Roof: Take some time to inspect the shingles. A roof generally needs replacing after 20-25 years. Look for signs of water leaks on the ceiling inside the home (top floor) and around the ceiling. Outside, are the shingles curling? Are any missing?
Brickwork (Chimneys): When looking at the brickwork on the outside of the chimney, do you see chipping or crumbling? Is the brick turning to powder, or is the mortar starting to fall apart? If so, it could be very expensive to have it repaired.
Decks and Porches: Take a look for signs of rotting wood. Soft spots or places where the wood is splintered could be a sign of more widespread damage. Don’t let a fresh coat of paint fool you!
Parking: Depending on where you’re looking, many older houses in large cities, such as Toronto, do not have a garage or driveway. Find out how many parking spots come with the house and where they are. If the house does not have a driveway, you may need a parking permit from the city to park on the street or you may be able to get a permit to build one.
Electrical: It is very important to make sure your electrical panel has been updated to meet the demanding needs of all of the appliances the house requires on a daily basis. If you are buying an older home, and discover it has an older panel with 60-100amp service, you may find that it is necessary to upgrade it to 200 amp. Homes with fuses or knob and tube wiring will definitely need to be upgraded.
Heating: Natural gas is generally the least expensive option, but it is not available everywhere. Oil, propane and electricity are also common sources of energy but can be more expensive. Oil tanks will have to be inspected as well as wood stoves. Older furnaces may need to be replaced to a more efficient one which may save you money over time.
Plumbing: If you discover lead pipes in the house, this means that the plumbing is old and will need to be upgraded in the future to today’s standard copper pipes with copper soldering, or PVC piping.
Insulation: If the house has older plaster walls, it probably has little or no insulation. Hiring an insulation contractor to blow extra insulation behind the walls can be expensive, but it will save you money on your heating bills in the long run.
Windows: New homes have energy efficient windows but older ones don’t. If you buy an older home and do not replace the windows right away, you may find your heating budget soar.
Sewage and drains: A qualified inspector can determine if the sewer system and drains are working properly. You should also find out if the sewage service from the street has been upgraded recently. If on a septic system, when was the last time it was pumped and when was it installed? You’ll want to make sure it is the right size for your home and your family.