Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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How Long Does a House Last?

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Have you ever wondered if your house will last as long as you need it to last? If you are buying a historic home, will you have more problems because of the age?

As a consumer, you do want things to be easy. Who wants to be constantly repairing, or figuring out how to work, your purchase? On the other hand, when we love something, we tolerate more annoyances to enjoy what we have. People do not expect to make repairs on a newly built home. They hope not to have major repairs on any home that they buy. However, what if you are thinking about the long term life of the home? One sign of our changing times is that a few homeowners are beginning to think of their homes life over decades. Most of us have been to mobile to be concerned with a home as permanent part of our lives, and repairs are an immediate concern.
stone doorwaystone wall
    A friend of mine asked me over to discuss a foundation issue with his home.In fact, I have been receiving quite a few calls from people about their foundations. People want to know if the foundation company is giving them a run around speech, or are they giving good advice. Oddly enough, I am surprised that from what I am being told that the foundation companies are becoming better at giving advice. My friend and I sit back with our glasses of wine for a discussion about stocks in the end, and our plans for the future. This talk of the future leads to the question of how long did the builder intend for the house to last. I still have friends and clients who are discussing moving to find a better living environment or better schools. We all want something better; however, we know that we have to preserve what we have.
    Getting down to answering the question, I would say that most people I who deal with homes built after World War Two would say that a house will last for one hundred years. That is not too long. That number does satisfy most of us though. Yet this answer is not satisfactory to me. The pictures you see in this post are from a walk in the Texas Hill Country, where I stumbled upon this ruin. Wood was used for homes in areas with larger trees are common. German immigrants to this part of Texas used stones for the homes near their farm or ranch, while making their Sunday homes from wood. (A “Sunday House” was quite common among Texas Germans. This was a small house in the boundaries of the town, where the family came to stay on Saturday night, so that they could go to church on Sunday. These homes were often only one room and a porch.) The building in the photographs has two rooms, which are now hidden by the native shrubs. The walls are still standing. You could easily turn this back into a useful structure, although this would be great for someone who prefers a micro house. Our stick built (wood framed) homes would not hold up so well. Traveling further afield, you will find examples of buildings made by using wood frames that are still standing. Does this not bode well for our own homes? Well, here is the lesson.
    The one thing that I love about historic homes is the details that I can find. This may be unfair to contemporary builders, but I do not always have the sense that the crew has the knowledge that a crew who worked on a historic home all those years ago. I am willing to be convinced otherwise. If I am looking at a home built in the 1920s, and compare that to a home in the 1990s, can I say that one will inherently last longer than the other? No. I was inspecting a home built in 1929 this past weekend, and I can say that certain features may help that home survive longer, but this house was starting to have problems due to the actions of the owners. To be clear, I should write the inactions of the owners. Circumstances led this family to ignore the home, but I know that they could be more attentive to the condition of the house. If we choose to love our homes, or at least be concerned with our investments, any home can last for however long we would wish that house to last.
     Historic homes have fascinating characteristics. I love my 1960s home though. I guess that is almost historic. The house has a wonderful size of a little over 1700 square feet. Sure, many of you want more square footage, and you do not mind having a yard, but I relish my yard. Is my home perfect? No, I still have to work at maintaining it, and I am working at making improvements. There are neighbors who are excited by the idea of having new owners come in to rebuild on our lots. They want those shiny new larger homes, since our property values will rise. Property values will rise anyway, so why should I encourage any other type of home in the neighborhood? Caring for the home that I have is the best option for me, and it will last as long as needed. 

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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