exactly. We knew to schedule a home inspection, but when I had several different professionals mention the main sewer line inspection, we ultimately decided to schedule one for completion. The main sewer line is what brings all the household gross water from the house to the sewer line in the street. You may get well acquainted with your sewer line when you start experiencing frequent clogged toilets. {The main sewer line backs up, and nothing is able to move out from the house to the street line – vomit.}. In older homes, the sewer line is more vulnerable simply because of natural deterioration due to the age of the line material or actual roots growing into the line overtime. The trick is that a damaged line isn’t always causing the current owner problems, so it is an uninvited guest that could show-up to your housewarming party and cost big $$$ when you want it to leave.

Label Your Breaker Box ASAP

Do you want to play identify the breaker with the light switch at 9 pm on a weeknight with a screaming baby? No, didn’t think so.

And Finally — Stop Worrying and Enjoy!

Are NewOld homes a little scary? Yes, but so are newer homes because the reality is that it’s a major purchase and home buying is nerve-wracking. No one can predict what can go wrong. But if you do your homework and set your expectations accordingly for potential expenses, then you can make an educated decision and kick those stress levels down a notch. Similar to being a mom, all you can do is your best! Even though it is hard to not constantly second guess yourself with what-ifs, all you can do is gather the information you have and make the best decision possible.

A NewOld home brings so many great elements – it’s unique in its look, history, and neighborhood. There is always going to be a piece of rotted wood that needs replacing or outside faucet that needs to be caulked, but make sure you stop to enjoy your accomplishment of buying and moving into your NewOld home. It is the place you chose to make memories with your family, so don’t forget to actually be in the moment and make those memories.

And since we are always learning as NewOld homeowners, what advice can veteran NewOld owners pass on?

HeadshotAbout Jaclyn D.

Jaclyn was born a Jersey Girl, but quickly became a Texan after moving here with her family when she was 5. After a degree from Texas A&M, she began her career in the oil/gas industry within talent acquisition and met her husband, Red Raider, Andy. After 9 years of Inner Loop living, they welcomed their son Mason {2015} and made the ‘burb life’ jump to The Woodlands. When she isn’t working fulltime, Jaclyn enjoys exploring all the outdoor events in TW, finding the best mommy/baby meet-ups, Crossfit workouts, and of course – the best wine pairing for an evening on their patio.

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Jaclyn was born a Jersey Girl, but became a Texan after moving here at age 5. After a degree from Texas A&M, she began her career in the oil/gas industry within talent acquisition. Simultaneously, she realized she had a crush on a boy named Andy who became her best friend, #1 supporter, and eventually her husband 5 years ago. After many years of Inner Loop living, they welcomed their son Mason {May 2015} and made the ‘burb life’ jump to The Woodlands {hello, nature and commute}. When she isn’t working fulltime in the office, she is putting in the Starbucks fueled hours at home hoping to be a great ‘employee’ for her spirited, sweet, non-stop energy, at-home boss - son Mason. {Side Note :: Being a boy mom should have a manual included at the hospital. Amen?} While off the clock for both jobs, Jaclyn is getting connected in her church, trying the newest workout fads {jogging doesn’t cut it}, making to-do lists, crossing off said to-do lists, Mexican food, wine, wine, wine and trying to convince her husband that New Girl IS a funny show.


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