Older Home - Craftsman Style

Are Older Houses Built Better? The Facts Explained

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While many people prefer newer homes, an older home with character and a unique story to tell can often be the best option for many homebuyers. These types of homes have a character achieved from decades of life taking place within their walls.

Older houses have many qualities that make them attractive. They’re more structurally sound than the drywall construction of modern homes and are built with plaster and lath. The building materials used in older homes not only provide structural strength but were built to last longer.

The remaining part of this article includes different topics that relate to the question. They include:

  • Why you should consider buying an older house
  • A checklist of things to consider when buying an old house
  • Pros and cons of an old house
  • Tips for buying an older house

Why Is It a Smart Idea To Consider Buying an Older House?

Consider different factors related to choosing the perfect home, such as home quality, location, price, etc. There are a lot of homes available on the market, but it can be a little confusing figuring out the best option.

Most home seekers prefer purchasing a newly constructed house or having a custom home built by a professional builder. While that’s perfectly fine, new homes might limit the possibilities of people who have specific priorities.

I’m not here to tell anyone what decision to make regarding buying a house, but I want to provide a few reasons why I believe older homes are a great option to consider.

In general, older homes were built better, just like people say, “Homes aren’t built like they used to.”

Not a lot of buildings can compare to the building quality of older homes from the mid-1900s. That’s because they’re mainly hand-crafted using high-quality materials by builders who understood the importance of paying attention to the details.

Here are some of the main reasons why an older house can be a better choice for you to purchase:

  • Construction Materials. A good example is the lumber used in modern construction, compared to the framing lumber used in older houses. The old lumber has more benefits since it’s denser and heavier because it’s old-growth wood. Old houses were built with the primary intention of lasting over a century.
  • Character. Older houses have rich history, character, and charm, apart from great strength and durability. The uniqueness is on display in the details of elegant staircases, hardwood floors, and crown moldings. Typically that same joy isn’t experienced with new homes, as too many time-consuming details are frowned upon, and the construction is often rushed.
  • Access and Convenience. A neighborhood is an integral part of the final decision-making process when buying a home. Older houses are mainly found in communities that are well established and offer access to major roads and good schools. Newly built homes are more likely to be found in newly-developed areas that aren’t always convenient regarding schools, shopping, traffic, and more.
  • Price. An older home is the best option for those working within a budget and wanting to maximize the space. These homes cost less and offer more yard space that can allow room for possible expansion in the future.

Here’s a YouTube video by Financial expert Dave Ramsey which quickly explains this:

A Checklist of Things You Need To Consider When Buying an Old House

Antique homes have a lot of space, and they’re beautiful too. Many great features would make purchasing an older home a great choice. A checklist is essential to consider every crucial aspect of a home before making any final decisions.

As a new buyer, it’s important to beware that older houses could have several concealed, unique, and sometimes strange problems that you might have to address.

Before making a payment on that charming old house, use this checklist I put together to ensure all critical elements of the home are discussed with a qualified home inspector:

1. Foundation Problems

One of the most common problems in old homes is foundation issues. The damage can vary from tiny settlement cracks to support footings. These types of repairs can be costly. It’s essential to address them in order for the home to be livable.

Foundation issues in different homes can be due to seismic activity, abundantly wet soil, or normal wear and tear due to age. Roots from a well-established tree can also cause foundation issues.

It’s wise to hire a structural engineer to assess all the possible damage in order to create a helpful repair strategy.

Here are the things to look out for:

  • Uneven floors.
  • Interior and exterior wall cracks.
  • Doors that aren’t latching.
  • Windows that don’t open.

2. Hazardous Building Materials

A lot of older houses built before 1978 have asbestos and lead-based paint. These issues aren’t visible to the naked eye. Therefore, when planning to move into a house built around that time, an inspection for those hazardous materials is necessary.

Lead paint can cause potentially life-threatening harm to both adults and children. If the house tests positive for lead paint, professional removal services will ensure it’s properly removed.

It was worse in the early 1950s. Houses would contain up to 50% lead. Regulations made in the 1970s changed that, and currently, only 0.06% is allowed in the United States.

Once, asbestos was considered an excellent insulator. However, it causes respiratory problems, which might lead to cancer. Asbestos can be identified in attics, walls, and older pipes and requires professional removal.

Here are the things to look out for:

  • The year a home was built.
  • Cracked paint.
  • Cracked drywall.

3. Deteriorating Roof

The condition of the roof is one of the most persistent problems that come with old houses. Different types of shingles have varying lifespans, but it depends on the quality of installation, maintenance, and roof grade.

Call a health inspector to assess the roof and check on what repairs might be needed.

Here are the things to look out for:

  • Leaks or moisture in the attic.
  • Missing shingles.
  • Sagging gutters.

4. Toxic Gases That Affect Air Quality

Older homes can sometimes contain radon or carbon monoxide, which are tasteless, odorless, and colorless gases. Although radon isn’t toxic, it’s still the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers. Exposure over time isn’t safe.

The natural breakdown of uranium produces this gas in the soil found in the home’s foundation. If present, only a professional is skilled enough to handle it safely.

Gas leaks from an HVAC system, stove, oven, or dryer produce carbon monoxide. It can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, and eventually turn out to be fatal.

Test for radon before deciding to move into an older home, and after moving in, install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor.

Make sure to look out for unsealed cracks in the house’s foundation and walls.

5. Plumbing Problems

Lead paint isn’t the only lead to be concerned about in an older home. Over time, as pipes get old, they can decompose and may eventually contain lead. Some of the lead fragments can end up in drinking water.

It’s also important to beware of pipes made of polybutene. They’re highly likely to get corroded by different cleaning agents such as bleach and eventually burst.

Older homes might also have old trees, as I mentioned earlier, that may have strong roots growing into the plumbing system. That can end up being both messy and costly to fix. A certified plumber should check the pipe system.

Here are the things to look out for:

  • Leaks around and beneath all the faucets.
  • Low water pressure.
  • Slow drainage in showers, sinks, and bathtubs.

6. Outdated Features and Layouts

Unlike in most DIY shows, older homes don’t have the popular open concept. Most of them usually feature wallpapers in every room, small kitchens, and popcorn ceilings.

With a decent budget and a reliable contractor, it’s easy to fix aesthetic issues. However, even with a smaller budget, you can deal with these issues efficiently with one room at a time.

At the same time, unsafe areas, such as a partially finished deck, need to be identified and prioritized. Fixing an old house can seriously increase the resale value.

Here are the things to look out for:

  • Load-bearing walls that might not be able to be taken out for an open layout.
  • All incomplete projects or previous renovations of poor quality.

7. Insufficient Energy

Thermal loss from single-pane windows is a common problem for older homes. Other things that might lead to thermal loss include leaking ductwork and compressed/insufficient insulation.

The charm of small windows is one of the things many people love about an older house, but it might not be so much fun during the wintertime.

An old home can either have ineffective or no insulation. It’s possible to solve this by weatherstripping and adding storm windows. This way, you can increase energy efficiency.

Get a professional to determine what exactly is available in the old home and what can be added for it to be energy efficient.

Taking care of the energy issues in an older house can help manage the utility bills and offer comfort throughout different seasons.

Here are the things to look out for:

  • Experiencing difficulty opening or closing windows.
  • Frost between glass layers.
  • Feeling of a draft even when windows aren’t open.
  • Empty space or cracks between floorboards, lofts, and wall cavities.

The Pros and Cons of Buying an Older House


  • You enjoy a lower purchase price. Older houses usually cost less than newer homes, mainly because they’re not significantly updated. In some real estate markets, they’re even less desirable. Newer homes in the same area will generally cost more.
  • A larger property. Older homes were built during a time when the land wasn’t as costly as it is now. Therefore, people built them on larger lots.
  • Lower property taxes. When it comes to newer homes, they tend to have a higher assessed value leading to higher property taxes. More often than not, an older house requires a lot less property tax than a new home in the same area. Due to overdevelopment, most smaller homes are currently built on smaller lots to create room for more property or additional homes.
  • More character. Most newly built homes are cookie-cutter in nature. A large number of them tend to look similar and have similar features and feel. Purchasing an older house is a great shot at scoring a unique home. They tend to hold a lot more charm and history than recently built houses.
  • Solid construction. New homes mostly feature cheap builder-grade materials. On the contrary, most of the materials used in older houses do an excellent job of withstanding wear and tear. That means they’re not high-quality, but they’re still structurally sound.


  • Old features. Older homes are less desirable to some people because they come with aging appliances and heating and air conditioning that aren’t energy efficient.
  • Aesthetic problems. When buying an older home, it might have outdated wallpaper, cabinetry, and carpeting. While it’s a hassle, it can easily be fixed by a skilled contractor.
  • Resale problems. Most homebuyers tend to go for new houses. Purchasing an older home might create some difficulties when it’s time to sell.
  • Closed-off floor plan. Open floor plans are primarily found with newer homes, but older homes often have smaller, clearly defined spaces.
  • Safety concerns. Outdated electrical wiring might be a fire hazard. It also lacks other features that make it a less safe place to live.


Buying an older home will give potential homeowners a chance to own a home that fits their style and budget. However, it’s important to understand the pros, cons, and important steps to take before purchasing.

That means going through the checklist of things to consider and finding out all related costs. Nonetheless, they do have a lot of advantages that many homebuyers would be advised not to pass up.


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