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Buying a 50 year old home?

So you're looking to live in a particular area "location, location, location!" or you found a house that just has the "charm" your seeking, whatever the reason, there are certain things to consider regarding that 50+/- year old home. I don't want to scare anyone away from buying an older home, repairs and maintenance are a factor to consider with a home of any age. I just want to provide awareness and reasonable expectation for you as to some costs you may have to be prepared for. As a home inspector I look for existing conditions that adversely and materially affect the performance of a system or component OR constitutes a hazard to life, limb or property as specified by TREC's Standards of Practice.

Some examples of dated systems or components are listed here as examples:


  • Asbestos was used in many products such as; Siding (pictured above), Insulation (Vermiculite pictured on the right), Roofing. In general, exposure occurs when materials that contain it are disturbed, broken or cut and the particles or fibers become airborne and can be harmful. Asbestos banning began for some uses in 1973 after it was found to cause cancer.

  • Lead based paint was used in the USA up until 1978 when it was banned. If properly managed and maintained it poses little risk. Painted surfaces should be in good condition to minimize deterioration and avoid exposure to dust if remodeling. Hire Lead-Safe certified renovation company to perform the work properly.


  • Outdated panel boxes, some brands of panels are considered high risk and insurance companies will not cover. Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco(pictured at right), Sylvania, GTE-Sylvania, are just a few brands known for major issues. Get approval in writing before option period or warranty is done.

  • Aluminum wires used for distribution in the home would likely have been installed during 1965-73 and can be a fire hazard due to deteriorated connections. This happens from oxidation, thermal expansion & contraction, loose connections develop over time.


  • Older A/C refrigerant R-22 (Freon) is being phased out of use completely as part of EPA regulations. Freon is no longer made but can still be sold from stockpiles and reclaimed, it's expensive and hard to find. Retrofitting for a different refrigerant and/or repairs on a unit that uses this type of refrigerant may not be worth it.


  • Galvanized pipe (pictured below) eventually loses the interior zinc coating exposing the steel and rust begins to close up reducing flow or clogging up the pipe. It is also very common for galvanized pipes to leak at the joints, because the threads are the thinnest part of the pipe.

  • Lead in the pipes, fittings, fixtures, and valves are more likely found in pre-1986 built homes. To find out for certain if there is lead in the drinking water it would have it tested.

These would be a few of the big ticket items that might need replacement or updating. If your lucky, the house you're interested in may have already been modernized appropriately!

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