A Groovy House...

>> 5.25.2010

Groovy? My house? Um, not so much... more like lame (you know, 1980's slang type of lame). At this point, I am starting to wish that it had a bit of '70s grooviness going on. So we all know that most post-1980 builder homes were not built with quality in mind, right? For the past thirty years, it has all been about getting people into homes and making money. This meant a lot of cutting corners and building with cheap materials!

Based on the information that I've gathered from the contractors, plumbers, and electricians who seem to now live in my house who have worked on my '80s issues recently (including dangerous wiring and shoddy plumbing), I've come up with three possible plans for finding the next (and possibly "forever") home:

1. Look for a groovy home.
There are several great money saving reasons for me to go for a 1975ish home:
*It is less likely to have asbestos or lead paint issues (compared to pre-1975).
*There was stricter code enforcement during the building.
*It's likely to have copper wiring (although aluminum was also popular).
*The plumbing will most likely be safe and up to code.
*At this point, the roof will probably be newish since it wouldn't have been able to last 35 years.

Ugly, but sturdy.

2. Find an older, but updated home.
Let's face it, '70s does not equal charm. In a dream world I would be able to have the charm and solid construction of a 1950's brick home, but live without worries of electrical fires or lead poisoning. Hopefully I can find someone who has stepped in and done all of the hard work for me!
A 1948 dream... a super expensive and fully updated one!

3. Save the cash to rewire/ update the plumbing in an older home.
Saving tens of thousands of dollars on top of a down payment doesn't sound like much fun... neither does having my home torn apart in order to update it! I would only go for this option if I planned on staying for a while!!

When do you know that you're in for some fun? When the listing says, "as-is!"

Although I'm not the best of friends with my current home, I'm still happy to live and learn with it for the next few years. By buying an affordable two bedroom home, I'm fortunate enough to have wiggle room in my budget to make those unexpected upgrades.
What home generations would you avoid or look for?


priscilla May 25, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

i love this post. hubs and i are currently renovating our first home - a 1935 brick cottage. we've had to replace plumbing and electrical in both the kitchen and bathroom which is more costly than we expected. but it's well worth it for the charm of an old house and original woodwork. it's been tons of work, and more expensive than initially estimated, but we keep falling more and more in love with the place.

next time around, i think i'll find an older house that someone else has already put blood, sweat & tears into. :) i know now.

J & L May 25, 2010 at 11:35 AM  

Hey, Kasey -

Love your blog! This is actually a really great post and it is *so true*. My husband and I have a theory on buying houses. Either go for a house that's brand new and ready to go (i.e. you won't have to replace the roof, HWT, or furnace anytime in the next 5-10 years) OR....go with a house that is over 50 years old because, at that point, everything will already have been replaced and you just need to deal with the upkeep. Of course, re-wiring, fixing plumbing and all of that is a pain, but a house that is in that 20-30 year range is such a maintenance nightmare because that's *precisely* when everything starts to break. My parents' home is built 1984 and everything is starting to fall apart right now. Boo! But I hear ya on the buying old. If it's been around 50 years, it'll likely last another 50!

Tell'er All About It

Kate May 25, 2010 at 11:36 AM  

I live in your "groovy" option! I totally agree with the "ugly, but sturdy" description ... it definitely lacks a certain curb appeal ...

Mrs. Chic May 25, 2010 at 12:42 PM  

When we started home shopping, we knew we wanted an older home { 1950's - 1960s } in a nice area new schools and parks. I didn't want a home that was too old pre 1930's or newer 1980's becasue around here they have less charm and the 1930's homes are very pricey becasue they are updated.

We bought a 1956 rancher that was the super ugly! Now has lots of charm...no major plumbing issues or electrical issues yet, knock on wood!

Sarah May 25, 2010 at 2:17 PM  

We bought a 1966 raised ranch that needed a facelift, but was *very* structually sound. We were fortunate in that we bought our home from the original owner, who also happened to be the builder. It was so nice to hear our inspector constantly comment on the sound structure of the house (despite it's less than pretty appearance).

TBH, the rooms are very cut up, so we removed some walls. Also, the black and white bathroom tiles were cracked/shattered and the plumbing was old. So, we gutted both rooms and put in two new bathrooms last year. The biggest challenge we had was fitting a 2009 tub into a 1966 space (the contractors words, not mine). Other than that, all went smoothly.

I love our 1966 house-dated layout, shabby exterior and all.

Pretty Little Things for Home & Life May 25, 2010 at 3:12 PM  

Just wanted to add a little something in regards to new home construction:

Unfortunately, new homes have gotten a bad wrap for quality in the last few years due to the boom from the early to mid 2000s. However, as the owner of a home built last year, as well as someone who works for a homebuilder, I think I can fairly say that it's all about the builder you select. Pick one that's well established, that doesn't mass produce and you'll be more likely to end up with a home that's built with quality, not quantity in mind!

Mind you, i'd still love to find an older, larger home to gut and make my own. Unfortunately, it was actually much cheaper to buy through a builder (and that's not even taking into consideration renovation costs!)

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog May 25, 2010 at 3:20 PM  

@Pretty Little Things...~ Very true! It's all about the builder!! The sad thing is that the good ones are in the minority these days :(. My plumber said that he hasn't been in one newly constructed home that he would buy.

savvy_homegirl May 25, 2010 at 5:34 PM  

I'm all about the older but updated home. You have to have a home with character, but the hassle of going through the necessary updates (electrical, plumbing, windows).. do you really want that?

Your current home sounds a lot like mine. I'm growing to love it, but it's still not charming enough for me to want to sink a pile of extra dough into it.

hiphousegirl May 26, 2010 at 12:35 AM  

What a thought-provoking post! I absolutely love older houses (especially when they've been updated). Mine was built in 1926. Sure, the kitchen is tiny, the closets are laughably tiny, and I can reach up and touch the ceiling beams in the basement (and I'm 5'3"), but I love it so much. It's a solid brick beauty and I wouldn't trade it for a newer cookie cutter, no way. But I do think that Pretty Little Things had it right- it totally depends on the builder. I have seen some absolutely gorgeous and from what I can tell well crafted new homes, they are just a little harder to find I think. I dunno though, I'm hooked on the history of a place. Sometimes it's thrilling (and creepy!) to think of the people who lived here EIGHTY FIVE years ago (not to mention all the crackheads in between)!

As far as quality construction, wiring, plumbing, etc, you seem to know more than me. The magic number for things falling apart does seem to be about 30-35 years though, so maybe find that sweet spot of 5-10 years after something has been either built or renovated.

LizzieBeth May 26, 2010 at 7:05 AM  

I am madly in love with Craftman Style homes. The woodwork, the flow of the homes, the huge porches. Looves it ALL. However, a lot of them in our area need sweat equity. Although JEGs and I think we are up to the task, we are still debating how much work we want to take on for our first home.


Steph May 26, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

Our house is 1978, and you can tell fro the front :) Nothing inside was updated (it was a rental for 15 years...and we just bought it last Nov) We've updated some things already that have made a huge difference, and our next project is the living room and hallway. The roof is just a couple years old, so no worries there!
Here's a flickr picture of our street view.

me. and. b. May 26, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

Excellent question! We always knew we wanted an older home with some character. We were thinking 1900s. The only downfall is of course that they usually come with 100+ yr old foundations, no central air, etc. So when we found our home buildin 1902 that had recently been place on a brand new foundation we felt like we hit the lottery! Best of both worlds? So far! :)

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