Old House Vs Modern House: Which Wins The Debate?  5 min read

Old houses have that nostalgic appeal that can make your everyday life filled with wonder and flavor. Their rustic aesthetics and huge gardens can make buying an old house quite tempting.

That being said, old houses aren’t without their issues. Their maintenance and upkeep can be more expensive than newer houses. Within this article, we draw important comparisons between old and modern houses.  

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Old houses can offer better value for money than new houses. They are structurally stronger and tend to offer more square footage. However, it’s important to purchase an old house in good condition. Maintenance and repairs to foundations can be very costly in old houses. 

Are Old Houses Built Better?

The way the bare bones of a house are laid out has barely changed over the past 100 years. It was a wood frame back then and it’s still a wood frame now. The difference lies in the quality of the wood being used. 

The lumber from old forests has almost all been used up, so the frames of houses are now built using tree-farm wood and its derivatives.

These materials are less long-lasting and can start to rot in a matter of a few years if they’re not meticulously painted and properly maintained.

Older houses are sturdier than their modern equivalents.

Are Old Houses Stronger? 

Older houses were typically constructed with plaster and lathe, as opposed to the drywall used in the construction of modern houses.

These materials are structurally sturdier and are of higher quality than what’s being used today. They’re also more efficient in insulation and soundproofing. 

It’s safe to say that old houses are stronger than new houses. 

What Are the Advantages of Old Houses Over New Houses? 

Owning an old house can come with several perks, including:

  1. Plenty of Space

Old houses were built in an era where the average family was larger than it is today and cities weren’t as crowded. 

As a result, old houses were designed with extensive space, both indoors and outdoors. You’ll be hard-pressed to find newer houses that boast that level of spaciousness.

  1. Good Long-Term Investment

If the cost of post-purchase maintenance isn’t exceedingly high, old houses can make for great investments in the long run.

They’re already scarce, and as more of them are torn down by real estate developers, their supply will diminish, their value will increase, and the demand for them will remain strong as ever.

You can also talk to homeowners in the area with similarly sized properties to gauge what your return on investment might be. 

For example, you could ask them how the sale values of their homes have changed in the past ten years.

  1. Moving in Immediately

The day you move into a new house can often come a year apart from the day you bought it. This may be due to delays in the schedule by the developer, amongst many other reasons.

When you buy an old house, moving in could be as simple as the previous owner handing you the keys.

Old houses are often sold with their furnishing included, so unless you don’t fancy the previous owner’s taste in interior design or want to do some immediate renovations, you can just move in right away. 

  1. Location

Long-distance transportation was more of an inconvenience back in the day. This is why older homes were built in the vicinity of the town’s center, within walking distance of everything. 

Finding a newer house in this location at a reasonable price is almost impossible. 

Victorian Houses in particular offer plenty of space and good build quality.

What Are the Disadvantages of Old Houses?

Having discussed the advantages of buying an old house, let’s discuss the disadvantages:

  1. Non-Compliance With Building Codes

The heating, plumbing, and electrical systems in old houses might not be up to the standards of modern building codes, and their maintenance to get them on par with those codes can be very expensive.

Before buying an old house, it’s essential that you hire a professional to closely examine these systems and give you an assessment on whether they’ll need maintenance to be safe, efficient, and up to modern standards.

  1. Storage Space

Storage space in old houses was designed for a different time; a time in which people bought and owned fewer things than they do today.

This could be problematic seeing as old houses often have slanting floors and irregular edges, making the installation of cupboards and shelves a hassle that you may need the services of a professional for it. This adds more potential costs when moving into an old house.

  1. Old House, Old Trees

More often than not, the yards of old houses have old trees. Obviously, the older the house, the older the tree. What’s wrong with old trees, you might be wondering?

Well, old trees have long, deep, strong roots that can grow into the ground towards the house’s foundation and plumbing system. Their interference with the structural integrity of what’s under the house can cause problems that require expensive solutions.

  1. Outdated Technology

If you want to buy an old house and have green and sustainable technological solutions in mind, you need to think again.

Older houses simply don’t have the capacity for many modern technologies and they’ll probably require complete overhauls to be modernized to incorporate contemporary technologies.

Do Old Houses Last Longer?

Old houses are more durable than their modern counterparts. Newer houses are designed to be demolished and replaced after a decade or two. This is called site-built housing, and it allows developers to fully capitalize on cheaply bought land.

Tthe quality of a house built with this mindset will be lower than that of a house that was built to last, and built on land that was chosen not because it’s cheap, but because it can handle the house’s weight.

When Were Houses Built the Best?

When it comes to quality, you’ll seldom find a new house that can compete with houses from the mid-20th century. 

This is due to the fact that houses from the mid-20th century were built by hand with high-quality materials and extremely high attention to detail.

What to Look Out for When Buying an Old House?

If you’re considering buying an old house, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Foundation Issues

This is often a problem in old houses that must be attended to, and it can be caused by a wide range of factors.

Foundation issues may arise simply because the house has been around for a long time and has significant wear and tear, due to tree roots growing into the house’s foundation or due to seismic movements.

The best course of action is to hire a structural engineer to assess the foundation of the house before buying it, because foundation repairs can be pretty expensive.

  1. Roof Deterioration

Weather conditions and neglectful maintenance from the previous owner can take a toll on an old house’s roof. And if the roof was initially of low quality or was installed incorrectly, it can be even more problematic.

The tell-tale signs of a deteriorated roof include missing shingles as well as leaks or moisture in the level of the house directly under the roof.

  1. Health Risks Due to Building Materials

If the house you’re thinking of buying was built before 1978, chances are it has lead-based paint and asbestos

Therefore, it’s essential that you hire a professional to check the house for these materials (and remove them if they’re present) because they can pose significant, sometimes fatal health risks.

Cracks or crumbling in the house’s paint and/or drywall are a red flag when it comes to lead and asbestos.

Plumbing Issues

Another thing you need to make sure of is that the house’s plumbing system isn’t composed of lead or polybutylene pipes.

The former decomposes with age and can lead to lead fragments getting into your water, while the latter is prone to corrosion and bursting when exposed to cleaning chemicals.


There’s no clear-cut answer as to whether old houses are better than newer ones.

They’re definitely better in terms of sturdiness and structural integrity. They also tend to be a lot cheaper and more spacious than most newer houses.

However, you need to be meticulous in your assessment of old houses before pulling the trigger on one. Otherwise, you could be in for a long, difficult, and expensive road of maintenance and repairs. 

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Hi, I'm Ed, and I run BuildFanatic! I enjoy providing the best possible information on a range of home improvement topics.

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