Buying house from 1977

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Fire wicket
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Buying house from 1977

Post by Fire wicket » Sat May 05, 2018 9:35 am

Question for the forum. I am looking at buying a house from 1977. I am worried about the age of the house given i have only owned houses previously built within the past 10 years.

I am aware of the caution for asbestos/lead, but am interested in knowing others perspectives on what to look out for in an older home.

Church Lady
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by Church Lady » Sat May 05, 2018 9:45 am

Look for things that might have to be replaced soon: appliances, furnace/boiler/heat pump/AC, roof, septic, things of that nature. Look for amateur repairs and additions that may not have been done well. Make sure wiring is copper and not aluminum. When you make an offer, the offer should state you will have the house professionally inspected and give you the option to drop out/renegotiate the deal if the inspector finds something wrong that is (in your opinion) major.
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:8

curmudgeon
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by curmudgeon » Sat May 05, 2018 9:50 am

The only specific thing I would watch out for in that timeframe would be aluminum wiring in the walls. This was somewhat common in the 70's, and can be a fire hazard (there are ways to mitigate the issue, but it's still something I would generally avoid). Otherwise, the issues are more along the lines of less efficient or end-of-life systems (heat/AC, roof, plumbing, windows, etc). Another source of issues is poorly done modifications by previous owners.

SimonJester
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by SimonJester » Sat May 05, 2018 9:56 am

My house is from 1972,

I would check for aluminum wiring which can be a problem if the correct connectors between copper and AL are not used.

Look at the windows, see what sort of shape they are in, are the single pane or double.
How much insulation is in the attic, the standard may have risen over time depending on your area.

Check the age of the major appliances, furnace, AC, water heater...

When was the roof last replaced

What other updates / remodels have been done, were there permits pulled for this work? If not that is a warning sign.

Any issued with the mature trees and landscaping, do trees need to be trimmed / pruned back? Any dead one that need to be taken down?

What colors are you finding in the bathrooms or kitchen? Avocado green & mustard yellow were popular in the 70s apparently... You may be looking at a reno on these...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

likegarden
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by likegarden » Sat May 05, 2018 10:16 am

I would not worry about buying an older house. We live in a 2500 sqft house built in 1978 since 1987 (31 years) in the Northeast, and have experienced no horror stories of lead paint and aluminum wiring. All new-house problems must have been fixed before 1987. Appliances nowadays last only up to 13 years, shingles on the roof you have to replace every 25 - 30 years, perhaps every 30 years you need to redo the driveway. Our furnace ran well for 38 years, but got replaced recently with a more efficient one. AC might last 20 years with parts replaced. And then there is regular maintenance.

hicabob
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by hicabob » Sat May 05, 2018 10:30 am

Location could be significant. Seismic codes were improved in California in 1978. I don't know about other states in which earthquake resilience is a consideration.

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HueyLD
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by HueyLD » Sat May 05, 2018 10:39 am

Fire wicket wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 9:35 am
Question for the forum. I am looking at buying a house from 1977. I am worried about the age of the house given i have only owned houses previously built within the past 10 years.

I am aware of the caution for asbestos/lead, but am interested in knowing others perspectives on what to look out for in an older home.
Talk to an insurance agent about insurance premiums for houses over 40 years old.

iamlucky13
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by iamlucky13 » Sat May 05, 2018 10:41 am

Don't worry. Just do due diligence. There's millions of homes in the US built in that era, most of them in good shape.

A good inspector is a worthwhile expense. They should be well-familiar with and on the look out for the sorts of potential issues others are raising.

Aluminum wiring was mostly or entirely phased out before 1977, by the way, and the normal remediation for it is not to replace all the wiring, but to retrofit at the connection points with connectors demonstrated to maintain a good connection long term on aluminum wiring.

There were some electrical service panels from that had problems over time, resulting in them usually being recommended to be replaced. This is regularly discussed on some home inspector resource sites and forums that I sometimes browse for my own home improvement help, so I believe most inspectors are on the look out for such panels.

They also should be keeping an eye out for things like rot, mold, signs of pests and other potential health or safety issues.

Most other common issues are mainly value rather than safety concerns - like insulation level, single pane windows, aging appliances or roofing, etc.

dbr
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by dbr » Sat May 05, 2018 10:46 am

Geez, I live in a whole neighborhood that was built between 1870 and 1925. There doesn't seem to be a problem. People give a lot to be able to live here. You just learn what is involved in older homes, much of which is far superior to things built since 1980 . . . or 1945 . . . or . . .

jebmke
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by jebmke » Sat May 05, 2018 10:51 am

The best house I have ever owned was built in 1909.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

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lthenderson
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by lthenderson » Sat May 05, 2018 10:55 am

I'm in my third house from the 70's ranging from 73 to 78. None of them have had asbestos, lead or aluminum wiring. All three of them have had the mechanicals replaced at least once prior to my buying them so that wasn't an issue either. All three have been solidly built houses compared to many of the newer houses I have had the privilege of working on.

When buying any house, I always check the age of all the mechanicals, assess the condition of the roof and siding and look for foundation issues. Inside look for cracks in drywall and how recent they are which are good indicators of settling issues. None of these things are deal breakers but are good things to know to guess how much work might be needed in the future.

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dm200
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by dm200 » Sat May 05, 2018 10:57 am

Fire wicket wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 9:35 am
Question for the forum. I am looking at buying a house from 1977. I am worried about the age of the house given i have only owned houses previously built within the past 10 years.

I am aware of the caution for asbestos/lead, but am interested in knowing others perspectives on what to look out for in an older home.
I grew up in a farmhouse built in the 1840's or so.. so old means something different to me :)

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Watty
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by Watty » Sat May 05, 2018 11:08 am

Fire wicket wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 9:35 am
I am worried about the age of the house given i have only owned houses previously built within the past 10 years.
A ten year old house would have a significant risk of having the toxic Chinese drywall. During the height of the building bubble the quality of construction was often real low too. In some ways I would be more concerned about a house that age than one that is older.
Fire wicket wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 9:35 am
I am looking at buying a house from 1977.
That is about the age of the two homes I have owned.

In philosophy there is a paradox known as the Ship of Theaseus. In a nutshell is it about someone that goes on a long journey in a wooden boat and over the years repairs to the boat are done that gradually replace one board at a time as they get worn so that by the time they return home none of the original ship remains. The question is then if that ship that returned is really the same ship.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

A 40 year old house would not be that extreme but when you look at house like that much of it will have been replace, possibly several times. For example the kitchen may have been redone ten years ago so at least the kitchen would be little different than one in a ten year old house.

You can look up the life expectancy of various parts of a house on web sites like this one.

http://www.mcgarryandmadsen.com/inspect ... house.html

Then consider how old the various components are of house are. For example a 40 year old house with 3 three year old hot water heater has a better hot water heater than a ten year old house with the original water heater.

This is not a comprehensive list but here are some things I would consider about a 40 year old house based on what I have seen in my neighborhood;

1) The landscaping should be well established and if there are lots of trees then you may have more costs with having them taken care of. As part of the home inspection you might want to have an arborist check to see if any expensive tree work will be needed soon. Having mature trees can be a big plus though. At least in my area new houses are being built on tiny lots so buying an older house can allow you to get a much larger lot with lots of trees. Basements, which I love to have, are also less common in newer houses around here.

2) It varies a lot but water and sewer lines might need to be replaced when they are 50-80(ish) years old. You might want to have the sewer line inspected and ask your home inspector about how long the water and sewer lines will last.

3) Often a home will be built with mediocre "builder grade" quality appliance and fixtures so a well remodeled house could be a lot better in some ways than a newer home.

4) This is a biggie. If it is in a subdivision of similar age houses then take a hard look at the neighborhood. There are a couple of houses in my neighborhood that are not well maintained usually because the owner has lived there for decades and is elderly and having a hard time keeping up with the maintenance. You also want to try to find out if many of the houses are rental houses. You can maintain your house well and have it last a hundred years but if your neighborhood slowly declines there is not much you can do about it. Some neighborhood may also have a lot of potential to improve if they are in a desirable location.

5) It varies with the material but siding does not last forever so check into how long the siding on the house can be expected to last.

6) A number of houses in my neighborhood have had their driveways replaced. Tree roots have broken them and the original builder used thin concrete.

7) The energy efficiency of the home will not be as good as a modern home. Windows can be very expensive to replace so it may not be cost effective to replace them so look at them carefully.

8) Check to see what internet and cable options are available in the older neighborhood.

I don't want to sound too negative. By the time a house gets to be 40 years old any major problems like with a foundation settling or water in the basement will have plenty of time to show up so you are less likely to get a house with a major construction problem.

When looking at a house one thing I do is to go back to the neighborhood and walk around it in the evening or weekend. While I am doing that I will talk to people that I see and ask them about the neighborhood to get a better feel for it. When you do this be sure to ask them about things like big repairs they have heard about people doing and if there has ever been any flooding. I don't tell my real estate agent that I do this.

hicabob
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by hicabob » Sat May 05, 2018 11:25 am

dbr wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 10:46 am
Geez, I live in a whole neighborhood that was built between 1870 and 1925. There doesn't seem to be a problem. People give a lot to be able to live here. You just learn what is involved in older homes, much of which is far superior to things built since 1980 . . . or 1945 . . . or . . .

http://craftsmanfoundation.com/wp-conte ... et2009.pdf

Not always ... this exert from the above pdf discusses old concrete

"Material Quality- Older concrete is substantially lower in original construction quality
than concrete produced in compliance with current standards. Concrete is comprised of
Portland cement, sand, and aggregate. Older concrete often has a lower percentage of
Portland cement (which bonds the concrete together) than is currently used. The sand
was typically unclean, with other materials such as salts or other impurities, often
originating as beach sand. The aggregates were often used from on site sources
(meaning the rocks dug up when the footings were excavated), were often not cleaned
properly, and were typically larger than is considered desirable. These substandard
materials can all contribute to causing concrete to break down/wear out prematurely.
Foundation systems that cause the most concern are those where unreinforced
masonry were used including brick, hollow block and mortared rocks, or when posts and
piers are used as a perimeter foundation. These alternate foundation systems offer less
support and strength, cannot be retrofitted for earthquake protection, and are even more
susceptible to wear."

He gets into other interesting stuff too.

DarthSage
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by DarthSage » Sat May 05, 2018 11:40 am

Our current house is 50 years old. We've owned another 50yo house, and two that were 150-200 years old. We like older houses, but they can be quirky--additions put on so they have an odd layout, that kind of thing.

Our current house needs updating--most stuff is fine, but old. On the good side, it was the builder's own home, so we have a ton of outlets and storage. Our house was also previously owned by a couple with a window business, so our windows are fabulous. OTOH, we're currently re-doing the crappy, add-on deck, which was done wrong the first time. It should also be noted that we were able to get much more house for our money, by getting an older home that needs updating. While you could argue that nobody "needs" a 4600 square foot house, it sure is nice to have with 4 kids. And again, it goes back to preference--we looked at fancier, newer houses that were smaller, and we truly liked this one best. It had been on the market for a while, which makes me think that we're the odd ones, not other home buyers, but really, it's about the house that makes you happy.

A home inspection is absolutely required--read it carefully. Note the ages of large items (furnace, roof, etc.). Plan for future expenditures.

Rupert
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by Rupert » Sat May 05, 2018 2:19 pm

Ask your inspector to test some paint around the windows and/or door openings for lead. If the house has textured ceilings, have a sample tested for asbestos. Asbestos was banned in textured ceilings in 1977, but your house may have been constructed before the ban. If the attic has what appears to be vermiculite insulation, have that tested for asbestos.

My house was built in 1924. I find it rather amusing that folks consider a house built in 1977 old.
Last edited by Rupert on Sat May 05, 2018 2:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rich126
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by rich126 » Sat May 05, 2018 2:29 pm

I certainly wouldn't worry about it. Just get it inspected well. A number of homes built during the housing boom would concern me more since many places were short of qualified workers and the quality of the structure can be questionable. I've never bought a new house and haven't had any major issues.

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jharkin
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by jharkin » Mon May 07, 2018 6:29 am

dm200 wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 10:57 am

I grew up in a farmhouse built in the 1840's or so.. so old means something different to me :)
1840s? Thats practically new. :mrgreen:
Right now I live in a house built in the 1790s.
Before that we went thought a couple apartment buildings all built in the 1910s-1920s.
The youngest house I have ever lived in was the one my Dad built in 1978.

OP- The major concern with a 70s house is that build quality was not the best in those years (60s-80s)... I have seen more than a few houses much older built better.... And in fact on my current 1790 house the biggest problems I have are from bad renovations done in the 1990s.

For '77 the concern over lead paint should be minimal as it was already ramping down at that point (the ban passed in 71 and 78 was the year enforcement started). Get tested to be sure but most likely there is none. And if there is, there ware ways to deal with it. I doubt you are going to find Asbestos pipe insulation either. Popcorn ceiling tiles with asbestos, maybe.. If mechanical systems like heat are original, some components may be nearing end of life (or not, I once lived in an apartment building that still had its 1940 cast iron heating boiler functional... inefficient yes, but still reliable) . Old appliances may or may not be a cause for concern as the older stuff seems to last a lot longer than appliances made today.

Other than that just get a good inspection and do the usual due diligence.

Bacchus01
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by Bacchus01 » Mon May 07, 2018 6:45 am

jebmke wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 10:51 am
The best house I have ever owned was built in 1909.
Which is vastly different than a home built in 1977, so I’m not sure how that positive experience translates.

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jharkin
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by jharkin » Mon May 07, 2018 6:47 am

hicabob wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 11:25 am
dbr wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 10:46 am
Geez, I live in a whole neighborhood that was built between 1870 and 1925. There doesn't seem to be a problem. People give a lot to be able to live here. You just learn what is involved in older homes, much of which is far superior to things built since 1980 . . . or 1945 . . . or . . .

http://craftsmanfoundation.com/wp-conte ... et2009.pdf

Not always ... this exert from the above pdf discusses old concrete

To be fair, that pdf:

#1 - is specific to California and focuses on earthquake concern.
#2 - is designed to sell foundation repair services.

Most houses built before the 1920s (i.e. those in the post you quoted), especially in New England dont have concrete foundations... so "bad concrete" is not really an issue. Typically those old foundations are brick or mortared stone.

The house I live in is a mortared stone foundation. Its full depth (yes I can stand up down in the basement), mortared rubble up to grade, and then that is topped with 6ft long sections of granite slab above grade, giving about 8 inches of reveal below the siding. Then the house frame sits on that, 8x8 chestnut sill beams sitting directly on the stones, with one exception in an area where water leaked its mostly still solid 230 years later.

In many respects the foundation is much more solid than modern poured concrete. We had to have the outside dug up to replace the gas line 5 years ago and they found hat it was hard to tell where the wall ended and the surrounding soil began... 3-4 feet down and the foundations stones (boulders) extended out at least 5 feet from the inside wall... darn thing is built like a fallout bunker.

The biggest problems we run into is achieving modern efficiency. Its hard to retrofit insulation, as you need to keep access for occasional repointing of the mortar every 20-30 years or so... And its damp, and cant be properly water sealed from the outside. If you like modern finished basements, well that's just not possible.

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verbose
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Re: Buying house from 1977

Post by verbose » Mon May 07, 2018 10:05 am

We owned a home built in 1976. That was a time period when different materials were being used in construction than before or after.

The house had:

Aluminum wiring
Dual-bus electric service box
Asbestos siding
ABS waste pipes

Several electricians refused to work on the dual-bus system. It was grandfathered, but didn’t meet current code.

The ABS waste piping was cracking and leaking. That material (black smooth plastic) didn’t turn out to be durable. We kept replacing the cracked parts with PVC.

Also check to see whether the systems are typical for your area. If natural gas is typical, does the home have a gas furnace and gas water heater? Some homes from the time period were all-electric due to gas prices at the time.

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