Great topic, but your question does not distinguish between synthetic and real masonry stucco - so the answer is NO you should not avoid all stucco homes. But I understand why you and many in the general public often lump these two totally different products together, and have therefore based my answers to shed light on the differences. I hope our answers will help you as well as future readers.
The knowledgeable agents have urged caution, and answered that you need to understand the various risks, and the special upkeep requirements with regard to synthetic stucco. Other answers generalize, and do not come from an adequate understanding of the two materials, and several answers do not even distinguish between hard coat stucco and synthetic stucco.
These are totally different cladding systems and anyone who understands that, knows that any discussion, analysis, or commentary about one product, does not speak to the other.
My advice is based on long personal experience with the product as a building inspector and the overwhelming preponderance of evidence in trade journals and other third party technical reports.
My call is simple - for all typical owner occupant / family purchasers - avoid synthetic stucco on residential structures unless there are very unusual circumstances that make that particular property a sound decision to buy for that particular purchaser. These "green light" circumstances to move forward with synthetic stucco do not include "the buyer really likes the home etc". They do include the buyer has had a thorough Moisture Intrusion Survey by a specially trained EFIS Inspector and is comfortable with the findings, the future maintenance, and, the buyer/investor has the financial resources to address repair and even full replacement of the siding if necessary to assure a good future sale and exit from the property.
Hard Coat "real stucco" on the other hand, is quite safe to consider, just like brick, wood, cement fiber siding, etc. The caveat - always have any property you plan to purchase, inspected by a competent building inspector - preferably ICC Certified Inspector or Registered GA Engineer. There are also a host of additional specialty inspections and surveys that may be advisable by other licensed trade, technicians, and environmental specialists depending on a given properties age, construction, and other characteristics.
The type of stucco has to be properly identified - synthetic or hard coat. As a buyer you should have a separate inspection of the stucco - by a recognized professional inspection firm. They should do moisture probs in all areas to check for issues and give you an evaluation of the product and care. You should also get a bond placed on the home in case of future issues.
Stucco homes tend to have longer marketing times and sell lower (all other things being equal) than other styles. Many relocation firms either prohibit or strongly advise against transferees from buying any stucco clad homes. This obviously can cause issues when it's time to sell.
I tell my clients not to eliminate them but I do lay out all of the baggage that can come with them - ultimately I advise, they decide.
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Of course not.
Stucco is a perfectly good construction item--though, as noted, there's some debate about synthetic or EFIS. You asked about avoiding "ALL stucco homes." No, you shouldn't avoid them all.
Look: Get a good home inspector and listen to his/her advise.
Hope that helps.
Agreed - the stucco you refer to is what agents call "real stucco" - multi-coat masonry stucco applied to wire lath - not generally a problem except on some early century balloon framed homes.
The one to be concerned with is synthetic stucco known as EFIS - cement scratch coat applied on foam insulation board.
Make an informed decision based upon the data and what a home affords you.
Regarding the issue of advising clients and letting them make the choice - of course my clients decide which home they want to buy. I advise my clients of every possible angle to consider, but the difference is, in some cases with certain properties or conditions, I take it one step further and tell them I will give you the same advice I would if you were a family member - "if you were my sister - I would tell you to pass on this house and keep looking". That is the difference in providing fiduciary level service, and being an agent. For the last 14 years, my client's have appreciated my extra service's advice when they are weighing in on something they are not too sure about, and they appreciate the fact that I clearly put their best interests before getting to the closing table sooner. If I feel it is in their best interests, I won't hesitate to tell them I suggest they NOT buy a particular property. But of course, at the end of the day, all clients ultimately are the ones who choose if they want to buy a home or not - regardless of what their agent, broker, building expert, or appraiser may say.
Here is a tip - all the agents on Trulia are in the business of selling real estate, myself included.
However, when you have someone that makes a living selling real estate, like me, and that someone is also suggesting that you Not buy a certain home (in most cases) - that should be a sign to you that such an agent might be giving you good advice since they are putting your interests before making a sale. If that is not your take away, then it should certainly give you reason to pause, and maybe do little more research on your own. And by research, I mean by looking on building science websites and consulting with those type folks, not asking real agents technical building and construction related questions on Trulia - very very few agents are qualified to answer such questions.
As the former owner of a home inspection and environment consulting company, I have inspected over 5000 properties and countless stucco homes in the last 20 years, so I know what I am talking about. The damage I have seen in syn stucco homes range from none (already modified) to over $40,000 in repair costs. Then there is the negative perception problem the public has about syn stucco. Regardless of one persons opinion of the product one way or the other, one thing is sure - these homes will almost always be harder to sell in the future. I have seen them not sell at all. I have seen people rip the stucco off and install brick, etc. - one owner in East Cobb spent $150K doing just that after his $800K syn stucco home sat on market over a year - my buyer was one of the many who rejected that home.
My concern (when I represent purchasers as clients) is always - not just to help them find a home to buy, but to educate them on all sides of any pluses and minuses so they can make a more informed decision. Another constant concern is will the property they intend to buy, turn out to be a good purchase - will it at minimum, hold its value, preferably increase in value, and, will it be easy to resell when they need to?
This is not an all or nothing situation, but as an experienced Broker and Building Inspector since 1984, I can tell you with regard to SYNTHETIC stucco, my answer to clients is in almost all cases is YES - pass on it. Synthetic stucco EIFS was invented in Europe for masonry buildings and is an excellent exterior insulation system, but was never intended to be installed on the wood framed homes we have in the US. It does not breath and when water intrusion happens it is trapped in the siding and rot to framing members can set in quickly.
There are retrofit measures that can reduce the chances of water infiltration and damage with synthetic stucco, and there are annual and multi year renewable warranty plans that will cover the structure, once the stucco has been properly modified. That is an extra cost and extra risk most people don't want.
In addition, there is no question that synthetic stucco homes sit on market longer than other homes, and many relocation companies will not give full relocation benefits if a relocating employee buys a synthetic stucco home. They also will not buy a syn stucco home if the relo employee can't sell.
Properly applied masonry stucco "real stucco" is not a problem as long as there are no large crakes and bulges which can be indicative of settlement or detached mesh backer. This is a durable and fire resistant cladding like brick and cement fiber siding (such as HardiPlank and CemPlank) and insurance companies give cheaper fire insurance rates on homes built with these materials. Synthetic stucco does not enjoy that advantage.
Contact me for more information if you do not have a signed Buyer Brokerage Agreement with an agent.
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