Buying a 15-25 Year Old Home

buying a 15 25year old home

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, a 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.

Typical Defects

Installation Defects

Components that were not installed correctly when the home was new (such as grading, drainage, siding, and trim) are now showing visible signs of distress in areas.  See Siding and Trim Best Practice Installation for more information.

Maintenance and Repair Neglect

Below are a list of questions buyers should try to have answered during their due diligence period regarding maintenance and repairs.  A good home inspector should be able to answer all these questions after their inspection.
  • (IMPORTANT) How are the Grading and Drainage?  Was the gutter system installed and maintained properly?  Do the exterior surfaces direct water toward the home anywhere?
  • What does the crawl space/basement environment like?  This is an important follow-up question to the grading and drainage question.  Water from the outside can cause many problems in the basement or crawl space.  Is the insulation stringy and falling down?  Moisture-damaged insulation can indicate a persistently humid environment which will cause many issues over the long term.  Is the ground wet/muddy in the crawl space?  Wet/muddy areas and standing water indicate grading/drainage issues, plumbing leaks, or ventilation issues.  Are wet/cracking foundation walls observed?  ‘Settling’ cracks are common but grading/drainage defects always make foundation cracks worsen over time.
  • Has the house been painted regularly?  Typically homes should be painted every 7 to 10 years.  At 15 years the exterior should have been painted/stained at least once, ideally twice.  Painting costs are more expensive than most people anticipate.  The paint/caulk is not just cosmetic– it also helps to protect the siding/trim.
  • Have the decks been sealed recently?   Typically decks should be sealed every 3 years
  • Any evidence of plumbing leaks?  Look under sink cabinets, toilets, and around water heaters for a history of a leak.  Are the plumbing fixtures secure and working properly?  More intrepid buyers could explore under the plumbing areas in the crawlspace or basement to look for leaks.
  • What is the condition of the finishes?  (floors, walls, doors, etc…)  As adorable as they are, pets and children can cause a lot of cosmetic damage to the interior of the home.  Sometimes all that is needed is a little touch-up paint but other times floors need to be refinished and doors need to be replaced– these costs can add up.
  • Any evidence of swollen/decayed siding/trim?  Improper installation or poorly maintained gutters can cause more than typical wear on the siding/trim.  Look for soft/swollen trim or siding, especially at doors/windows, gutter areas, or siding over slabs/patios/decks.
  • Any evidence of pests?  Carpenter bees, Woodpeckers, Rodents/Squirrels, etc…?  Carpenter bee damage is very common in our area, especially with wood trim/siding and decks.  Carpenter bees make button-sized round holes, woodpeckers often make those holes even larger.  Look for evidence of mice in attics, crawl spaces, and around water heaters.
  • Has regular maintenance been performed?  Gutter cleaning and sealing, HVAC, etc…  If basic maintenance has been neglected, bigger issues were likely neglected as well.
  • Any evidence of a big leak or flood event?  Were any structural or other repairs performed?

Additions, Renovations, and Repairs

Below are a list of questions buyers should try to have answered during their due diligence period regarding additions, renovations and repairs:
  • Was the work permitted? (question for seller or the city/county)
  • Was the work built to the same quality as the rest of the home? (question for home inspector)
  • If there was a plumbing leak or roof leak what was the extent of the damage? (question for seller)
  • Was the work performed by a licensed contractor?  Any documentation like receipts or warranties? (question for seller)

Aging Components

Determining when the major components of the home have been replaced will help the buyer anticipate repair costs.  A good home inspector will be able to determine the age of the water heater and heating/cooling equipment.  Regarding the age of the roof and other categories 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 be replaced after 15-25 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

After 15-25 years typically all of the home’s major appliances will be 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 manufacturer information of kitchen/laundry appliances on the data stickers (usually found on or around the door).  See How to Determine the Age of Your Water Heater and How to Determine the Age of Your Heating and Cooling Equipment.

Roof and related components

Most roofs have a 20-25 year service life- after 15-25 years most roofs will be 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 flashings, 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 15-25 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 has an 8-12 year life expectancy and is typically replaced after 15-25 years.  Well pumps typically have a 25-year life expectancy and are often replaced after 15-25 years.

Electrical

GFCI outlets start to fail after 15-25 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 15-25 years.  Light/fan fixtures become worn/dated after 15-25 years.

What components are wearing or nearing replacement after 15-25 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 uncommon 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 re-treated 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 in areas where the deck is attached to the home.

Exterior Windows and Doors

After 15-25 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

Most homes should be painted every 7 years or stained every 3 years.  A 25-year-old home should have been painted 3 times already.  After 15-25 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.  See Quick Reference: Siding and Trim.

Vinyl siding typically has a 20-40 year service life- after 15-25 years it is not uncommon to find brittle/broken siding in 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 15-25 years it is not uncommon to see a number of damaged electrical outlets.

The Crawl Space or Basement Environment

Typically after 15-25 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.

Sample Inspection Report for 18 year old Home

Asheville Home Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for 15-25 year Home Inspections in the Asheville area.  We also provide Aging Home Inspections, Newer Home Inspections, Radon testing, Mold testing, Water testing, Well Inspections, and Septic Inspections.  Schedule online or call with questions.

For information about Buying Homes 15 Years or Newer
For Information about Buying Homes 25 Years or Older
For Information about Buying Homes Pre-1960
This article is intended to help home buyers looking at 15-25-year-old homes
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