Buying a 15-25 year old home – Things to consider

Homes built within the last 25 years look similar to new homes today with modern electrical/plumbing and similar construction techniques and building codes.  In our area where there are many historic homes, a 25 year old house is still considered ‘newer’.

On the other hand, after 25 years many ‘bigger ticket’ items should have been replaced.  A 25 year home that has never been re-painted with the original roof covering and heating and cooling equipment will likely be expensive to update.   When buying a 15 year old house with all original components the buyer should take into consideration that over the next 10 years many of these things will need to be replaced or updated.  Although rarer, 25 year house that has been properly maintained with many upgraded/replaced components will be, in many ways, like a newer home that could offer the buyer many years of low-maintenance living.

For these reasons, determining whether these things have been replaced will help the buyer anticipate repair costs.  Determining the age of components is beyond the scope of a home inspection (although we do try to provide age information of the water heater and heating/cooling equipment).  The buyer should review the Residential Property Disclosure and otherwise ask the seller for more information to try to determine the age of the major components.

What should have been replaced after 25 years?

For buyers looking at homes approaching 25 years old the following components typically should have been replaced.  If they have not been replaced the buyer should budget for replacement within a few years.

Major Appliances

At 25 years typically all of the home’s major appliances should have been replaced (Heating and Cooling, Kitchen/laundry appliances, Water heater, etc…).  Our inspectors, as a courtesy to our clients, try to indicate the age of the heating/cooling equipment and water heater in the report.  The buyer can find the manufacture information of kitchen/laundry appliances on the data stickers (usually found on or around the door).

Roof and related components

Most roofs have a 20-25 year service life- after 25 years most roofs should have been replaced.  More expensive roofing products can last longer.  Metal roofs should have been re-painted at least once.  When a roof is replaced all of the metal flashing, gutters/downspouts, chimney flashing, and skylights should also be replaced.

Plumbing

Sink and tub faucets, especially ones with mixing/balancing valves are beginning to fail after 25 years.  Toilet flush assemblies have already been replaced or will need replacement.  The PRV or pressure reducing valve, main water shut off and expansion tank should have been replaced with the water heater for homes on municipal water.  The pressure system equipment for well systems should have been replaced at least once over 25 years and well pumps have about a 25 year life expectancy.

Electrical

GFCI outlets will need to be replaced after 25 years.  Smoke/CO detectors should be replaced every 10 years.  Dimmer switches tend to fail after 15 years.  Exterior lights, especially security lights, become damaged by the sun and need repairs/replacement after 25 years.

What components are wearing or nearing replacement after 25 years?

These components may not need to be replaced but likely they will need some repairs or possible replacement in the near future.

Decks

Wood decks typically have a 25-50 year service life if they have been maintained properly.  Most decks built 25 years ago were not built to today’s standards and it is not un-common to find that they are missing flashing/bolts/joist hangers/bracing that help prevent settling, water damage and injury over the long-term.  Decks should be retreated every 1-3 years and most of them were not maintained as recommended.  After 25 years most decks are showing their age with some decay, sagging and loose handrails.  It is not uncommon to find water damage at areas where the deck is attached to the home.

Exterior Windows and Doors

At 25 years it is not uncommon to see window panes with failing energy seals (‘cloudy’ windows where condensation develops between the double pane windows).  It is also common to find a number of  windows that do not stay open, do not latch correctly, or have broken sash cords or springs and patio doors that do not lock/latch properly (which is when we see a stick used to secure the door closed).

Siding/Trim/Paint

The exterior of the home should have been painted at least twice over a 25 year period.  After 25 years the siding/trim for most homes will need selective repairs because the siding/trim of most homes is not painted at regular intervals, wasn’t installed correctly in the first place, or was exposed to improperly installed/maintained gutters that are leaking or overflowing.

Vinyl siding typically has a 20-40 year service life- after 25 years it is not uncommon to find brittle/broken siding at areas (weed trimmer/wind/tree damage).

Electrical

All of the switches and outlets will likely need to be replaced within the first 35 years.  After 25 years it is not uncommon to see a number of damaged electrical outlets.

The Crawl Space or Basement Environment

Typically after 25 years some water or moisture will find its way into the crawl space or basement.  Grading and drainage repairs may be needed.  The insulation and ventilation may need repairing or upgrading.  Foundation wall cracks may need to be sealed and monitored.  In some cases finished basements need to be renovated due to water penetration and possible air quality concerns.

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