The Age Factor in Homebuying

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While the age of a home denotes how long the structural members have been in place, the actual number of years means little or nothing.  As with humans, age is relative; and sometimes a fifty-year old home is in better condition than one that is only a couple of years old.  Rather than age, the important aspects are determining whether or not the home meets your needs, confirming its condition and having it in a convenient and desirable location. 


There is one area where age may help to point out potential problems and that is in being aware of construction or materials problems associated with a particular time frame.  The existence of lead paint, synthetic stucco, defective siding materials or other potential hazards can often be identified if the age of a home is known.



A popular category of used homes are those homes known as “fixer-uppers.”  These homes may need a new roof (an easy repair which, unfortunately, frightens away many potential buyers), new siding, kitchen and bath upgrades or the replacement of heating, plumbing and electrical systems. Some homes may even require that significant structural repairs be completed before they are safe to occupy.


Ads for such homes are sometimes misleading, and the agent’s or seller’s description of needed repairs is often far from complete.  Buyers interested in such homes should proceed with caution.  While wonderful opportunities exist for those who are knowledgeable and willing to tolerate the hassle and expense of serious home repair, horror stories abound; and a few such homes are truly, “money-pits.”  Many times buyers discover that their anticipated budget will be decimated by undisclosed problems.


If you do plan to purchase a fixer-upper, make your offer to purchase contingent upon an inspection and your receiving acceptable bids for the work needed.  With these homes the inspection process is especially critical.  You may even wish to get separate inspections for the structure (from an engineer) and inspections for the mechanical systems from certified contractors (HVAC, electrical, and plumbing).  Then, get comprehensive QUOTES, not estimates, for all repairs.  Also, check with the local building authority; depending upon the repairs needed, you may need to bring the repaired areas into compliance with current building codes.


If this sounds complicated and confusing, it is.  Fixer-uppers can be disastrous to relationships, to budgets and to your sanity.  However, they can also be challenging, rewarding and just plain fun.  Your task is to make an informed purchase based upon your knowledge and your willingness to deal with the problems involved.


However, buyers should be wary of making additions or upgrades that would price a home above the market.  While you may find the changes desirable, you’ll be less likely to recoup your investment when it’s time to sell.


And unless you are familiar with the remodeling and repair process and have the time, patience, and ample funds, “fixer-uppers” may not be for you.  Never purchase such a home without seriously evaluating both the expense and the “hassle factor.” 

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Originally posted at: - The Age Factor in Homebuying


Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Very informative and timely post  that has many arguments about this subject.

Dec 20, 2011 02:29 AM
Kimberley Kelly, SFR, HAFA, GREEN
HK Lane, Christie's International Affiliate, 760-285-3578 - La Quinta, CA
I do Real Estate like I played polo-to WIN!

Great post!  I am so in with us humans, it's maintenance!

Dec 20, 2011 02:40 AM
Marnie Matarese
Showing you the best of Sarasota!

Only recently here in the Sarasota area has there been a return to the appreciation of the older homes.  After years of cookie-cutter new construction of Italian Med style homes, people are now looking at the beauty and personality of earlier builds.  Sales in neighborhoods of more diverse home styles are picking up and I am glad to see it. 

Dec 20, 2011 03:01 AM
Karen Steed
Tallapoosa, Bremen, Waco, Buchanan, Temple, Carrollton - Tallapoosa, GA
Associate Broker Haralson Realty

I live in a 100+ year old home, and I love it.  Many of my buyers are looking for the brick ranch built in the 50-70's for the construction techniques used during those days.  I agree that for a fixer, a good inspector is a need, not a want.

Dec 20, 2011 03:45 AM
Judy Orr
HomeSmart - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale AZ and surrounding towns

I always buy fixer uppers with good bones.  I love older homes with personality, although my current foreclosure fixer upper that we live in isn't that old and I am having fun with more modern decor for the first time.  It's always fun watching House Hunters International, especially when they're shopping in Europe, as I've read they feel homes less than 100 years are "new."  I am amazed at people who have purchased completely crumbling structures that even I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dec 20, 2011 04:02 AM
Kate Akerly
Kaminsky Group - Manhattan Beach, CA
Manhattan Beach Residential Sales

Great thoughts for those contemplating a property that needs significant work.  One note - inspection contigencies are not always very negotiable in all markets. In NYC, the purchaser would be expected to complete their inspection(s) prior to contract signing, as few sellers would agree to an actual contingency.  I also thought it was worth mentioning financing.  Purchasers should speak with their lender (unless their purchasing all cash) to determine what can be done.  They will either need some sort of rehab loan (such as the 203k) or they will need to pay for the work with cash.  This typically means that purchasers will have to be comfortable with lower LTV's for the after-improved property. 

Dec 20, 2011 04:51 AM
Steven Pahl
Keller Williams Tampa Properties - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423

Good points John.  Right after location, location, location should be condition, condition, condition!

Dec 20, 2011 05:26 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Great post John. I have to agree if you don't know which end of a hammer is the working end then a fixer-upper is not for you.

Dec 20, 2011 06:04 AM
The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors
Carpenter Realtors - Avon, IN
Your Pet Friendly Realtors

People watch HGTV and then think the best deal they can get is a fixer upper that they will diy the repairs. Inspections will often show them it's not that simple. Great post.

Dec 20, 2011 06:10 AM
John Mulkey - Waleska, GA
Housing Guru

Mike - If only I'd maintained my body as well as I did my homes : )

Kimo - Thanks.

Kimberley - And as we age, the necessary maintenance seems to increase : )

Marnie - FL has some great "older" homes.

Karen - Though I currently live in a new home, I prefer the character and features of older homes.

Judy - In the past I've rehabbed some homes that were borderline "tearer downers."

Mike - Great points.

Steven - Yes, perhaps the second most important issue.

Lyn - I agree. While many consider themselves "handy," some fixers require significantly more knowledge.

Derrick Team - Thanks!


Dec 20, 2011 08:00 AM
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I have represented people who were looking for a fixer to rehab and live in.  I prefer to work for contractors in this situation. Buyers need to know what they are doing.

Dec 20, 2011 09:42 AM
Jirius Isaac
Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage - Kenmore, WA
Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA

I couldn't agree with you more.  These homes are not for everybody.  A lot of my clients start out like this & when they realize how much work & energy & hassle it is most of them change their minds.

Dec 20, 2011 09:59 AM
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi John,  Great post and excellent points.  Sometimes a challenge to convince buyers though!

Dec 20, 2011 12:03 PM
Kathy Knight
Intracoastal Realty Corp - Wilmington, NC

Great blog John - fixers are not for everyone...

Dec 20, 2011 12:33 PM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

There is a certain give and take between newer homes and older homes.  Older homes can be dated and less efficient, harder to take care of and so on.  But sometimes they are built better and with more natural materials.  Merry Christmas.

Dec 20, 2011 01:21 PM
Winston Heverly
Coldwell Banker Access Realty - South Macon, GA

One thing to keep in mind about older properties is they are generally located in better located areas. This can be found certainly traveling along the Intracoastal. They just are not making anymore waterfront .

Dec 20, 2011 02:21 PM
Sylvie Stuart
Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765 - Flagstaff, AZ
Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta

Great information. Yes, fixer uppers may need a little extra attention during the inspection process and chasing down those bids can take some time, if you can do a contingency with the Seller, that is great advice!

Dec 21, 2011 12:30 AM
John Mulkey - Waleska, GA
Housing Guru

Evelyn - Yes, buyers need to be aware of the dangers.

Jirius - What appears simple and easy isn't always so.

Bob - Thanks.

Kathy - Yes, definitely not for fthe inexperienced.

Gene - I agree. We always have to weigh the differences.

Winston - Older homes often come with some great older trees too.

Sylvie - Thanks.

Dec 21, 2011 06:01 AM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

To my ActiveRain friend,
I wish you all things bright and beautiful
at this holiday time and throughout the year. 

Dec 24, 2011 05:27 AM
John Mulkey - Waleska, GA
Housing Guru

Leslie - Thanks for the beautiful card. Hope your holidays are your best ever and that the new year brings good health and prosperity to you and your family.

Dec 24, 2011 07:01 AM