Home Buying in Palo Alto>Question Details

D., Home Buyer in

Would you buy a 100 year old house?

Asked by D., Wed Apr 2, 2008

What's the average life span of a house in the Palo Alto area?
What are the risks associated with buying a house built more than a hundred years ago and what should a buyer be on the lookout for?

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I too have an older home, not quite 100 years old, but about 85 years old. A home inspection is a must. The inspector will check things you don't normally see or think of, such as the wiring, the plumbing including the type of pipes, etc. So far the only downside is the windows which are the old "wavy" glass, while being very charming, don't do a very good job of insulating heat/sound. We will eventually have to replace them. The best part is that older homes are usually on a larger size lot, and they have more character than newer homes. I wouldn't trade my old home for a new one!
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 2, 2008
I agree. Our home is 100 years and down through the years we have invested quite a bit of money as most homeowners do. Nevertheless, it has so much character not to mention memories. We just installed new windows downstairs and our heating bill is great. We have a total of 22 window and all had to be custom made. All the repairs took lots of time and money, but it is worth it.
Flag Tue Jan 20, 2015
We used to live in a 112 year old house but we moved to a 49 year old house, i wish we could go back i miss my older house
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
Most of the homes at that time were built out of pure redwood. They are very nice, and should last a long time. But look at it carefully.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 15, 2011
Hi D. My home was built in 1860. We have lived here for 11 years and have upgraded the heating systems and replaced the windows. We also pulled off and replaced a porch on the back of the house with a larger deck. The house originally had a slate roof. These generally last for a very long time, but are expensive to maintain. The previous owners had replaced it before we purchased.

We pick a room or a mechanical project every year to invest some money and sweat equity into. Great posts below, I can't speak about the values in the Palo Alto area, but our home has kept up very well with the market increases in our local area. If we were to sell this year we would probably realize an appreciation of 100 to 110%. Not planning on selling for several more years. We love the area in addition to the house itself. Your inspection will be key, as mentioned below. Best of luck! Stacey
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 2, 2008
D.

Items to pay careful attention to are the foundation, the electrical work and the plumbing. I would buy an older home, but I would also have it thoroughly checked out before removing any contingencies.
I would also check to see if the homes is registered as a historical home and/or landmark. If you buy one one these, remodeling and expansion are extremely difficult if not impossible. The upside is you might get a tax break.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 2, 2008
I don't know about California - I live in Tennessee. Would I buy a 100-year-old house? In a heartbeat. A hundred years ago, people built with quality materials and took pride in their work - none of this poisonous made-in-China drywall garbage. Real hardwood and/or marble floors - no petroleum-based plastic linoleum. Real plaster for walls, ceilings, and moldings. Lovely glass doorknobs; touches of stained glass and fanlights over the doors. I am describing the house I grew up in - built somewhere between the last yellow fever epidemic that hit Memphis (1878) and the turn of the century in 1900. 14-foot ceilings, crown moldings. When I married and moved away from home and found myself stuck in a pre-fab apartment with cheap drywall walls and ceiling and NO hardwood anywhere, I found myself so homesick it was NOT funny....
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 19, 2011
I don't know about California - I live in Tennessee. Would I buy a 100-year-old house? In a heartbeat. A hundred years ago, people built with quality materials and took pride in their work - none of this poisonous made-in-China drywall garbage. Real hardwood and/or marble floors - no petroleum-based plastic linoleum. Real plaster for walls, ceilings, and moldings. Lovely glass doorknobs; touches of stained glass and fanlights over the doors. I am describing the house I grew up in - built somewhere between the last yellow fever epidemic that hit Memphis (1878) and the turn of the century in 1900. 14-foot ceilings, crown moldings. When I married and moved away from home and found myself stuck in a pre-fab apartment with cheap drywall walls and ceiling and NO hardwood anywhere, I found myself so homesick it was NOT funny....
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 19, 2011
We have a 162 year old home in central MO that is on the National Historic Register. It is not huge but unique in that it has 13 ft 1 inch ceilings. It has a 28 inch limestone foundation so we've had no structural problems except a few joists that "had wandered from years of vibration". Rewiring, putting in a new junction panel and getting rid of some of the old aluminum wiring ran 7,500, but the biggest expense has been replacing the fuel oil boiler with a natural gas boiler. It ran about 12,000 and getting the fuel oil tank out of the basement was MAJOR! Now we do one inside and one outside project every year. We just love the history and wood work of the home. The entrance wallpaper is faded and torn BUT it;'s original from 1849 and my wife won't let me touch it - thank you for that dear!
All the pocket doors were original and the previous owner replaced some of the plaster with gypsum board, so we do one room a year back to the wood lathe and plaster. One major warning, if the tuck pointer wants to drill out the old limestone mortar to replace it - find another one, because he's never dealt with old limestone mortar and doesn't know what he's doing. This started out as a summer home and has become our year round home in retirement. Yes it's a little cold in the winter, but with 7 fireplaces, we always have a fire going and I wouln't touch the wavy leaded glass in the windows.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jun 14, 2009
D,

You'd have to check with the historical association and determine why the home was a possibility for historical status. Was it owned by the Packards? or someone unknown (but it is old) who has no historical significance to the city of Palo Alto. There is a good article today in the Los Altos Town Crier about the Shoup house in Los Altos and the problems the current owners are having in getting a remodel/expansion. I suggest you and your realtor check the history of the home and then make a determination. Also, if you don't plan on building or significantly remodeling the home, the only problem to think about is future resale (when you sell the house, will it be tougher to sell as a (potential) historical home). All things being equal, a home registered as a historical home is a little harder to sell.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 2, 2008
Absolutely. I own one. The nice thing about older homes is they usually have lots of character that newer homes don't and there will always be a market for those homes. If a home is maintained, it can survive for a very long time. The nice thing about older homes is that the construction when built was generally sturdier with better grade lumber. You should have an excellent home inspector who is experienced in older homes.

Also there are statutes you can apply for to designate a home historic that will limit your property taxes as well as the taxes of all future buyers. Talk about having excellent re-sale value.

Every community is different with regard to rehabbing historic homes, I wouldn't be scared off about that before you looked into actual local regulations.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 2, 2008
Thanks Dave, that's very helpful to me. The seller disclosure states that the city council considered registering this house as a historical home a few years ago but ultimately decided against it. Is this something that routinely happens to older homes, or is there a genuine risk that the house will be registered in the foreseeable future?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 2, 2008
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