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How Old Is Too Old When You're Looking At Homes?

Posted by Kelly on Mar 10, 2015 12:48:00 PM

Appliance Guidelines to Avoid House Hunting Surprises

Older homes have a lot of charm and spaces that make them unique from the other homes on the block. That’s one of the reasons why they are so desirable for homebuyers. However, to someone looking to buy a home, what’s not desirable is a deteriorating structure, a worn-down roof, or old appliances – like an HVAC system – that need replacing soon. To help you avoid any house hunting surprises, we’ll start from the top of the house and work down with some basic guidelines to help you know how old is too old when looking at a hunting surprises

The Roof

The roof is one of the most important areas when it comes to keeping the home in good shape. If you are looking at homes, you’ll need to check the type of roof installed to know how long you can expect it to last. The most common types are asphalt, metal, wood shingle and shake roofing. You can expect to get 15-20 years out of an asphalt roof, the most common type of roofing material in the country, before it starts to need repairs or replacing. Metal roofs cost more to purchase materials and install, but they can last more than 40 years in most cases and take very little maintenance. Wood and shake roofing take a lot of maintenance to keep nice. They tend to do better in drier climates since moisture can really damage wood.

Before you buy, it is best to find out the age of the roof or get an inspector to check how many more years before the roof may need replacing because on average a new roof can cost $5,000- $13,000

HVAC System

Keith Hill, our resident HVAC expert at Minnesota Air, says older homes fall into two categories, those that still have the original HVAC systems – generally homes built between 15 to 25 years ago – and those that have had their systems replaced at least once – homes 20+ years old. 

Just like the roof, it’s always a good idea to determine the condition and the age of the mechanical systems before you buy a home. 

“If for some reason the seller does not disclose the age of the equipment, your home inspector should be able to help,” says Keith. “You could also contact an HVAC contractor or give Google a try.” 

You shouldn’t have to worry about replacing an HVAC system anytime soon if your home is newer than 10 years old – unless you want to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model. 

ENERGY STAR recommends replacing your HVAC system if it is more than 10 years old and is no longer keeping your house comfortable. That’s because little repairs each year can add up to more money spent than if you just bought a new model. They say the newer ENERGY STAR systems could save you close to $200 a year on your utility bill.

The price range to replace can vary so greatly because of the wide offering of equipment, differing labor costs, and unique systems, says Keith. Do you want to buy a top-of-the-line energy efficient system, or are you budget conscious and looking for something in the mid-range?

“My advice is to contact a pro if you think that a new system may be needed (in your new house),” he says.

Water Heater

Some water heaters may fall into the same life expectancy categories as an HVAC system – about 15-25 years, but that depends on water quality and maintenance.

“City water vs. well water, mineral content … may greatly reduce the life of a water heater,” says Keith.

With conventional gas and electric water heaters, the life expectancy is about 8-12 years, based on the manufacturer's suggested service life.

Of course, with higher quality models and proper maintenance, you can greatly extend the life of a water heater.

Oftentimes, a water heater will show when it was manufactured and installed right on the heater, and technicians will sometimes leave a sticker as a reminder of past service dates.

Again, an inspector should be able to tell you how old it is and the condition it’s in before you buy. Plus, they’ll let you know if there is something wrong, and if a repair or a full replacement is the right way to go. The cost of replacing a water heater, on average, is $700- $1,100.

To Buy Or Not To Buy?

If the bones and structure of the home are good, age doesn’t matter. But if you have to spend thousands of dollars to redo the roof or HVAC system right after spending so much money to buy the house, it may seem like a project for someone else’s list.

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Topics: Home Maintenance