Tips when buying used homes
The Philippines is home to many antiquated and decrepit houses. Since it’s a tropical country, maintenance should be easy but out of ignorance and sheer negligence of many, we are left with about 70% of homes unknowingly condemned or technically unlivable. Most aren’t maintained so thorough investigation is a must when buying a previously occupied house. Consider the following before making your payment.
Check electrical works
Electrical wiring is the first thing you should check. If the house was built before World War II, its wiring is most probably naked to the wire. Those built after does not guarantee better wirings so you should bring along an electrician to check the wire’s condition and capacity.
Wire gauge is important. Wires were cheaper before that’s why they can use thick gauges. Gauge standards during this time were above today’s standard. If the owners used below standard wires, chances are, the rest of the house may have below standard specification. Although today’s wires are thinner compared to before, it has 20X better insulation that can last a hundred years. Check also if there are outlets available for air-conditioning. This would mean that the house is ready to accept heavy voltages.
Breakers are now standards in any home, if they don’t have this, electrical installation may be primitive and you may need to upgrade.
Check for electrical ground. Turn off everything in the house that can consume electricity and see if the electric meter stops. If it moves, the house has electrical ground that consumes energy and can be hazardous in the future. This should be fixed before you move in.
Old homes are usually a mix of old and new material. This is quite tricky but if the house is say 30 years old, chances are, it no longer use the traditional steel pipes that rusts in time. It was probably replaced by durable PVC pipes which can last several decades if properly installed. An old house with a recently gutted plumbing is better than not at all.
Carefully examine house drains. Does water come down easily from the gutters and drains? When I flush the toilet, does it bubble up? Check the last time the septic tank was drained. While old houses generally have large drain pipes, some that weren’t built with “real” architects or engineers but was just “directed” by the owners, may not have “standards” implemented. Check the owners if they hired “professionals” to do this.
Main drain pipes should not be free from rust, but should have no indication of scaling, as this could pose a major problem in the future. Unlike recent developments, old houses have exposed main pipes that easily lead to rust, worse is if the pipes are exposed outside.
Consider also the general drainage of the entire street / vicinity of the area. Most areas in Manila flood easily.
Traditional roofing in the Philippines uses GI sheet. Older homes such as those built before the 70s have thicker gauges. If it is maintained with paint, you need not worry. To know the roof’s condition, you can check the “kisame” and check for rusting on the opposite side of the roof. Chalking paint roof is not good, you should consider the cost of replacing it.
If the house was built before 1991, its foundation is probably stable, given that it survived one of the strongest earthquakes our country has experienced.
Check for hairline cracks. If the cement part has been sealed and repainted, check obvious gap repairs if there are. Thickness of the foundation maybe an advantage but if the steel inside is below standard, it doesn’t really make much difference. Check also how deep the foundation goes.
Is the soil within the area soft? This can be a problem as foundation sinks slowly in time. Survey the area for towering buildings, this would mean that the soil bedding is probably rock-hard.
Old houses with old wood foundation are not much of a worry, unless you will be using heavy furniture on the above floor.
Lastly, ask the neighbors about the house. What you hear may save your life and money.