Home Buying in 30004>Question Details

sarah.brick, Home Buyer in Alpharetta, GA

Should we avoid all stucco homes when looking for a new house?

Asked by sarah.brick, Alpharetta, GA Sun Aug 11, 2013

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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.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 18, 2013
I see two issues to be addressed with stucco homes: condition and market stigma.

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.
Web Reference: http://www.hmtatlanta.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Aug 12, 2013
The company that I have been using for years is SIR Inc. They know everything there is to know about stucco and they have a ton of info on their website http://www.stuccobond.com/

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1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 11, 2013
No, Some of the most beautiful architecture is the European Stucco look. There is a lot of different applications of "stucco". The scynctehic stucco got a bad rap because of the way it was applied. We designed and built a beautiful home.. Paid $17,000 more to get the type we have. We have never had to paint or do more than wash the body. Of course the trim has to be painted as all homes do. Some siding is bad, some wood is bad, one can not catorgrize "all anything" as bad. In our imndustry we have some media hype going. It may be radon, siding, mold etc.. something new for the nay sayers. In fact we own 3 properties which are known as "stucco". Different applications require something different. Two of the 3 we own have to be painted but not our principal residence.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 11, 2013
What does your Agent/Broker say, sarah? It depends on what your personal preferences are and what is available in the area you want to live. Good inspectors can advise you best here. Please call, text or email if we can provide further assistance. Good Luck!

Michael Hammond





1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 11, 2013
Although issues in stucco occur more often than in brick and stone, hardcoat stucco homes are not to be completely avoided; however, synthetic stucco homes are a little more disconcerting. People who do not understand the difference between the two may shy away from hardcoat stucco homes, and, for that reason, you may be able to get a better deal on a stucco home. If you decide a stucco home is right for you, make sure a qualified and experienced home inspector examines it thoroughly. Feel free to call or email me to assist you with your home search.

Sammy Thieme, ABR, SFR
Re/Max All Properties
30 Years of Full-time Real Estate Experience
(678) 936-1607
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 18, 2013

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.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 18, 2013
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
Sarah. As many have answered here and on other posts on this subject, if the house is built properly according to your area's standards and well maintained, it should be fine. If not, I have seen problems with brick falling off, wood siding rotting and vinyl melting.among other costly nightmares. If one here offers "help" as well as telling others to get "some help" then it might be prudent to disregard the construction "advice" offered as well. Maybe those " three new clients" didn't quite pan out.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 18, 2013
Agree on the impact on wood - I was talking about the larger commercial uses such as office buildings and the like. Those that will not have wood framing members.
Web Reference: http://www.hmtatlanta.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Aug 16, 2013
I beg to differ, EFIS is not a good product for wood framed construction, for which it was not designed, and it does not have a good track record for use on 1-4 family dwellings - the subject of this question. The probllem IS the product, the installation, the risk of damage, the risk of poor future sales, and the required extra maintenance for the life of the ownership.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 15, 2013
EFIS is a decent product and has a successful track record with commercial uses. The issue with residential uses is the application of the product, not the product itself.
Web Reference: http://www.hmtatlanta.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 15, 2013

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.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 14, 2013
As long as it was properly done and the quality is evident then you should be fine. I've shown plenty of all stucco Tudors from the early 1900's and the majority of the stucco was still intact and fine. Every home will be different...

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 14, 2013
The bottom line on anything is always go in with your eyes open to all positives and negatives. You will be living in it and if it works then consider it. There are ways to mitigate - not eliminate - issues/stigma with stucco. The same can be said for other potential issues (terrain/design/location....)

Make an informed decision based upon the data and what a home affords you.
Web Reference: http://www.hmtatlanta.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 14, 2013
Hank makes a good point from the appraiser end of things - understand the baggage with synthetic stucco because it has more than most types of siding. If you are the vigilant type who will check all your exterior caulk joints where there are dissimilar materials every year, AND attend to any failed or open joints immediately, then this may be a feasible option - if the proper retrofit work has been done - and you aren't worried about the resale issues. If you are not the vigilant type homeowner and tend to let maintenance things go, then YOU do not want synthetic stucco. Failure to maintain a constant water tight seal can result in water damage in a hurry.

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.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 13, 2013
Four thumbs up for the professionals responding here. Stucco can be an excellent cladding if installed properly and maintained.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Aug 12, 2013

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?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 11, 2013
Hi Sarah,

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.


Robert Whitfield
Professional Buyers Broker
New Home Construction Expert
ICC Code Certified Building Inspector
Advantage Realtors
Corporate Relocations | New Construction | Luxury & Investment Properties
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 11, 2013
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