Real estate tip: Owning an old home

lauren and scottsponsored post by Lauren Hruby and Scott DeVouton

 Living in the Urban Core of Kansas City frequently means living in an old home. Old homes make up much of the Midtown and Urban Core housing stock, whether that means a turn-of-last-century Victorian, a Colonial Revival, a Tudor or a Craftsman. Owning an old home can bring a world of joy to owners who know what they’re looking for. It also offers a few frustrations for home buyers who might not know what an old home experience is like.

Old Homes, Old Neighborhoods. It’s not surprising that Midtown’s old homes are in old neighborhoods, replete with rich history, mature trees, higher density and good public transportation. This is great for anyone looking for walkability, community character, diversity and stately settings. However, old neighborhoods often feature older infrastructure, homes in various states of repair, and a higher number of rental properties.

Old Neighborhood Associations.  Most old neighborhood associations function differently than a typical HOA. Rather than assessing mandatory fees for upkeep of common areas and enforcing covenants and restrictions, old home neighborhood associations serve a more social function. They serve as a collecting point for announcements, items for sale, lost pets and neighborhood needs, and most do not have compulsory membership.  This results in less uniform neighborhoods without amenities like neighborhood pools and grand entry signs, but it celebrates the individuality of each home and each owner.

Old Home Amenities. Old homes typically offer a trade-off in amenities. Room sizes, for example, can be smaller than square-foot-focused new construction, and years of updates and additions can result in a chopped-up effect in some old homes. Old homes that haven’t been remodeled also typically do not offer features like huge bathrooms, large garages or comfortable media rooms. However, they often include a variety of small amenities that newer construction might not consider, such as large front porches, breakfast nooks, built-ins, and hand-crafted woodwork. You can even find Prohibition-era speakeasy rooms around Kansas City.

Old Home Maintenance. Maintenance is probably the first thing people think of when talking about old homes. Namely, that there is more of it. This is true generally, but we find that regular maintenance is a constant requirement of any home. An older home that has not been maintained can be a homeowner headache, but so is a newer home that has also not been properly maintained. Older homes often feature old plumbing, old HVAC, old electrical systems and old sewer systems, which via simple age need to be updated. However, many old homes have been updated, and feature the most modern basics. For example, we commonly see updated electrical panels in old homes, to accommodate for today’s technology.

Old Home Materials. Old homes are made of old materials, plain and simple. Some believe that “they don’t make them like they used to,” and some believe that old is just old. In reality, both views are correct. Stone basements and lathe and plaster walls are two good examples of materials that aren’t used in today’s new construction, but are still sound in our old homes. After all, new basements and new drywall have been known to feature their own imperfections. Other old home materials, such as asbestos and lead-based paint, are notably out-of-date and unsafe, and depending on their condition, may need to be remediated. Again, the lesson is that every home, new or old, needs to be maintained.

Old Home Prices. In 2015, the average price of an existing home in the Kansas City area was almost $187,000, while a newly constructed home averaged $361,388, not including mandatory monthly HOA fees. That’s a serious difference which was more pronounced in the Kansas City urban core. Old homes are generally more affordable than new construction, even factoring deferred maintenance or necessary improvements. The trade-off is resale value, even if an old home owner heavily invests in modern improvements, which can’t necessarily be recouped at resale. It’s worth noting that home values have generally been increasing the last few years, and continue to do so.

Old homes are a rich part of Midtown’s history, character and future development. Owning one can be an incredible joy, or it can be a headache for a mismatched homeowner. An old home, like any home, needs to be maintained, cared for, and kept up to date. It won’t necessarily be more expensive or harder to maintain, but will often present a unique menu of materials, needs and required updates. This is a welcome situation for old home owners who relish historic craftsmanship, eclectic neighborhoods, and the buzz of living in denser parts of the city.

Author’s Note – If you enjoy reading our Midtown KC Post articles, and might be buying or selling your own home, please contact us. We enjoy writing these, and love helping people.

Lauren Hruby Real Estate


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