The things that may be the matter with an old house, as enumerated here, may sound very forbidding but circumstances alter cases. It is doubtful if any one structure will be afflicted with all these ills of decay and neglect. In our own house hunting we saw many that were sound enough so that, with the addition of modern conveniences and a good cleaning, they were livable. In fact, there is nothing equal to getting thoroughly acquainted with a house before radical changes are made. Live in the place six months or a year and then you will know better just what alterations or additions are wise.
In northern New England there is a delightful country home that has been renovated with great skill and charm. The reason behind it is that the owners went for many years with as few repairs as possible. Then came a large and unexpected inheritance. There was money enough to rebuild completely but relatively few major changes were made.
“Most of the expenditure was for restorations,” the owner stated. “Once we day-dreamed of all kinds of changes but when the time came we knew most of them were impractical and would add neither to our comfort nor our convenience.”
The most important thing about any house is, does it please you architecturally and is its general plan suited to your needs? If it seems to be well enough preserved so that renovation appears to be practical, turn to an architect with the understanding that, if you buy, he will be retained. He will then be willing to give the house an expert inspection and even submit tentative sketches of advantageous changes. His report, if the venture is to be financially good, should indicate that structurally the house is about one-half sound and usable.
Of course if you have found a house dating from the 17th or 18th century, you have something fairly rare and it is worth reclaiming even though very extensive replacements are needed. In Fairfield, Connecticut, for example, there is the Ogden House, built before 1710. Its present owner paid $4,000 for it in what seemed to be ruinous condition. Its renovation cost fully $12,000; but finished, this old salt box house is so unusual that more than one buyer is ready and waiting to pay double the amount spent.
Arrangement of the rooms of an old house, and how they will fit the requirements of the prospective purchaser, should be given more than passing thought. Most people when they begin looking at places have large ideas about moving partitions, cutting new windows, and changing the location of doorways. These can be done but they are relatively expensive and if carried to excess rob the place of all character. Even the simplest of old houses has definite balance in its design and arrangement of rooms. So think well before tearing out partitions indiscriminately or moving doorways and cutting windows.