What to Expect from Homes Built Over 50 Years Ago 

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Real Estate


March 2024 
Brought to you by DJ Morris 

What to Expect from Homes Built Over 50 Years Ago 
No matter what type of home you buy, there's always a share of risk involved. Even if you have an inspection done, it's possible for problems to be overlooked, especially in older homes. If you're considering buying, or you already own a home that was built over 50 years ago, here are some things you should look out for. 


Foundation Issues
Foundation problems are common in older homes and can involve everything from deteriorating support structures to small cracks in the settlement. While these issues are usually caused by natural wear and tear, they might also be the result of nearby tree roots or saturated soil. Foundation issues increase in risk and expense as they worsen over time, so acting early is key. Look for cracks in the interior or exterior walls and be wary of floorboards that sag, squeak, or bounce. 

An Aging Roof
The average roof lasts 20-25 years, depending on the material and quality. If you don’t know when the roof was last replaced, you can estimate how much life it has left by looking for signs of damage and wear. If you see missing shingles, cracked or curled shingles, dark streaks, or moss, you’ll likely need to replace it very soon. If it looks a bit worn but not damaged, you may get another 10 years out of it. 

Hazardous Materials and Gases
Asbestos and lead paint were commonly used in homes built before 1978. While asbestos was a highly effective insulator in previous decades, it's now known to cause respiratory issues as well as lung cancer. This material can lurk in old walls, pipes, attics, and crawlspaces. Lead paint that was not properly removed or encapsulated can cause lead poisoning. Before proceeding with your purchase, check to see if these materials were used. 

Additionally, homes built more than 50 years ago might contain harmful gases like radon. Radon is an odorless and colorless gas, which makes it difficult to identify. Even though radon isn't classified as toxic, it's the main cause of lung cancer among people who don't smoke. Radon test kits are inexpensive and can be purchased at most home improvement stores. 

Outdated Plumbing and Electrical Systems
Plumbing and electrical systems wear out over time, like anything else. If these systems haven't been updated since the initial home construction, they may contain outdated or degraded materials, which can pose a safety risk. 

Corroded pipes can lead to leaks, and older electrical systems increase the risk of fires. Inquire about the age of the plumbing and electrical systems in the home you're interested in to determine if the components need to be replaced. Consider upgrading the HVAC system if it's more than 10-15 years old as well. 

Potential Flipping Concerns
Many older homes attract investors who buy them to renovate and resell at a profit. Investors don't catch everything, which is why you should still perform a standard inspection alongside additional tests for radon, asbestos, and mold. 

Homes built over 50 years ago offer charm and character and can be more affordable. However, it's crucial that you get a thorough inspection and learn as much as you can about the systems and materials before deciding to purchase. A little caution goes a long way in securing a home that's both safe and sound. 
Open House Etiquette Tips 
With so many online tools available to help you search for homes nowadays, you can browse listings in your sweatpants, while eating pizza and watching movies. But, when the time comes to step away from the screen and visit a home in-person, there are a few etiquette tips you should observe. 

 Pre-Visit Prep
Open houses offer a unique opportunity to explore potential homes. They are typically open to the public, allowing you to visit without an agent. However, if you have one, bringing them along can be beneficial. 

Start by researching the property and neighborhood beforehand. This preparation enables you to ask informed questions and shows your interest in the property. 

On the day of the open house, arrive during the scheduled hours and dress appropriately. While there's no formal dress code, neat, casual attire is a gesture of respect and shows that you value the opportunity to view someone's home. 

At the Open House 

  • Sign-In: It's essential to fill out the sign-in sheet. This gesture is both a courtesy to the agent and a safety measure for the homeowners.
  • Respect the Space: Treat the property with care. This includes removing shoes if requested and supervising any children with you.
  • Observe Boundaries: You’re welcome to open closets and cabinets but do so with respect. Refrain from delving into personal items.
  • Photo Policy: Ask for permission before taking any photos or videos inside the property to respect the homeowners' privacy.
  • Parking Etiquette: Park thoughtfully without blocking driveways or taking up residents' spots. It’s a small gesture that shows big respect for the neighborhood. 
  • Keep Feedback Tactful: Save discussions about the property's pros and cons for a private conversation with your agent, rather than having them during the open house.
  • Agent Interactions: If you're with your agent, allow them to lead interactions with the hosting agent for clear and professional communication.
    Post-Visit Courtesy
    As you leave, don't forget to express gratitude to the homeowner and/or hosting agent. This simple act of courtesy can leave a lasting positive impression. If the property piques your interest, follow up with your agent to ask additional questions. 

By adhering to these etiquette tips, your open house visits will be both pleasant and effective. Remember, each open house is an opportunity not only to find a potential home but also to present yourself as a courteous and serious buyer. Happy house hunting! 
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