Home Improvement

Is 100+ year old house worth buying?

By October 24, 2019 46 Comments

In my city most of the houses were built in 1920s. Then people moved out to suburbs and most of those were built in 1960-1970s. Not many houses from 1989/90s but outer ring suburbs have lot of 2000 & newer house.

With in 30 min drive one can go from 1920s neighborhood to 2018 neighborhood. Will 100 year old houses (built in 1920s) require lot of maintenance? Am I better off driving out to buy 1960s house? I don’t want to pay for the newer houses

Or is it all the same 50 ur vs 100 year old house? They all just old

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  • hijinks says:

    100 year old home could be in better shape then a home built in 2000. Just depends on previous owners

  • j_zurek says:

    Old houses are awesome!

  • pennydog17 says:

    We just bought one that was built in 1709 🙂

  • creimanlllVlll says:

    The materials are better in older houses. If it was maintained they’ve already lasted 100 years… I know people today don’t care about having houses of quality that could last 100 years.

  • jet_heller says:

    I hope it is. Mine’s over 110 years old.

  • castrocupcake says:

    Owning an older home can be more in maintenance cost it just depends on previous owners attention to do those repairs timely. The catch here is even if you get more work to do, you cannot replicate the charm and history of an older home in new construction.

  • cherrycoffeetable says:

    If you are not handy, do not buy a 100+ year old home.

  • gaff2049 says:

    Hell yes. We were trying for Tudor revivals and arts and crafts from turn of the century. That was our dream. Ended up with a 1947 bungalow

  • azubc says:

    My house was built in 1923. It’s been standing with no bone issues. Obviously new furnace, water tank, roof and windows over the years.

    Sure, stuff is weird and nothing is standard sizing, but barring a natural disaster, this thing will easily stand for another 100 yrs

  • TheLastGenXer says:

    Old houses tend to be drafty. But being draft makes them mold free!

  • 1895farmhouse___ says:

    1895 here, had newer roof and windows when we bought it. Yeah the floors slope, it’s a little drafty, the ceilings on the second floor are kind of low, and it isn’t big or fancy, but it’s in great shape. I fully expect it to be here in another hundred years.

  • MR_CoolFreak says:

    I live in one built in 1914, most houses in the neighborhood were built during that time.

    What sucks most about a big house is plumbing, if you look too hard at them, they will start leaking. The sewer line is at the end of its life, so you better start preparing for that.

  • cardeez says:

    1920 Sears Roebuck here.

    It’s a hassle. It also has a coziness I’ve never felt anywhere else. I don’t think its issues are age. They are user error.

  • El_Bandito_Gringo says:

    The house I grew up in is at 120, older than Az itself.

  • kjohtx says:

    If you’ve got a house where the whole house is pre-WWII, the question is when were the renovations made (if any) and how is the insulation where things have been added?

    Really depends on foundation type where I am. If your house is pre-WWII, it’s pier and beam. If post WWII, it’s probably slab foundation. Both have their issues. I’ve got a “2017” home where more than half of the pier and beam foundation is pre-1930. They got rid of the rest of the original house, but kept the foundation and added to it. We don’t know exactly how old bc the area was developed between 1900 and 1930, but the courthouse burned down in 1930 and real property records were destroyed.

    No known termite issues, but with it being pier and beam, there are “normal” variances with slope of the foundation. Unfortunately for us, these variances mean that the toilet in our guest bath isn’t level. In fact, it leans slightly forward. Expensive solution: fix the foundation. Cheap solution: slow close toilet lid ($29). I’m sure I will find more things that need to be fixed from the old foundation, but I’m glad the toilet lid doesn’t slam down every time a male guest is over now.

  • x00thatguy00x says:

    Some communities are considered historical homes (which means you would need to restore not update) and can be expensive. If the property hasn’t been updated for awhile you might need wiring, mold mediation, asbestos removal or mediation (infallible insulation and outdoor shingles), Lead testing, that’s just the basics. If you like it though please for the love of all you love get an inspection but with a specialist for antique/historic experience.

  • gdubh says:

    I’d be most concerned with plumbing (clay mains, cast iron pipes) and wiring (paper wrapped, low power panels) and lead / asbestos. If original 100 year old home, be prepared to replace at some point.

  • RandomlyMethodical says:

    Is that 30 minute commute best-case or worst-case scenario? To me a newer house would not be worth an extra hour of commute each day (250 hours a year!), but I’m fairly handy and I hate traffic.

    Before you buy: Make sure you get a good house inspector, preferably one that has done remodeling. Get the sewer line scoped. Old houses used clay pipes for the sewer and they can settle, crack or get choked with tree roots. Also, avoid anything with very obvious water damage or mold. Nothing worse than water where it shouldn’t be.

    If you have kids in the house you also need to be aware that the inner coats of paint will definitely contain lead. There’s also likely to be some asbestos somewhere (flooring, popcorn ceiling, boiler insulation, etc). If you keep everything in good repair (no chipping paint) and are careful about construction dust during renovations then none of this should cause problems.

  • nobletrout0 says:

    I have a little experience here

    I went from a 2006 housing bubble house to one made in the 1730’s. We’ve only been in the new one for 7 months but we’ve been putting in a lot of time and money

    The biggest difference I’ve noticed is this:

    New house:
    expensive compared to size
    Everything is cheap and plastic
    Was beginning to show age after only 13 years. If we’d stayed there I was looking at forking out multiple thousands on upkeep alone.

    Old new house(1730):
    was neglected really badly. Lots of bad cheap decisions made over time
    Repairs are less costly. To quote a carpenter :”it’s just wood”
    Repairs are something I can do (60 minutes with some this old house video and a trip to harbor freight and I’m a clapboard ninja)
    Materials used are very different. Carpenters. Window guys, ac guys all telling me stuff made in 1980’s already falling apart with rot

    Be prepared for some elbow grease be present when repairs are done and if you get a guy who does work you like ask him which electricians he likes or carpenters or plumbers. Ask all these guys when they quote it out what you can do to prep the space (demo).

    The olde the house the less likely it has the idiocy of the 1950-1980 period where they stuck asbestos everywhere and used aluminum wiring. They’ll all have lead paint but less of a concern.

    If you go that route, look for ugly timber but structurally sound, pay a good carpenter to do home inspection, and an electrician and stay away from the general contractor home inspectors.

  • PeabodyEagleFace says:

    Depends on the house, and what you want out of it Renovating and old house is hard. Renovating a house from 1960 or later is much easier.

  • Greyside4k says:

    It can be done as long as you know what you’re getting into. Find a good, thorough inspector who will check out all the essentials (HVAC, electrical, roof, windows, asbestos/lead paint, etc) and you’ll be on the right track. If the inspector will allow it, try to be at the house during inspection; having them show you what they’re talking about in person is always better than pictures.

    If there are major issues (HVAC about to fail, potential leaks in roof or windows, environmental hazards) you can make the seller fix or replace the problems as a condition of sale. I got the furnace and windows replaced in my house before I moved in that way.

  • roobinsteen says:

    There’s really no answer to this question–it’s too general. There are many old houses in really great shape and many new houses that are utter trash. There’s no reason to completely rule out houses of any age, really-you should just evaluate them on a case by case basis.

  • reduserabc says:

    I bought a house that’s around 100 years old and they are better built than most newer houses. Everything from framing to the floor were 100% redwood. They don’t make em like this anymore.

    But here is the catch – foundations were cracked and had to be completely replaced. Electrical and Plumbing had to be updated and there was no insulation to speak of. It also needed a new roof.

    My take is that homes were better built those days with materials that would be extremely expensive if used today. The redwood that make up the house is extremely valuable. But if the foundation needs to be replaced, I wouldn’t bother. If the foundation is in good shape – yeah, go for it.

  • Wind_Freak says:

    Get an inspection and make sure the person is good.

    I wouldn’t expect level floors or plumb walls or anything square.

    You might have knob and tube wiring, asbestos (everywhere). I would expect the house to be very drafty.

    When you see the kitchen you should get a good sense of when was the last time any renovation happened.

    Great thing about the old houses is usually location location location.

  • fuzzy11287 says:

    Sure if the following has been done or you’re willing to do it yourself:

    – Replace knob and tube wiring
    – Replace old plumbing, both supply and drains
    – Roof has been kept up
    – Foundation is solid
    – Attic is insulated

    Honestly though, I’d take a 100 year old craftsman cottage in good shape over any home built in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s. Much more character and the materials are so much better it’s crazy.

    I bought a 1959 rambler. Different things to look for of course (no insulation in the walls, but lots in the attic, for example) but it was in better shape structurally than anything we saw from the above decades. It might be drafty but there’s no trapped moisture, which seemed to be a bigger deal on newer houses.

  • luckymethod says:

    No. Ask me how I know it…

  • _MadVixen_ says:

    Watch out for lead paint/pipes. Learn the history of the house so you know if you’re sharing it with any special guests…

  • Solar_Spork says:

    That cliché, “location, location, location” applies here too: that 30 min drive is what is getting me… an hour a day… 5 or 6 days a week. GONE. What could you do with that hour? What would you pay to get an hour (plus the time you don’t have to spend making money to pay for the gas and wear and tear etc)? There are so many things you commit to with this decision. Make time one of the things you deliberately manage/spend/invest.

  • jarichmond says:

    1912 here. Absolutely nothing in my house is flat, level, or plumb, but otherwise it’s a great place. Ours is an Arts and Crafts house in a city much better known for Victorians — San Francisco — which makes it stand out a bit.

  • BitchyBarbie says:

    My coworker owns a 100 year old home and said there was a lot of unforseen issues that came up. One of them was the natural lighting. Homes of that time period are typically broken up in to many smaller rooms and they don’t necessarily have great natural lighting. She also had to pay and arm and a leg to get a small enough dishwasher to fit the kitchen. Also it was not insulated like modern homes, and that’s a huge job. But that house is now worth a small fortune compared to when she bought it

  • osirisrebel says:

    Mine was built in the 40s and all the wood is rough cut sawmill lumber, it’s just a small one story and we had a 60+ft tree fall on it a few years ago, I was in the room that the tree fell on and all it did was shake the house.

    If it would have been in one of these newer houses, it wouldn’t have stood a chance. The only real damage to the house was a few chipped shingles.

    So imo sometimes age doesn’t matter as long as it’s functional, solid, makes you happy, and won’t drain your savings in making repairs.

  • echorose says:

    *laughs in European*

  • TheDrabLooker says:

    Houses built 100 years ago tend to be made of better quality materials than homes built today. Everyone I know who bought a brand new “new construction” home from a builder to avoid maintenance ended up with more maintenance issues. New doesn’t necessarily mean better.

    That said, all homes new and old will require some maintenance and that’s just part of home ownership. Make sure you have an emergency fund for unexpected repairs before you take the plunge.

  • japroct says:

    Your question covers too many areas to even start to answer it with something as simple as what year the homes are built. What you need to do is get in touch with several real estate agents. Explain to them that you know nothing abaout renovating a home, but dont want to buy a new home or one that has never been kept semi modern. Let them do the legwork for you, I bet they know what you want/need even more than you do. Good luck though, happy house hunting! P.S….wait until around Feb to make any commitments. I personally think the housing bubble is going to pop around Christmas, you could save quite a bit of cash….😎

  • pragnesh_89 says:

    Mine is over 119 years old but it has been renovated from inside pretty much. The only thing is that the foundation is the same as well as the flooring on the first floor and the second floor hasn’t been changed.

  • Cardchucker says:

    I bought a house built in 1940 that had recent siding, windows, insulation, electrical, roof, connection to city sewer, and sprinkler system. Other than minor fixes and replacing some 70’s era flooring, it’s needed no real repairs in my 3 years of living there and 10 years of renting it out. I got lucky that everything was done properly. You could get a 10 year old house that is falling apart. It’s all about the inspection and how willing you are to fix little things on your own.

  • jmarnett11 says:

    If you plan to care for a 1920’s home it’s totally worth buying. A lot of the times they have more character than new homes. Stained glass windows, plaster walls and ceiling, actual wood trim and floors. The maintenance on them is a little trickier sometimes as some have said.

  • whit_knit says:

    My biggest question is do you like the characteristics that define a 1920s house? I live in a 1920s house. I love my house. We very purposefully looked for and bought a pre-war house. I absolutely would not recommend it if you need to have level floors, matching or quiet door knobs, perfectly smooth walls, or anything that’s “on trend” (barn doors, faux-shiplap walls, open concept, etc.). However, if you’re willing to learn, ask questions, and have access to YouTube, you can handle a lot of the maintenance.

    Again, above those considerations, do you LIKE the features of an old house? If a buyer can’t respect the history of the home and understand their role as a caretaker of the property, then just buy a different house. Nothing is worse for a historical property than somebody moving into a century home, saying “it’s my house! I’ll do what I want!” And then doing something stupid like painting original, unpainted woodwork, ripping out 100 year old fireplace tile surrounds, replacing old growth wood windows with vinyl pieces of crap, or turning it into one giant room. The house will likely outlast you, so care for it for the sake of the people who will buy it after you. It’s only yours for a while.

  • Jonny-Pain says:

    Recently bought a house built in 1952. Overall- house is in decent shape and the prior owner kept up on most maintenance.

    Sometimes I have regrets on the amount of work still to be done, and it gets overwhelming, but we have to live somewhere and this is where it’s at.

    My in-laws custom built a house 16 years ago. They just sold it, as it was getting close to the time to have a new roof, the pool equipment was starting to act up, they were on their 4th stove/dishwasher/refrigerator….. and moved into a rental home.

  • 0661 says:

    My advice is buy something either very old or very new.

    1950s – 1990s I wouldn’t touch. Probably not built as well, cheaper, materials, etc.

    Not that houses built in the 2000s are any better, you just have less of a chance that anything goes horribly wrong while you own it.

    If a house has been standing, in good condition, since the early 1900s, it’s probably a good bet that it will continue standing with regular home maintenance that should be happening anyway. A lot of those pre-war, pre-depression homes are built really well with old growth wood and better framing techniques.

  • majesticjg says:

    I think it depends greatly on what you want in a house.

    If you’re thinking that you’ll knock out walls and try to turn a 1920 house into a 2020 open-concept, split-plan, man-cave, bonus-room, buzzword buzzword, then this is a bad idea.

    If you like the house generally for what it is, can leave all the walls where they are and restore it to it’s old charm with modern conveniences, then it might be great. Keep in mind that the average house was significantly smaller and it’s possible there will be no “master” bedroom with en suite bathroom.

    You’ll need to contend with the possibility of a clay pipe sewer line, cast iron or very old copper plumbing, knob-and-tube wiring, no grounded or GFCI outlets, outlets in weird places or non-existent outlets, plaster-and-lathe walls, lead paint and asbestos. Knowing what kinds of “old house” problems have already been resolved by previous owners will be key. If it’s got a 2005 rewire to romex and a 2010 repipe to PEX , for instance, that would take a lot of worries off my mind.

  • Uffda01 says:

    All houses need work and maintenance of some sort. Buy for location/lifestyle, and what type of house you want. It also depends on how long you’ll likely be in the house

    I could never live in a ranch. I don’t want my master on the main floor. I don’t need tons of closet space.

    I like the feel and looks of early 1900’s houses. I love the woodwork; I like being in an older neighborhood.


    I hate mid century, I don’t like modern/contemporary etc. What do you like; and what does your commute look like?

  • IDontWannaPickle says:

    >Or is it all the same 50 ur vs 100 year old house? They all just old

    I think this is fairly accurate. Any house with at least one previous owner carries a risk that they fucked something up.

    I think the worst category of house is anything built between 1940 and 1980 – you have all the dangers and expenses of an older house like asbestos, lead, outdated electrical, general lack of safety code, combined with the cheap construction materials of a modern home. If you’re gonna go old, you might as well go REALLY old. Just shop carefully.

  • valdra says:

    1860s Farmhouse here. Lots of crazy goofy things the previous owners did that I’m trying to undo to bring this gorgeous girl back to her former glory!

    I wouldn’t trade it for the newest homes out there now. I know this home is going to stand the test of time.

    If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

  • jarichmond says:

    One other thing is that old houses sometimes have amusing quirks for modern life. My house has most of its original lathe and plaster walls. For the most part, I like the character and density of the plaster, but big chunks of it used chicken wire lathe. Turns out, it’s basically a Faraday cage, so WiFi doesn’t go much farther than line of sight. It passes through the floorboards with no trouble, so the basement has great coverage. I ended up having to put in a mesh to get coverage from the front of the house, where the fiber connects, to the bedrooms in the back.

    I also have a garage that’s so narrow, my Mini Cooper is too big to park and open the doors. It was pretty obviously carved into the basement sometime after the house was built, and whenever they did it, cars must have been tiny.

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