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OLDER HOMES HAVE THEIR ADVANTAGE

Many older homes are located in established neighborhoods where public transportation, shopping, schools and churches are just a walk away. These houses frequently offer more space for the money than new homes.

If you are thinking of buying an older home, here are some points to consider:

Find out the age and condition of the roof. Certain roofing materials are more durable: Slate and clay tile are your best bets because they often stay in good condition for 40 years or more. Wood and asbestos cement roofs may last up to 30 years, while common asphalt shingle roofing lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

Inspect the roof for loose or missing shingles; check the chimney for loose mortar.

Check gutters and downspouts. They should be clean, rust free and in good repair. Downspouts should empty onto splash blocks directed away from the house, into drains or an underground well. The ground should slope away from the house so that rainwater runs off.

Check the outside walls. If they're made of brick or stone, test the mortar -- especially near the ground -- a screwdriver to see if it is firm or powdery. Crumbling mortar may let in water than can crack the masonry and damage interior walls. Bulging bricks could be a sign of structural defects or loose brick veneer.

Non-masonry walls should fit well at joints and in corners since gaps give water a chance to rot the framing underneath. If painted walls show signs of blistering, flaking or peeling down to the wood, it could mean the walls were built with no vapor barrier.

Check the exterior wood elements, such as deck supports. They should rest on concrete to prevent rot.

Examine paved areas for cracks, uneven settling in the driveway, patios and sidewalks.

Visit the house after a rain to see how well the gutters, downspouts, runoffs and basement handle poor weather.

A sound exterior is a good indication that an older home may be a very good investment, but inside you'll need to check the wiring, plumbing and heating system as well as other items you would inspect in a newer home.

The Greater Buffalo Association of Realtors says that a growing number of homebuyers are using the services of a home inspector before closing a sale since a professional inspection will provide an accurate appraisal of a home's physical condition.

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