In case you haven't noticed, the real estate market in the U.S. is a bit wonky right now. Inventory is low just about everywhere in the country, which means first-time buyers are basically left with whatever they can get their hands on.
That usually means having to buy an old, beat-up house and fixing it up. It may sound romantic to fix up a house and make it your own, but old homes have hidden dangers that you may not have considered.
1. Lead Paint
If the home was built before 1978, it almost certainly has at least a layer or two of lead paint. Lead paint was found to be leading cause of lead poisoning, which prompted the government to ban consumer use of these paints.
Lead poisoning causes life-threatening damage in both adults and children.
Any time lead paint is sanded, heated or scraped, it can cause lead dust and chips to form. Lead dust can be inhaled and even spread in the soil outside of the home.
The only surefire way to know if your home has lead paint is to have it tested.
Asbestos was another common building material that was banned in the 1970s. This mineral fiber was frequently used in the 20th century, particularly after World War II. It was primarily used in construction and roofing because of its excellent insulation and fireproofing properties.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission started banning asbestos in the 1970s due to environmental concerns. It was banned outright by the EPA in 1989.
Asbestos isn't necessarily going to harm your health if it is left intact. But if you do any remodeling work on the home, there's a chance that you might be exposed to the material.
Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma, a malignant and deadly form of lung cancer.
3. Lead Plumbing
Many older homes also have lead pipes, which can lead to toxic levels of lead in your water. The only way to know if your drinking water has dangerously high levels of lead is to have it tested.
Pipe coating can help resolve the issue.
"This stabilizes your pipe, prevents the leeching of dangerous chemical and minerals like lead into your water supply, and is far more cost effective than a full replacement," says North Georgia Inliners.
If pipe coating isn't in the budget, you will need to make sure that you flush your pipes regularly. If the faucet hasn't been used for six hours or more, run the water until it comes out cold. Use cold water for drinking and cooking – never hot water.
4. Outdated Wiring
Older homes typically have outdated wiring. If you've never had your electrical system checked, now is a good time to do so. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 46,000 fires are caused by electrical systems each year. The majority of those fires could be prevented by having routine inspections performed.
Many homes built between 40 and 100 years ago haven't had their systems checked since they were built.