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Older Homes Can Be More Desirable

If you’re planning to buy a home, chances are good that it will be an older home. reported that as of 2016, the median age of owner-occupied homes was 37 years. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) annual survey of homebuyers and home sellers found that the median home purchased in 2019 was built in 1993. 

The reason 44 percent of homebuyers want new homes is to avoid renovations and problems with heating and electricity. But with a dearth of new homes being built, and at much higher costs than existing homes of similar size and features, thirty-five percent of homebuyers who purchased an older home said they did so because of better values. 

You’ll appreciate older homes much more if you know a little about their history and why they were designed the way they were at the time. Each era and type of home has its own charms. You may find an older home works best for a decorating style you love, like mid-century modern.  

You can trace the influence on the way homes were designed by the expansions and contractions in the economy. In the 1950s, suburbs grew quickly because of new highway systems that allowed homeowners to commute to their jobs. Yards were larger and homes sprawled on single-story foundations because land was cheap. 

Post-war parents gave birth in record numbers to baby boomers. The sound barrier was broken with the first jet and space travel became a future possibility. Homes were decorated with space-age Sputnik Formica, luxurious wall-to-wall carpeting, built-in cocktail bars, and furniture-quality black and white TV sets. 

In the 1970s, the baby boomers became the homebuyers and the first generation to cross the country for jobs since the migration of settlers more than a century ago. At the height of the oil embargo, new homes got smaller and closer together and “zero-lot-lines” became popular.  “Great rooms” were introduced as a spacious and cheaper to build alternative to separate and walled living and den areas. 

By the 1980s, the economy was moving from a single wage earner in the household to dual incomes. As fortunes improved, McMansions grew like mushrooms, featuring third living areas, three-car garages and private en suite baths for every bedroom.  Eat-in kitchens joined palatial dining rooms as must-haves for every homeowner. 

By the 1990s, a strong movement in favor of natural materials crowned hardwood floors and granite countertops as the new luxury standard. In-home computers became more popular and affordable and the Internet changed reading and information access forever. Recessions were still only six-month affairs and dual incomes meant prosperity, more consumerism, and global competition for jobs.  

By 2005, McMansions were everywhere, boasting four or more bedrooms, media rooms, master living areas, private studies, flexspaces, island kitchens, mud rooms, and exercise rooms. Then the housing downturn hit in 2008. New home construction plummeted and hasn’t fully recovered since, mainly because available land is further from city centers making exurbs a higher speculative risk. In addition, building materials like lumber have skyrocketed. 

Now it takes two incomes just to make it, so hard-working families are conscious of operating costs as well as purchase costs. Energy-efficiency has steadily moved up the ranks of most important considerations for homebuyers. Many older homes have already been upgraded with energy-efficient features, including the Energy Star-rated appliances, hot water delivery systems and HVACs. 

When you look for an older home, consider the advantages. The neighborhood is already established, so you can better judge the environment you’re buying. With many other buyers needing similar things, you may find older neighborhoods undergoing a renaissance with cute new shops and prescient services like daycare facilities. 

Bookshelves, china hutches, and window seats are so yesteryear, but they also add great utility and character to your home. Update them with new finishes, but appreciate that the quality of built-in woods and craftsmanship is rarely offered in new homes. You can always remodel the home to make it your own.