By no means am I implying that you are throwing your money down the toilet when you renovate an older home. It can be extremely rewarding and help you capture more of the charm you love about the house - But through the journey with your home, it may feel like you are taking your hard earned money and giving it to the lord of literal waste - And that hurts.
There should be a level of common sense when renovating an older home - However, without a similar, previous experience the common-sense part of this can be a bit elusive. Your two major avenues of concern are the house itself as well as the previous homeowners. Let's discuss…
Expect the unexpected. You, most likely, do not know what the house has been through in previous decades. Who did what and how did they do it? The right way or the wrong way? Did they hire experienced professionals or take the DIY route?
There are so many other factors like asbestos, lead paint, plaster walls and alternate framing methods that you should question and try to head off from the beginning. The list is not difficult to find with minimal online research so I'm not going to go through them all. Just know that there are many factors with older homes so you want to learn which may be applicable to your home. The goal is to discover and discuss what factors you and your remodeling professional may come up against given the age and style of your home.
Where the obvious list is something to concern yourself about, "What we don't know we don't know," is really what's going to hurt. It's a phrase I use often to express the real unknown. These are the things that we won't think about prior to the renovation. The, "Oh poop, didn't see that coming…" - Insert any four-letter word here - "Poop" is most likely not the one you'll be using. You can do your online research and even earn your internet degree in "Old Home Renovation" but there may still be something that's just waiting to show it's ugly, expensive face.
None of us have X-ray vision and we most likely don't understand the history of the house. Educate yourself but embrace "Murphy's Law". Be prepared for something that will cost you financially, emotionally and potentially slow the project down.
The only people to blame will be those who did not expect the unexpected.