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opinion on buying a 20+ year old house

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  • Aug 4th, 2007 11:05 pm
Nov 1, 2006
234 posts

opinion on buying a 20+ year old house

My wife and I are contemplating buying an older house and wanted to know if some might be able to share some opinions on this. Have any of you purchased an older house? If given the choice to do it again, would you still buy an older house or would you look for a newer house? I think one of the houses we're looking at was built in 1983.

Any tips you can share about what to keep an eye out for based on houses built in the 80s?
12 replies
User avatar
Oct 30, 2005
70 posts
We have a 30yr old house and I have to say there are some things that need fixing. Some are aesthetics, others that really do need replacing. If you can buy one where the previous owner already replaced them then all the better if you're not into doing it yourself.

Major things to look into: Windows, roof, furnace, foundation, quality of bathroom/kitchen cabinets and maybe some plumbing.

Barely anything had been updated in our house, just the furnace so we changed the front doors, windows and roof. I'd love to get new cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom and change all the bedroom doors. One of our toilets leak when flushed. But I think we bought a very good solid house.
Deal Addict
May 20, 2003
2864 posts
IMO, if well-built, a house from the 80's is actually ideal if you don't mine renovating. There should be no issues with structure, electrical, plumbing, or asbestos.

I would recommend looking for one that still has all the original stuff. You'll save a bit of money because no renos have been done. And you can spend the money you saved to turn it into your dream house. There could still be things like the roof, but part of the cost should get factored into the selling price if it's up for replacement.
Jr. Member
May 14, 2007
174 posts
Some are actually better that new structurally; all depends on the builder. I lived in a old house; it had 10" floor joices every 12". Could park a truck in the second floor living room. Versus what, 8" joices every 16" as the code now requires. Wood was cheap.

Of course there were power outlets every 50' it seemed; only 2 in the kitchen. needed a lot of powerbars to 'survive'.
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
May 1, 2003
6492 posts
My house was built in 1958 and its great. I'd buy one like it again without hesitation over a new house. Stuff back then was built to last, by people that actually knew what they were doing.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Jan 27, 2004
38076 posts
I live in a house that was built in the 40s...
It was well maintained by the current, and previous owners. Everything that went wrong has been fixed up nicely by my dad. So i imagine my home would be a good one to buy IF it was on the market.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Mar 18, 2005
17310 posts
Niagara Falls
The house I will be moving into is 75 years old, but for my price range there wasn't many options. That being said older homes are fine depending on when they were built or at least that was the message I got from my home inspector.

According to him, generally houses built during huge booms are usualy worse off because they were in such a hurry to be constructed. I'm not sure which generation of houses is worse though.

Things to watch out for, knob and tube wiring, galvanized pipes among others. Personally I'd get a home inspector in there first just to make sure it wont cost you too much money to renovate. Especially if the people currently living there have been there a long time. They may be insured but when you go to get home insurance you may be denied because something isn't up to code like the wiring or pipeing.

Being that it's only from 83, I hardly doubt that will be problem. That's not really an older home as far as I'm concerned, but clearly I'm no expert.
Deal Guru
Aug 2, 2001
14636 posts
My house is about 30 years old when I moved in, here are the reasons I'd consider buying new/newer:
- Maintenance free exterior. I still have wood doors/wood window trim. This will need painting, and if you had a two storey it'd be a pain.
- Interior is dated. Everything from the interior doors, bathrooms, kitchen, carpet, etc.... Most older houses are dated, and if they aren't, they cost more than a newer one it seems. Even the plug outlets/light switches are dated.
- Landscaping. Keep an eye on the trees/shrubs, because many trees actually have a lifespan (like birch) and may need removal. As well, I typically find in older homes like mine things are typically overgrown as well.
- Creaks. The floor in my home creaks from age and fasteners used. It's simple to fix, if you ever redo the floors
- Old floorplans. Back in the old days everything was closed in, as opposed to now when it's all open.
- Someone else's mistakes. I live with little things, like how the guy who painted the garage door before got a bit of paint on my unistone driveway. The guy who painted the deck that got a little paint on the siding, etc.... If you buy a new house, you're in control of all these things.
- Stipple ceilings. Need I say more?

I know there are more, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. However, there are many potential reasons to buy an older home as well:
- Cheaper, so you can renovate and save in comparison.
- Bigger lots
- Bigger garages
- Basement typically developed (For good or bad, at least it's developed and can be used to rent out, kids play, etc...)
- Better build quality
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jul 18, 2003
6273 posts
My house is built in the 1920's. The previous owner had done all the proper maintenance plus renovated the attic so there are no issues. Just lots of maintenance.

Older houses uses hardwood in its construction. Newer houses uses softwood. Hardwood will outlast softwood. If you are looking at an older house, watch for hardwood being used in structural pieces.

Check the house's mechanicals as well as exterior. For a 20+ year old house, the shingles may need replacement soon (houses typically uses 25 year shingles). Also, check for aluminum wiring. These can be bad. Some insurers won't even insure houses with aluminum wiring.

Check the basement for signs of leaks. Check grading (house should be higher than surrounding land). Check for unexplained bulges in floors and if the basement is unfinished, look at the wood planks above for signs of water damage.

Also, check the age of water heater & furnace. These may be due for replacement soon.

The list goes on and on....
User avatar
Aug 22, 2003
15541 posts
Niagara Falls
Our house is now 18 yrs old. When we bought it 5 yrs ago we specifically looked for house in the 15-25 yr old range after living in a 100+ yr old old timber frame farmhouse. We're getting to the point we don't mind the normal maintenance issues or even some renovation but we didn't want to be totally renovating (removing plaster and lath and drywalling a whole house!). We've already replaced the roof and windows and for the most part finished the partially finished basement. Now we're to the point where we do what we "want" to do as there really isn't anything that "needs' to be done....
Nov 1, 2006
234 posts
Thanks for all the tips. It seems like general concensus is that most would buy an older home as long as proper maintenance was done which makes sense. There's definitely a few things mentioned here that I might not have thought to look for. I never thought to look at eras to see how the economy had been doing. Someone brought a valid point about booms potentially allowing builders to be more likely to build an inferior product due to the high demands and low supply of houses. That definitely makes me wonder about newer homes built in the last 7 or 8 years. Not that there won't be good homes but just that there might be just as much if not more to look out for when looking at a house built in the last decade.
Deal Addict
Sep 11, 2006
1918 posts
I second that point on watching the era. Here the homes built in the 1980's were very bad examples of construction and had a lot of problems (pay attention to the neighbourhoods too because if they were built at the same time there can be issues with the infrastructure...like flooding during heavy rains etc.). Now hopefully those issues would have been fixed by now, but I know people who draw the line at houses built post 1979. If you want to check, just find pre and post 1980 homes where you can still check out the joists and you should see the differences. Also the trims and finishes tend to be lesser woods (if wood at all).
Nov 1, 2006
234 posts
Well, along the lines of booming eras, does anyone know what eras would need more caution for house purchases in the Ottawa region? From what I've heard, anything post-1998 is a bit iffy due to the fairly big boom in the area which has caused the market to shift to a seller's market. Are there any other periods to watch out for in the Ottawa housing market?