7 Reasons Why Living in an Older Home Isn’t All Tall Ceilings & Charm

published Nov 9, 2015
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

The first thing my next door neighbor and I talked about on the stoop the day I moved in was how old the building actually is; he had heard it was built before the 1900s. A huge white house with an astounding six apartments held within, I fell in love the moment I walked inside my cozy 500-square-foot apartment with wood floors, a big white fireplace mantel and tall ceilings with thick molding.

I like homes full of old quirks, lots of architectural character and stuffed with history; I’ve lived in a few different older homes now. I don’t write this list to dissuade you from ever renting or buying an older home — I’m obviously not done soaking up their original architectural character myself. And I’m intentionally not defining what year built makes for an “older” home; there’s room for plenty of decades to be considered.

But if you’re at the start of your rental life and considering moving into an older home, or have always lived in newer apartments and are thinking about buying your first older home, I thought it might be helpful for you to read a list of the not-so-fun quirks of living in an older home. They haven’t added up to enough to ever make me start living newer, but they have certainly given me a headache or two over my rental lifetime.

1. Something being level is a rare unicorn

Most any home settles a bit, no matter its foundation type. It’s just the nature of home construction. But because an older home has had more time to settle, finding a level surface might be difficult. You might have uneven floors or even see cracks in the walls. Settling — and the (normal, but scary sounding) pops and cracks that you hear — could be particularly spooky in an older house, as well.

2. Astounding tile color combos

Sometimes you get lucky and see a kitchen or bathroom color combo that, while maybe not your first choice, is still live-with-able. But occasionally you’ll walk into an older home with a tile color combination so heinous it’ll question whether you’ve been seeing color wrong all these years.

(Image credit: Monica Wang)

3. All the drafts

Older homes tend to be drafty when the temperatures outside drop. Thankfully, you can usually employ design tricks and tools to help cut down on drafts, but your first few winter nights in an older home might be a little chilly until you do fight the draft.

4. All the bugs

Bugs can make it into any home, through an almost infinite amount of ways. But older homes just seem to have more ways for bugs to find their way in. Though plenty of this can be remedied with pest control products and methods, you might find that you are fighting bugs a little more often in an older home than in a new one.

5. A longer time period of potentially terrible design decisions

Though even newer homes can come packed with horrid design decisions when you first rent or buy, when you are the most recent owner or renter in a long line in an older home, there’s just been more time to rack up some amazingly terrible design elements. This can be potentially heartbreaking if you learn about decisions like the removal of charming-to-you elements after the fact. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but it can suck if you know that your home could have had more of your type of beauty than it does by the time you get to live in it.

6. The possibility of that cool architectural element not functioning

Hot in an architectural element fever when looking for potential places to live, you might just pass right on by when the realtor or leasing agent tells you that gorgeous fireplace no longer works. “At least I can still look at it!” you cry. But you might really be crying later after you’ve lived there for awhile and wish you could do more than just gaze longingly at that cool architectural feature.

7. Really cleaning a surface and it looking like you didn’t clean it at all

I can tell you that in the past three homes I’ve lived in, I’ve practically given up on mopping the floors after a certain number of tries. There’s only so much invisible effort one can put out. And though stains, scratches and paint splatters are definitely a part of what can add charm and history to a home, it can be a bummer when you put a lot of effort into cleaning an area and it doesn’t look noticeably cleaner.

I actually noticed this line the other day in the survey from Brittany, Jess and Heidi’s Real-Deal Artist’s Loft in Chicago: Washing the floor and not knowing if it’s ever actually clean; the paint splatters make it difficult to know what’s dirt and what’s not.” I know that pain. I know it intimately.

And again, because I really do want to reiterate it in case anyone thinks I’m ungrateful for the tall ceilings, history and charm of the current home I’m living in: None of these cons are even remotely enough to make me swear off old home living forever. But they cause headaches sometimes, and you might find this post useful if you’re on the fence about moving into an older home, or are trying to choose between an old home and a newer one. And as long as the home you’re thinking about moving to isn’t giving off any Crimson Peak vibes, I think old home living is a great experience for anyone to try out.

So dear readers, do you agree with these occasional pains of living in an older home? Have your own to add to this list? Write in the comments below!

Re-edited from a post originally published 11.9.2015 – TW