Last week, Jill and I turned 60. This wouldn't have been so bad except that we were supposed to be in Portugal celebrating this milestone together at a beautiful seaside town in a charming Airbnb. (Non-refundable.) While it's no fun having to sideline our highly-anticipated plans, we're hardly alone; almost everyone in the U.S. is in the same boat. We're ALL stuck at home and not going anywhere anytime too soon. (Bummer.)
Because birthdays are now announced on Facebook, it's impossible to deny them, so thank you one and all for the well wishes; I appreciated the shout outs, although 60 is starting to feel a little old. However, one greeting went along the lines of this: "I can't believe you're 60!" (Why, thank you.) "You look really good . . . for your age." (Say what?)
I know what she meant, and I know she meant well, and truth be told, I've probably said the same thing myself to others thinking it was a compliment, but now having been the beneficiary, I've decided the concept of "looking good for your age," should only ever be applied to inanimate objects, like cars and homes.
On Wednesday, Sarah and I quietly put a 1917 Brown Shingle home into contract in a behind-the-scenes transaction that made good sense for everyone. The Buyers needed to close before school begins, and the Sellers had identified another property and didn't want to carry two mortgages. It's a honey of a house and a sweet ending for both parties and we were pleased to make it happen so quickly.
Moreover, this home has been meticulously and lovingly restored by the Sellers; every window was rebuilt, the roof was replaced, solar panels were added, there's a new foundation, improved drainage was installed, the kitchen and bathrooms were remodeled, a large family room was added, the exterior was reshingled, the electrical and plumbing were upgraded, and the entire property was professionally landscaped (and that's just a partial list). This house not only looks good "for its age;" it performs far better than the original design!
Sadly, many of the homes Sarah and I are asked to evaluate don't fare nearly as well, and haven't had the benefit of a complete makeover, or if they have, they took place in the 70s. (News flash, 70's remodels are now 50 years old!) Foundations on these 100-year-old homes are often original, knob-and-tube wiring still carries much of the electricity, and dry rot and termite damage may amount to tens of thousands of dollars. What was the height of fashion in kitchen and bathrooms in the 20's is dated and worn, and the flow of the house is less than ideal. We simply live in our houses differently today. These grand dames might be elegant and spacious, but they don't necessarily meet today's current lifestyles or demands.
For legacy homes that have remained in the family for decades, their last real inspection may have also been decades ago (if ever). So imagine the Sellers' surprise when they decide to sell only to have the Agents voice concern, and the inspectors walk through and red flag many of the major components of the property. (BTW, condition absolutely affects value.)
It's important to note that inspectors conduct their inspections based on today's current codes and that the building codes are updated every three years. Consequently, what was built "to code" in 1917 is unlikely to pass today. However, as it would be totally impractical to expect homeowners to update every component in their homes to meet today's current standards, many of these items are "grandfathered" in with the understanding that when home remodels are undertaken, the current codes will most certainly come into play. (You can count on it.)
As such, we're not so much homeowners as stewards for our homes. If we're fortunate in life, we get both the benefits AND the costs that go along with home ownership. On balance, it's a nice problem to have. Still, defects left unattended for decades can become very expensive to correct and often lead to much BIGGER problems down the road. In short, if your roof is leaking, a blue tarp isn't going to solve the issue.
So, if it's been years since someone has critically examined your house, it might be time to undergo a home and pest inspection - even if you don't plan to sell anytime too soon. Given that for most of us, our homes represent our single-largest investment, and that we may have worked decades to own them, it'd be wise to make sure that your home "looks good for its age" (and I mean that as a compliment).
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.