Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors Philadelphia realtors real estate homes for sale

Janis Peterson, GRI, Realtor®

Philadelphia Main Line Homes and Real Estate

Tel:  (610) 642-3744

Fax: (610) 658-0267


Subject: "Old House? New House?"
What You Need To Know Before You Look
Maybe it has something to do with a childhood home we fondly remember. Many of us long for old homes built with solid construction, quality craftsmanship and beautiful details. We wax poetic and wistfully recall the hand carvings, plaster walls and eyebrow dormers of homes we've known. How do the old homes we admire compare with newly minted models?

Location. Typically, old homes sit on generous plots of land in or near town. Mature trees and plantings provide shade and beautify the property and neighborhood streets. New homes are generally found in developments outside town. Homeowners who have bought into an early phase in a development can expect to contend with dust and construction sights and sounds as the remaining phases are being built. Landscaping may be skimpy or nonexistent.

Layout. Old homes were not built with our electronics-crazed families in mind. Entertaining was more formal in times past. Architects now design homes for informal living. The many cozy rooms, tight closets, and small bathrooms (very often only one!) found in old homes have been replaced with updated layouts that feature family kitchens; walk-in closets; family rooms, some with built-in entertainment centers; and two- or even three-car garages.

Energy efficiency. Those eight-over-eight single pane wood windows add character to an old home, but even with storm windows, they're not nearly as energy efficient as modern dual-glazed or thermal windows. While most old homes lacked insulation in outside walls and attics, the tight homes built today insulate against high heating and cooling costs. And air conditioning has evolved from large, loud, watt guzzlers to smaller, quieter, less-expensive systems.

Construction. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer ("Older better? Or is new? Weigh the advantages, disadvantages of both," December 9, 1998), wood used by builders comes from young, fast-growing forests. With growth rings spaced far apart, the wood is inherently weaker and more prone to rot. Before the 1980s, commercially available wood was harvested from old-growth forests, which produced dense and durable lumber.

Some owners of new homes complain about flimsy materials; thin, plasterboard walls; and shoddy workmanship. Still, new homes often benefit from new technology in building and designing. Homes tend to be designed with more windows to create an open, airy feeling.

Wiring. A turn of the century home may have outdated knob-and-tube wiring. Even a recently built home may have an inadequate fuse box-style panel that falls short of the energy demands of 21st century families.

Plumbing. Long ago, before we understood the effects of lead exposure, lead pipes were standard equipment. Over the years most homeowners have replaced them with galvanized pipes, which have been found to corrode. Although copper piping is now the product of choice, fittings connecting old lead or galvanized pipes to the copper piping may be vulnerable to corrosion.

If the charm and beauty of an old home wins your heart, hire an inspector to evaluate the home for lead paint, insect and water damage, lead and/or galvanized pipes, outdated wiring, foundation problems and energy efficiency, including windows as well as heating/cooling systems and insulation. After you get the all-clear, you have one last consideration: Does the home fit your lifestyle? Only you and your family have the answer.

"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.

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