Old House VS New….Lots of Misperceptions

I often get asked by buyers if they should buy an old house or a new house.  My usual response is to say that it depends on what kind of problems they want to have.  I get crazy looks when I say that, but it is just my way of telling people that all houses will have problems.  Basically, it is your house verses Mother Nature and Father Time……and they usually win.

I have lived in both old and new/newer houses all my life.  When I was a kid, I went from a 1910ish four square to a 3-year-old ranch.  Next, my parents bought a house in Kenwick  from the 1930’s.  My first house was built around 1915.  My second was 1973.  My current house is 13 years old.  All of them had things to deal with.  The only way to escape house issues is to refuse to deal with them, and I see a lot of that on the market!

There seems to be this misperception that old houses were built better.  True, MOST were built with more care than today’s homes are.  I say most because my first house, the one built around 1915, was nowhere near as well-built as my parents Kenwick house from the 1930’s.  I thought it would be, but once I moved in, I started to realize it wasn’t.

Old House misperception #2 has to do with today.  Many people think that any old house is better than any new/newer house is today.  After living in a lot of old houses and showing a bunch to my clients, I can tell you that what it comes down to is maintenance.  Even the best built house from yesterday will be nothing but trouble today if somebody didn’t keep it up.  Remember, an older house has been in the ring with Father Time for more rounds than a newer house will have.

The new house misperception is that they won’t last as long as an old house.  I use to think that…..until my parents bought a 100+ year old farm-house in Clark County.  See, their house started out as a 2 room timber structure.  Then a porch was added on the back….which was later converted to be a kitchen.  Then a new porch was added to the side of the kitchen…..which later became the new kitchen and the old kitchen became a dining room.  Then somebody added a second story over the original structure, then came a second story over the original porch/current dining room.   So, my attitude now is that if my parents house can defy all building codes and even gravity a little, any new house should last just as long. 

Here are some of the common old house issues:  Inadequate electrical, plumbing, insulation, lack of maintenance,  and poorly done improvements to any of those prior items.

New/Newer house issues:   Rushed construction by unskilled/uncaring workers sums it all up the best.  I have a friend whose house was practically rebuilt after a fire.  It had no insulation on one side of the house.  On my own current house, poor mortar joints on a brick window sill allowed water to run down the inside of the brick veneer and rot some of the sill plate….I only found it out when I did the demo for the new slate floor.  If today’s workers would apply to their trade the same care they use to draw naked women in the potapotties, we would have the best built houses of all time!

Occasionally I do see both a really well-built newer home and a fantastic older home.  I represented a builder who did a great job of making decisions that the buyer wouldn’t even begin to appreciate for years to come.  He did a lot of little things way above minimum code.   I also just sold an older house that had been well maintained and had recently been overhauled by a good contractor.  That combination made it a pretty unique older home and a good pick…..I guess that buyer got the best of both worlds and none of the negatives!

Which do you like better:  Older houses or newer construction and how come??

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