Buying Advice

Considering a Vintage Home?

With any home purchase, one of the most important first hurdles for both buyer and seller is the inspection. Many view this step as limited to simply a physical inspection of the real property (house, septic, accessory structures, etc). In truth, there is much more to this important part of the process.

Do Your Research

Reconciling permits, reviewing wastewater reports, examining information about any association, considering CCRs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) as well as understanding road ownership, water sources and any fees associated with ownership are all part of the process.

Search Outside the Norm

As prices rise, especially in town, some of the most attractive buyer options are our plantation-era homes or rehabbed homes built pre-1978. When it comes to these charmers, additional disclosure and notice of lead-based paint is required by federal law.

The Problem with Paint

This disclosure process normally begins as an attachment to the purchase contract regarding lead paint with the purchase contract. The form gives the seller the opportunity to disclose or the buyer the opportunity to further inspect. Trouble is, most sellers have no idea if their homes contain lead paint.

Besides, old paint has often been removed or encapsulated. But why does the presence of lead paint even matter? Young children, in particular, are at increased risk of ingesting lead paint chips. After all, children are infamous for putting any and everything in their little mouths. Lead paint could also be a problem (especially for pregnant women) if paint dust is breathed in.

Available Resources

The pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home is readily available. Your REALTOR® or Property Manager can provide a copy. Most properties are not per se a problem as long as the paint is intact. It’s when the paint is scraped or, as mentioned, if a child ingests paint chips, that the potential health issues such as kidney damage, learning disabilities, speech problems (to name a few), might occur. Remember, paint is only one source of lead poisoning. Old pipes are another. Fortunately, there are precautions and testing that help provide peace of mind.

Get a Test

Building supply stores (HPM, Home Depot and Lowe’s) sell an inexpensive EPA approved test kit that provides a self-help method of testing. There are also certified testers who will do the test but, to be honest, I don’t know any.

Besides testing, owners are advised to keep the paint in good repair. Some loans, FHA loans in particular, will not finance loans on homes with peeling paint. Windows, doors and railings and areas with high use should be constantly monitored. The pamphlet provides a good deal of guidance and reassurance regarding purchase of properties with potential presence of lead paint. So if vintage is your dream or simply your preference, be sure to read the pamphlet and consider testing that will provide important peace of mind.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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