Undoubtedly, you’ve heard someone say: “They just don’t build houses like they used to. In my day, houses were built to last!”
There’s evidence to support that statement, isn’t there? You can walk into a home that was built in the 40s or 50s, and the craftsmanship is obvious. Sure, maybe the plumbing has some challenges, and the electrical wiring probably needs an update, but the house itself is far more sturdy than the mass-manufactured homes in a 2017 suburb.
Here’s the flaw with that thinking:
The house you’re walking through is the one that lasted. You don’t see the hundreds of other houses that fell apart.
Why Do Old Houses Seem to Be Built Better?
100 years ago, there was good craftsmanship.
And there was bad craftsmanship, too.
The same is true today. There is good craftsmanship in home building, and there’s plenty of bad craftsmanship, too. Houses that are built well today will probably last even longer than your grandpa’s beautiful custom home, because we have better technologies and higher standards in a lot of areas.
Only the houses that were built well have lasted – and that’s why we get the idea that old houses were always built better than modern homes. We only see the ones that were built well.
Think about this:
How many old houses do you see around your city?
Chances are, unless you live in the historic district where older buildings are preserved and restored, there aren’t that many old houses. If people really used to build homes to last, there would be a lot more old houses still standing.
Build Quality Varies
If you buy a house in a neighborhood today, it’s probably not built with the goal of standing for 100 years. That’s just not the builders’ priority.
The people who build those cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods know that most people who live in one of their houses don’t plan to stay there for several generations. According to the census bureau, the average American moves about a dozen times in their life – so if the house they’re living in now collapses in 25 years, they don’t care because they’ve already moved on.
What matters to the housing developers is:
- Building fast
- Keeping overhead low
- Fitting as many houses as possible in a defined space
- Selling those houses quickly
In other words, they want low costs, high resale value, and as much profit as they can make out of the plot of land they developed.
That’s not a recipe for craftsmanship, and that’s not new.
You don’t see suburban neighborhoods full of houses built in the 60s, do you? That’s because those neighborhoods were built with the same priorities.
Sure, pressboard is a cheap building material, and some of these new neighborhoods have quality problems right from the start…but considering things like building codes, new technologies (thank goodness for PVC pipes) and greater options for cost-effective and durable materials like metal roofs, houses today are, on the whole, far better than they used to be.
Now and before, the average homebuyer isn’t really looking for a home built with craftsmanship.
If finding a home that was built to last is a priority for you, you can still find what you’re looking for. It’s just not going to be in a housing development.