Profile picture for deep1

55 year old home?

Hello,

I know I need to go to a home inspector(and I will) for this, but is it a bad idea to buy a 50+ year old home? Will the place start to fall apart soon after I move in? Will inspection reveal most of the issues or will I still have some surprises popping out at me? Anybody experienced who can give advise? (I know this is a buyer's question but Im posting it in remodeling since you guys might be better at answering this question)

Thanks in advance..
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October 30 2007 - US
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Replies (23)

Profile picture for House_Hopeful
I've heard that older homes are built more soild then new homes these days. As long as it's in good working order, and your home inspection comes clean, then I think you're safe. I would definitely consider buying an older home. My parents home was built in the 1960s, so it's nearly 50 years old. I LOVE the place! You can't find good bone structure, and a large lot like that these days.
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October 30 2007
Profile picture for Coconutcream
My house was built in 1956. It's solid as a rock, unlike the new construction - even in the most expensive homes I've been in. I'd never buy a new house.

My sister's was built in the 20's - it's even better constructed then mine.
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October 30 2007
Profile picture for robin398
The benefits of buying an older home include a lower purchase price because prices are more negotiable and you can start bidding lower than you would on a newer home that is the same size. There are more established neighborhoods and towns. Builder errors have been found out and taken care of so there is no need to wonder how much time an older home can withstand. They are less expensive to move into being that window treatments are available and exterior landscaping and features are done. The features, style and craftmanship found in an older home including high ceilings are more costly in a newer home.

The downside of older homes is that they cost more to maintain including appliances, plumbing and heating systems need to be taken care of in the first year. Also, older homes don't have the update insulation that newer homes have meaning you will have higher utility bills. There might not be enough bathrooms or outlets. Lastly, older homes in down-trodden neighborhoods are harder to sell.
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October 30 2007
Deep,

My house is 80 years old; I wouldn't have a new house unless I supervised the construction myself. I think that a solid older home is a great investment if its in a good, stable neighborhood.
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October 30 2007
Profile picture for goingeast
i work on old and ne homes, m experianc has ben that old hme were built wit ettr quality lmbur therfore making them srongernsome ways. but even though new homes are built with lower quality lumber, ( no old grouth trees anymore) they are built safer with higher codes for electrical, plumbing, foundations, ec... as long as the home your looking at inspects ok, no dryrot, mold or foundation isues it shoul be fine. my house is aproching 50.
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October 30 2007
I am an inspector, and I have found that older homes do have lumber made from the heartwood that is stronger, which is great. The problem with any home, new or old, can be the foundation. Your house has moved and settled over the years, and it may be fine now, but this movement could have caused some damage. Also, be prepared for the fact that we inspectors have to deal with current standards when it comes to electrical, plumbing, and building. A home built in the fifties will not match current code. We will point this out to our client for safety reasons. It does not mean that a home is not safe; it is just our duty to aid our clients in this way.
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November 01 2007
Profile picture for Coconutcream
Not every house built in the 50's doesn't meet code. My house was and we upgraded everything after we bought in 1991. All my neighbors have upgraded also.

Possibly a home that age with original owners might need to be brought up to code but so many of these homes that age have had numerous owners and most likely were upgraded at some point.

And in the last 10 years or so everyone on my street has put in new boilers and burners (oil) and new roofs. Most also have put in new windows, too.
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November 01 2007
The code is always upgrading. For example, the new codes from 2006 will be published soon. Would your house meet every new code? No. Would I have to inspect to that code? Yes. Not meeting code is not a bad thing; it is just an eventuality that a homeowner has to be prepared for when an inspector comes in. It is the reason why sellers complain about real estate inspectors.
To deal more with your example, putting new windows in. Many homes from the fifties have windows built at height above the floor that is unacceptable for getting children out quickly and safely. Unless your neighbors redid the framing to reposition the window, they did not meet the current code.
As in my original comment, it does not mean a home is bad or unsafe, it just means that our knowledge of how to build better has improved, and I need to point out those concerns to my clients.
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November 01 2007
Profile picture for Coconutcream
That may be Frank but wouldn't things like window height, etc, in an older home be grandfathered? Home sellers or buyers in an older home aren't required at all to fix something like that before being able to sell. And I highly doubt any owner would reposition the windows in their homes because the code has changed.
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November 01 2007
Profile picture for chenworthandsons
Older homes are definitely a good buy. My home was built in 1941. It has character that all these cookie cutter homes now being built can never have. The only problems that we have encountered are updating plumbing and adding electrical outlets, but you only have to do it once. My relatives have bought newer homes with more problems than me due to poor workmanship. Older homes were built when most workers took more pride in their work. I say go for it!
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November 01 2007
Profile picture for chenworthandsons
Is that true about the grandfathering thing because that's what I was told when I remodeled my kitchen.
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November 01 2007
There is no law in any state that I know of that accepts the idea that an item can be grandfathered in for a house. When doing a major remodel, you are supposed to file the plans with the building department for your jurisdiction, and they will require that you bring the building up to code. Most remodels do not have their plans filed with the building department, so no one forces them to bring the house up to code. Most people (and mainly most contractors) outside of a city limit think that codes do not apply to them, but every state in our union has a building code, so they would need to follow that code. Most states will not go by the most recent addition of codes, but any state that oversees real estate inspectors do not specifically tell us to follow a certain code; they will have a line in the regulation that states that we need to adhere to the latest practices, which inspectors interpret to mean the latest code standards. That is why we inspectors are perceived as being so harsh. I always tell my clients that this is the way it was built, and it was perfectly fine for the time, but if they are planning a major remodel, they have to expect to upgrade (I do not encourage them to violate the law, but they can).
All that being said, even though new construction techniques are better, the material in and the quality of workmanship of an older home is better.
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November 01 2007
Profile picture for Coconutcream
Who was talking about a major remodel here? No one. I replaced windows and did not have to reposition any of them. I am, however, doing a full remodel of my kitchen along with a 500 sq ft addition and all that work will be up to code, obviously, or my town would not have issued my contractor our building permits. But nothing has to be changed in the rest of the house at all. For example, the building inspector who came already to approve the foundation isn't going to walk around the rest of the interior of my house and make sure the pre-existing rooms have the required number of outlets that exists under the code now. My new kitchen and family room addition will need the required amount and spacing between the outlets but not the original rooms of my home.
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November 01 2007
We could keep skirting around this issue, but what it boils down to is your acceptance of risk in the home. My original answer gave a general response to a general question. My personal, and professional, ethics dictate to me that I should inform my clients of safety and maintenance concerns with a property. To properly do that I have to rely on what we currently know to be safe, which is exemplified in the codes. It would be my clients choice to accept or ignore my advice, but I would be remiss if I did not bring concerns to his attention, so he or she can be informed about their decisions. Although building departments attempt to bring buildings up to current standards, overworked inspectors will only investigate what their writ informs them to investigate, so they can move quickly on to the next job. There is a difference between what is the correct thing to do and what is done, and that we all have to live with. In the final turn, I would rather hold my customers care close to my heart than to say nothing because that was they way that it was done.
With that statement, I bow out, and leave you to decide what is acceptable to you. For that is my goal with anyone that I deal with, that they make an informed decision.
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November 02 2007
Profile picture for Alan May
In our area (midwest) 50 years old is a NEWER home... our average homes are 75-100 years old, and we love them that way... I'm sure it's the same on the east coast...

Yes, older homes have their negatives (the windows aren't as tight, the floors may not be perfectly level, closets aren't as large as newer homes, and master suites often didn't exist).

But older homes are often built better... with solid interior walls, and solid doors, moldings walls and floors, crown moldings and great architectural detailing, windows and doors with full casements that help them look more finished, fireplaces that work AND look good, functional basements, and lots more...

yes, you may have to do some upgrading (new electric box, Marvin Architectural Replacement windows)... but you have a solid home. It's stood for 100 years, and will likely stand for another 100. can you say that with confidence about the home built in 2003?
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November 02 2007
I would pick an older home over a newer home any day of the week.
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November 02 2007
Profile picture for Happy Owner
The house I bought last week (husband's grandparents' house) was built in 1960 and is in great shape, structurally. It has wonderful character and moldings. Not cookie cutter. The basement was gutted and sealed due to mold, but worth the hassle and cost. We also had to replace the heating and air conditioning elements, but again; not a bad deal.

I strongly urge people to buy older homes, as long as they are structurally sound. Get the inspection and see where that puts you.

I agree that buying an older home is better than buying a new home. Back then, things were made to last ;) Good luck with your search.
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November 02 2007
Profile picture for Happy Owner
P.S. Someone here made a good point about the window height. The thing that worried me the most in our new old home is the height of the windows. I have a rancher and the bedroom privacy windows are very high and not conducive to fire evacuation.

Although it worries me with a 18 month old, there are ways to prevent fires and alert me to the presence of a fire. I am already bugging my husband to replace one of the windows in my son's room with a lower, bigger window to accomodate this. But that is probably a few years away. By then, he will be big enough to climb out of the current window! ;)
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November 02 2007
I wouldn't be too worried. There are PLENTY of homes that are 50+ years old. You should find out if there are any major problems from the home inspector. (Get someone you know or that has been recommended) There are some older homes that are just great. A lot of times it depends on how well the owners have taken care of the home over time. Also, pay close attention to the seller's disclosures and ask questions if you want.
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November 02 2007
Profile picture for twobroxs
I recently updated/flipped a house that was built in 1890, and had been vacant, but heated, for the last 20 years. In spite of that it was in amazing shape (as far as structure is concerned). There was a lot to do, the pumbing had to be totally redone, needed a new water heater and a new central heater, and the wiring had to be done - not redone - there were only 4 plugs in the entire house. But there are huge advantages the wood is much stronger in older homes, the wood floor that we found in that house was old growth heart pine which for any amount of money can not be purchased today and is beautiful. It was very unique because a person not a business built it. Insulation and leakiness is an issue but you can fix that with new windows and blown insulation - or remove the lathe and plaster and spray in foam insulation to seal the whole house up.
The biggest advantage is what someone said earlier you allready know it is not going to fall down, and the foundation has allready settled.
OLD HOUSES ARE GREAT
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November 05 2007
Profile picture for Divf1952ny
My Mom's house -- which should be updated a bit, as I've written about in a previous question -- is in great shape structurally, and it was built in 1948.

It's solid, with a dry basement, plaster walls, and so on, just like most of the other homes in the neighborhood. When we had the roof replaced a few years ago, the contractor commented on the construction -- he said that my home exceeds the standards in use today for new construction. He also said that's typical of many older homes from the post-war era.

My advice to you is to look at the neighborhood and the overall condition of the other homes built around the same time. If they're all looking good, chances are the homes were well-built, and holding their age beautifully.

Of course, there's still no substitute for a good inspection.
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November 05 2007
I've lived in older homes and give me a new modern home any day of the week I love the spacious openessof a new home and the updated amenities. The new homes are also energy efficient, easy to heat and cool, etc.
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November 05 2007
Profile picture for jefstrings

I have a older house in the jacksonville,florida area (1928) that I just purchased and I'm trying to get financing for it yet I need hazard insurance, but to obtain hazard insurance I need a 4 point inspection, which includes roof, electric, hvac, and plumbing. Well its obvious this house would fail that test. Anybody got any suggestions? Are there any Florida insurance companies that would insure this house without the 4 point inspection? Please comment...thanx

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August 09 2008
 
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