In the Seattle area, generally speaking there are three eras of homes. These eras include pre-war construction, mid-century construction and newer construction. We don’t see much construction earlier than about 1890, due to the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Pre-war construction is generally thought of as 1939 and older (before World War II); mid-century runs from the 1940′s up to the 1970′s; and I consider newer construction from the 1980′s on up.
Each of these eras can have different connotations for first time home buyers. Many people appreciate pre-war construction for the quality of construction and all their period details. Although they are generally built exceptionally well, the systems are often close to a hundred years old and include things like knob and tube wiring, galvanized plumbing and coal heating systems. Sometimes these systems have been maintained impeccably, however often they need to be completely replaced. This may be quite a large undertaking for a first time home buyer.
Mid-century construction was also generally very well built, but the systems are only half as old as their pre-war counterparts. Especially once you get into the 1960′s and 1970′s homes, you will often see newer romex wiring, copper plumbing and electric furnaces. These homes have withstood the test of time, while still having systems that may not need to be replaced right away if maintained properly. Therefore, mid-century inventory may be a more affordable option for first time home buyers in the short-term.
Newer construction is often preferred by first time home buyers, because they have the newest systems of all. Often these include romex wiring, plastic plumbing, and gas or radiant heating systems. It is true that the systems may need to be replaced a lot less sooner than pre-war, or mid-century inventory, however in the late 1980′s many construction materials took a turn for the worse. Materials like old growth wood started to become harder to come by and more expensive, so other more affordable alternatives came to market. Some of these materials such as OSB siding have shown that they are not the dependable construction materials they claimed to be. Because of this it is possible that newer construction overall may not last nearly as long as other options.
The fact of the matter is, every era of home comes with pros and cons. It just depends on what your priorities are and what types of projects you are willing to undertake. Also, there are always exceptions to the rules. So just because a certain era of home is typically built well, it doesn’t mean that every single home from that time period was well built. Furthermore, if a home was built well but poorly maintained, the house may not be worth trying to salvage. Especially if it is your first home and there are major rot, mildew or other types of moisture problems that have arisen from neglect. Quite often it comes down to a case by case analysis. You have to look at every home on an individual basis, and then compare it to your overall options.
If you’re thinking about buying your first home in the Greater Seattle area and would like to gather more helpful information before making your decision, please go to our Calendar page and register for one of our FREE First Time Home Buyer seminars.