What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
A fresh coat of paint and tidy landscaping can make a 1990s home look younger than it’s age. The exterior style of the era is not much different from newer homes, and they typically lag only slightly behind the millennial design trends in floor plans, interior finishes and amenities.
But a 1990s house rides the crest of the first wave of major component replacements. A shingle roof lasts 17 to 24 years, an HVAC system is good for about 15 to 20 years, and a water heater departs in around the same time frame. When you consider that you are looking at a 20 year old house, plus or minus a few years, this means the home is likely ready—or overdue—for multiple big-ticket repairs. If they are not already changed out by the seller, you should expect at least one of them to drain your checkbook soon after closing. See our blog posts Should I buy a house with an old roof? and What is the average lifespan of an air conditioner? and What is the average lifespan of a water heater? for more on this.
The energy code requirements for insulated windows, higher R-rated insulation in the walls and ceilings, and a tighter building envelope did not begin until after 2000, so these homes will be less energy efficient than newer ones. Kitchen and laundry appliances may still be functional, but look dated, if not yet replaced.
There are also two building materials used in the ‘90s that later turned out to be problematic. Polybutylene piping was installed by some builders until about 1994, but because of leakage is now recognized as a material that requires replacement. Read our blog post What does polybutylene pipe look like? Why is it a problem? for more info.
Next are moisture intrusion problems with Exterior Insulated Finish Systems, a stucco-like exterior wall finish, if a drainage opening was not provided at the base of the wall. It is commonly referred to by its acronym EIFS (pronounced “eeefs”). Read our blog post What is the difference between EIFS and stucco? for further info.
But homes from the 1990s offer a nice balance between affordability and the advantages of newer construction, so this era may be the right choice for you. We hope you find a good one...and be sure to get a home inspector to check it out for you.
Older homes also have some advantages to consider. See our blog post Why is buying an old house sometimes the best choice? for details.
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