Old homes are beautiful homes. They may look quaint now to many 21st century eyes, but they have the kind of charm and period detailing that many contemporary homes lack—and (surprise!) many buyers look for and real estate agents can put a premium on. Old homes, unfortunately, also have annoying defects that any seller should remedy first or that any buyer should be aware of.
Repairing these defects, which can be nasty in some cases because they might require overhauls, can be a real headache for the seller and the agent, but one decision, says Josh Garskof of Money Magazine, can substantially reduce the hassle and the expense—contracting a seasoned professional whose first instinct and expertise are to repair or restore rather than to replace old parts.
Some advice from Garskof to get you on the road to good, cost-efficient repair:
Those drafty windows. Don’t even think of replacing old drafty windows (each costs a few hundred bucks, for one thing) on old homes—they’re the portals to the character of the house. Instead of replacing, just recondition. That’s just $100 to $200 per window. A good carpenter can do a lot for windows that let in the cold, rattle in the wind, or get stuck a lot. For instance, weather-stripping, waxing the rails, rebuilding or replacing worn-out parts.
Holes in the wall. Those holes, fissures, and cracks in the wall can all be repaired. Repairing them doesn’t mean replacing the entire plaster with, say, a wallboard and in the process damaging the wooden trim work—and your pocketbook by at least $500 per room. A conscientious contractor can reattach the original, damaged plaster and patch it up with a skim coat and not cost you over $300.
Creaky old floors. Old floors are creaky in one part or two or three; it’s part of their charm, just like their fine wood grains. They can be really noisy, too, and decidedly tiresome. Fortunately, creaky floors are easy to fix and a good carpenter or woodworker, just by using microhead screws, will make sure that the suspect floorboards are once again firmly attached to their floor joists and nailers. Depending on the extent of the problem, the cost for this type of repair ranges from $200 to $500.
Rickety handrails and banisters. Handling loose handrails and crooked balustrades is not for the average carpenter. It’s a job for the pro that has repaired several period wooden staircases. Unlike a tyro, who probably would recommend a replacement, a pro will know that in an old wooden staircase each baluster (banister) can be turned and tightened, stabilizing the handrail. He will also know that a nut inside the newel (the upright post at the foot or top of the stairway) when tightened, will likewise straighten up the banisters. It’s a simple fix that will set you back just $200. Not bad for the aesthetical improvement it makes—and the safety it brings.