My Wife is concerned with the 1997 building codes

Asked by Jon Olson, San Diego, CA Mon Feb 2, 2009

Ok, my wife is very concerned with the stability of homes in the area from earthquakes. In looking for a home to grow and start a family in, we have found several very nice homes built before the 1997 building code reforms. In layman's terms, what did those codes do for homes here in Southern California structurally? Also, if we purchase a home build in the mid to early 90s, what can I do, if anything, to bring it to code currently, even though its prior construction? Is that even possible? Or, should I limit my search to homes newer than 1997 for her.

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Jeffrey Doug…, , San Diego, CA
Tue Feb 3, 2009
Dear Jon,

It is not too clear what your major concerns are regarding the newer code requirements of 1997, so I would suggest that whatever you are concerned about you confirm with the City or County would be covered during this uniform change. As Kimberly has stated, code upgrades can be very expensive when dealing with structural issues and may not be cost effective.

A good home inspector will know the codes and be able to inspect the home that you are interested in purchasing in. You will also get a Natural Hazards Disclosure during your inspection period to note zones where the subject home is. Also you may want to consider purchasing earthquake insurance if that would bring some peace of mind.

Real Estate is all about location - so don't let an older house put you off if it offers the neighborhood and schools districts that you want. Most folks are concerned that the home has double pane windows, efficient heating and air conditioning systems, and double strapping of water heaters. While the floor plans may be dated in these older homes, usually they are on much larger lots in established neighborhoods. Another big plus is the area may be more stable when it comes to short sales and bank foreclosures, since the people have been in their homes for a while.

Jon, food for thought. Find a good REALTOR and home inspector. I frequently use an inspector that is a civil engineer for my Clients, which brings a great deal of expertise to his reports.

I have included a link to the California Building Standards Commission website for California.
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Kimberly Sel…, , Escondido, CA
Tue Feb 3, 2009
Good Morning! Wow, nice to see someone doing research before jumping in. Because we as Agents do not specialize in these matters, I would suggest you call the City of Del Mar and ask for the code enforcement desk. You can get your correct and up to the moment code information. Should you purchase a home and decide to make changes, you could possibly open a can of worms. The city must be involved and you cannot be sure how far you will have to go. Once you begin to make changes, the city will require you to change everything that needs to be brought to code. Nice picture! Where were you? I enjoy golfing, when I am not taking care of my kids.... I guess that means I get out rarely. ;-) Feel free to call or email me with any questions. You may also look up information on the City of Del Mar web site.
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