6 Potential Pitfalls of Insuring an Older Home

WRITTEN BY: Mark Romero

UPDATED: MAY 08, 2023 | 1 MIN READ

There are many reasons why you want to insure your older home. However, there are also a few potential pitfalls that you should consider before you decide on which property coverage to purchase. Insurance is not just about protecting yourself from financial loss in case of an incident.

It’s also about protecting the people and things most important to you. You need to consider the amount of money you can recover should something go wrong – and to that end, what your coverage limits are.

Insuring an older home is no easy feat because it’s hard to predict what might happen to a house built decades ago. But if you plan on insuring your old house, here are some potential pitfalls to be aware of.

1 – An Old Roof

The roof is one of the essential parts of a building. It protects the interior from rain, snow, and other elements that can cause damage to your property.

Roofs come in many shapes and sizes. They are usually made of metal, wood, or plastic. For a roof to last a long time, it must be inspected regularly for signs of damage and wear.

However, while a new roof is something you will have to invest in eventually, an old roof may be a pitfall when insuring your older property. As time goes on, roofs tend to deteriorate and become more susceptible to certain weather changes. This can lead to higher insurance costs and greater risk for the homeowners insurance company. With a really old roof, it might be listed as an exclusion on your policy.

When buying a house with an older roof, you can negotiate a lower price, leaving money left over for replacing the roof.

2 – Older Building Materials

Older homes are often built with standard materials back then but not used now, such as asbestos, lead paint, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). These materials can cause health hazards for those living in the home, their family members, or those who clean and remodel the home. The EPA recommends testing for radon gas (a radioactive pollutant), PCBs, lead, and asbestos to determine whether a property is a health hazard.

3 – Outdated Wiring

During a typical year, the fire department responds to 67,800 fires caused by home electrical problems. This equates to 485 deaths and $868 million in property losses.

The wiring in an older home is usually outdated, which can lead to several problems. The wiring may need to be updated and may not handle the electrical load of the newer devices being used.

In some cases, the wires may have corroded over time or been damaged by rodents or insects. Older homes often have knob-and-tube wiring, which can be challenging to identify and repair.

Knob and tube wiring is typical of homes built from 1880 through the 1940s. Between 1965 and 1973, aluminum wiring was the standard material used. These are now considered hazardous; some insurance companies might increase your rates or refuse to insure your home due to this wiring.

Knowing what kind of wiring your home has is essential before you do any work on it. If you need clarification on what type, talk to an electrician before performing any work on the home.

4 – Pests

Pest infestation is a common problem in older homes. The most common pest that infests the house is termites. They can be seen as white, brown, or black ants with wings. Termites aren’t only harmful to the house and cause structural damage to it. Other pests, such as cockroaches, bed bugs, and rodents, can also be found in an older home.

Cockroaches are usually found in kitchens and bathrooms, while bed bugs are typically found in bedrooms or living rooms. Rodents such as mice generally live near food sources, while rats are commonly seen near garbage cans and sewers at night.

The best way to deal with them is to get professional help from an exterminator. This will ensure that the pests are dealt with safely and effectively and prevent future infestations.

A good exterminator can also advise on what steps you can take to prevent future pest problems. Recommendations include sealing up cracks and gaps in the house, sealing off vents and chimneys, installing screens on windows and doors, etc.

Homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover animal infestations, so you’ll likely have to foot the bill for an exterminator yourself.

5 – Plumbing Problems

Older homes are often built with pipes that are made of metal. Copper and galvanized steel pipes were once standard in homes. These pipes can be subject to corrosion and rust, which can cause plumbing issues.

One common problem is a leaky pipe. This can be caused by corrosion or a loose connection between the pipe and the fitting. Leaks can cause water damage to your home and will require expensive repairs if left untreated for too long.

To avoid these problems, it’s essential to keep an eye on your pipes for any signs of wear and tear. Signs of wear and tear include leaks or rust spots outside the pipe. You should also regularly check your faucets for drips or leaks, indicating a problem with the valve seal or washer inside the faucet body.

A leaky or broken pipe can cause water damage to your home and will require expensive repairs if left untreated for too long. To offset the potential costs to the insurance provider, they’ll often charge policyholders higher insurance premiums.

6 – Structural Issues

One of the most important things to consider before buying a home is its age. Older homes are often structurally unsound and may have foundation, roofing, or wall issues. If you’re looking for a home that has been updated structurally and aesthetically, then you should avoid older homes.

It’s essential to have a structural engineer inspect the home before buying it. They will look at the construction and make sure that it’s sound. They will also ensure no significant issues with the foundation, roofing, or plumbing.


What makes an old house uninsurable?

A house might be deemed uninsurable for two reasons:

  • The home is not in good enough condition to qualify for Federal Housing Association (FHA) insurance
  • An insurance company considers it a higher risk to insure. This could be because the home is unlivable, needs extensive repairs, or is located in an area at increased risk for flooding. If so, you may be required to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.

Are older homes harder to insure?

Some factors could make your older home harder to insure, and if you can get the insurance coverage, you will typically pay more than for a new home. Wear and tear on the house, more expensive materials used, and upgrades required to meet safety standards can mean you will pay higher premiums.

What are the five most common causes of homeowners insurance losses?

Homeowners need to know the most common causes of such losses to take precautions and avoid them. The five most common causes of homeowners insurance losses are windstorms, non-weather water damage, hail, weather-related water damage, and theft. These five causes add up to 77% of home insurance claims.

Can old houses be insured?

There are some cases where an older home may be deemed uninsurable, but in most cases, you should be able to get your home insured. A standard homeowners insurance policy will likely be more expensive for an older home than newer properties, as they are riskier to insure. However, this depends on several factors, including the amount of coverage you’re looking for, the home’s market value, the deductible you’re willing to pay, and the type of insurance you’re buying.

What is the most important reason to get coverage?

Homeowners insurance is essential because it protects the policyholder’s home and personal property in a fire or other natural disaster. It covers on-site losses, such as theft, vandalism, and damage. It can provide the money to repair or replace damaged property. It’s also worth noting that most mortgage lenders require homeowners to take out a home insurance policy.

What are the four things that can make a house uninsurable?

Several issues could cause your home to be uninsurable. Four examples include the house having a claims history, the home being located in an area with high crime rates, having structural issues, or having pollutants in the home.

What is one way to lower the cost of insurance for an older home?

Many tips and tricks to get lower premiums on your home insurance will also work on older homes. Still, consider upgrading or updating anything that needs to be brought to a newer standard and meet building codes. Avoid installing trampolines and swimming pools that may further increase your policy premiums. Additionally, consider working with your insurance agent to determine a higher deductible if you can afford to do so.

What is the lifespan of an older home?

The lifespan of a home can range anywhere from 70 to 200 years. Keeping on top of a property’s maintenance can help extend the overall lifespan of an old house. Homes that haven’t had any maintenance or upgrades made over the years are more likely to have issues that may result in an insurance claim.

What are the advantages of insuring an older home?

It’s vital to insure a home of any age, but an older home is more likely to require repairs due to the age and condition of the house. Therefore, an insurance policy is advisable to protect yourself from paying out of pocket if there is damage to your home.

How much does it cost to insure an old house?

For a property that’s 100 years old, the average cost of homeowners insurance is $1,956 per year. The average cost of having a standard home insurance policy for a new home is nearly $850 cheaper. The individual insurance rates for each home will vary greatly depending on the home’s condition, age, and location.

How can you determine if an old house is uninsurable?

A home inspection is the best way to determine the age and condition of your property. Most insurance companies will use home inspections to help calculate the replacement cost value and decide whether they can provide insurance coverage for the property. You can get a different type of coverage if you can’t get replacement cost coverage. Actual cash value may be an option when you look for insurance quotes.

How to Insure an Older Home

Insuring an older home can be a challenge. Older homes are more likely to have structural or electrical problems than newer homes.

The first step is to make sure that your insurance company knows about any major repairs or upgrades that have been done in the past few years. If you tell them, it could be easier for them to assess risk accurately.

It’s also important to keep accurate records of all previous home improvement projects. That way, if something does happen, you will have the information that an insurance carrier needs for a claim.

Fill out our online rate form to compare prices and companies for your older home. We can even connect you with a homeowners expert to answer any questions.