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3 Major Considerations Before Buying a 20-Year-Old House

If you’re like the average home buyer, you’re probably considering a home that’s around 20 years old, according to the National Association of Realtors.

A 20-year-old home that’s been well maintained can be a solid investment. It’s new enough to feature modern conveniences yet old enough to provide an established place to lay your head. But after a couple of decades, a home’s age can begin to show.

So what should you look for? Here are a few good places to start.

Maintenance Due?

The 20-year mark ushers in a period of upkeep for several standard home features and systems. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) estimates the following components may require attention after 20 years:

  • HVAC system
  • Asphalt roof
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Wood fencing
  • Deck

If these originals haven’t been replaced in your dream home, it’s not the end of the world. They may have life in them yet. Just be sure you have three to six months of expenses socked away in your emergency fund so you won’t be broke if something goes kaput after you move in.

Failed Pipe Dreams

Polybutylene (PB) plumbing came onto the scene in the late 1970s and was popular through the mid-1990s because it offered a quick and cost-effective alternative to copper piping. Unfortunately, PB pipes couldn’t stand the test of time, and major leaks were common.

Worried about affording a house? Our free Home Buyers Guide will help.

A class-action settlement reimbursed many homeowners for replacement costs, but that doesn’t mean every home has been updated. If you’re looking at a home built during the PB heyday, hire a certified home inspector to ensure quality plumbing fixtures are in place. An average two-story home with three bedrooms and two and a half baths could cost thousands of dollars to re-plumb.

Dated Décor

Every now and then a 20-year-old home sends you on a trip back through time. You might find yourself surrounded by hunter green countertops accented by ivy wallpaper, brass and honey oak, mirrored closet doors and maybe even a sponge-painted powder room.

Strangely enough, sometimes yesteryear’s décor can work in your favor. Why? Because many home buyers don’t have the imagination to see past the surface—and that could mean a really sweet deal for you.

Before walking away, ask yourself:

  • Does the home have a good floor plan?
  • Is it structurally sound?
  • Does it have nice curb appeal?
  • Is it located in a desirable neighborhood?

If so, it’s worth a closer look. Cosmetic fixes are often the easiest to make. It may require a small investment on your part, but a little sweat equity can add a lot to your home value.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Whether or not a 20-year-old home is right for you is your decision, but it’s always smart to get an expert’s advice. If you want a real estate agent you can trust, try one of Dave's real estate Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs).

Try and ELP

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.

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