Tips for buying and renovating older homes

Private Property South Africa

Is buying an older home to renovate it, the way to go? Here are some tips.

While it has become a major trend to buy an older home for renovation or restoration purposes, some homes can be a nightmare to repair and to renovate despite being reasonably priced and being perceived as “offering good value for money”.

Trevor Sturgess, Seeff’s MD in Kibler Park, says buyers should watch out for tell-tale signs when it comes to older property that will either assist in picking up a good deal or biting off more than they can chew.


“It is extremely important to look for signs of leaks as older homes often have old water pipes that have rusted over the years.

These pipes will eventually burst because of the water pressure and a plumber would need to replace all the pipes. This can be both pricey and time consuming.

Watch out for leaks from the ground where puddles of water will gather and from the roof where water marks from the ceiling may be visible.

Always pertinently ask the agent or seller about water leaks and plumbing issues while viewing the property as these may not always be patent defects”.

Wood and rafters

Sturgess continues that it is also wise to look at the wooden rafters outside the home as it will give a general idea of how the home has been maintained over the years.

“If wooden rafters are stained or creosoted, measures were obviously taken to preserve them. If they are starting to rot however it could mean that you would need to redo the entire roof of the home”.


Sturgess adds that it is also important to look at the plaster work on walls – as nasty cracks may have been covered up with Polyfila.

If cracks aren’t dealt with in the correct manner they will always return. Follow cracks to see where they go even if means that you have to climb into the ceiling. Also make a point of asking about cracks and any other issues that may be latent.


Sturgess concludes that you should also check if all light switches and plugs are working.

“Even though it is the law that a home must come with an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (COC), you will be well advised to check basic things like the oven and stove to see if they switch on and heat up.


If there are carpets ask what is underneath – concrete, tiles or wood flooring?

Other defects

Sellers will often undertake to fix up problems that buyers have identified and these should be duly stated in the Offer to Purchase.

Rather spend enough time investigating the home before you put in an offer as such a huge investment certainly warrants due diligence.

Steve van Wyk, Seeff’s MD in Centurion echoes the above.

“Before you undertake renovations or restoration you need to determine if the home you are considering buying lends itself toward either of these processes.

Homes that are falling apart will be more difficult, expensive and time consuming to renovate. Also keep factors like the floor lay-out, supporting walls and location of water pipes in mind before making up your mind about renovation”.

Van Wyk says you should also consider whether you will be able to afford the purchase price of the home together with all the renovation/restoration costs.

"In addition you should be extremely careful not to overcapitalise on renovating a home – especially in an area that doesn’t typically boast renovated homes.

Lastly, think long term – are the renovations you have in mind going to be expensive to maintain in the long run and will they add value to the property?

Do the sums, compare property prices and then make your decision".


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