Buying & Selling Houses

Which Era’s Homes Are Most Valuable?

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Modern home with large glass sliding doors and outdoor furniture

All home eras are not created equally, especially when it comes to investing in real estate. Each decade of homes has unique pros and cons, and average home values can vary drastically from one to the next.

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BPInsights took a look at the data and evaluated average home values and features by decade, ranging from historic homes built prior to 1940 to ultra-modern homes built after 2014. Here’s what we found.

Key Takeaways

  • For the most part, the newer the home, the greater its average value.
  • Homes built after 2014 have the highest value, averaging at $456,968.
  • Older homes (those built before 1940) also have strong value ($333,852 average), as there’s always a market for historic homes with unique features.
  • Homes built “in the middle” (between 1940 and 1989) are the least valuable on average.
  • The least valuable home decades are the 1970s ($292,832 average) and the 1940s ($283,547 average).

1990 to Present

Not surprisingly, the newest homes are the most valuable. They’re built to current standards and require less maintenance overall, making them attractive to buyers.

Related: BPInsights Data: Top 5 Real Estate Investing Markets for 2020

2014 and On

Homes built after 2014 have the highest average value. Buyers are willing to pay a premium for these homes because they’re well-designed, energy-efficient, spec-ed to contemporary living standards, and they’re the cheapest to maintain.

Average home value: $456,968

1990 to 2013

Homes built between 1990 and 2013 also have strong value. The closer you get to 2013, the higher the average home value you can expect.

These homes tick important boxes for buyers—think open floor plans, substantial kitchen islands, and large, updated bathrooms.

Scandinavian styled dining room and open plan kitchen with patio outlook

But they’ve got their cons, too, namely their cookiecutter designs. Newer homes tend to sit on smaller lots and are usually located in developments with dozens of similar, if not identical homes.

Still, contemporary homes perform well value-wise, as there’s always a market for them.

Average home value:

  • 2010 to 2013: $419,236
  • 2000s: $388,819
  • 1990s: $357,631

1970s and 1980s

There’s a huge dropoff in average home value when you start to look at homes built in the 1980s and 1970s.

1970s homes particularly lag behind in value, with average home values at just $292,832. In fact, the 1970s is one of the two worst-performing decades when it comes to home values (the other being the 1940s).

There are a few reasons that 1970s homes are lower in demand.

For one thing, 1970s homes are nearly 1,000 square feet smaller than modern homes, and generally have tiny master bathrooms—an unpopular feature for buyers, not to mention an expensive upgrade for investors.

Homes built in the 1970s and 1980s also tend to have significant maintenance issues. Their plumbing is often subpar compared to modern standards. Many ‘70s homes used galvanized steel pipes with a lifespan of 20 to 50 years, while ‘80s homes favored polybutylene pipes made of plastic—a material that ended up being defective. Plumbing in these homes will likely need to be replaced if it hasn’t been already.

Related: What Investors Should Know About Rent to Income Ratio (+5 Great RTI Markets)

Many homes of this era also have electric systems that aren't grounded, so they don't have added shock protection, which is a safety feature modern buyers expect. 1970s homes can also have foundation erosion issues, as most have slab-on-grade foundations.

All in all, 1970s and 1980s homes may require quite a bit of work to get them up to code, and architecturally, they’re out of vogue with buyers, therefore fetching lowing prices.

Average home value:

  • 1980s: $311,720
  • 1970s: $292,832

1940s to 1960s

Homes built in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s didn’t hold value particularly well. Houses of this era were built quickly to accommodate the expanding population after World War II. For that reason, many of these homes are tiny, simple, and prefabricated.

These midcentury homes may lack proper insulation, as they were usually built with single-pane windows, and their electric and heating systems are usually pretty basic—assuming they haven’t been upgraded since construction.

metal cookie cutter in the shape of a house placed in grass

They also lack the safety features today’s buyers expect, such as grounded electric systems. And speaking of electric systems, homes of this era typically have just a few power outlets per room.

Asbestos and lead are also quite common in these homes, and any outdated galvanized steel plumbing pipes will need to be replaced as they only have a lifespan of up to 50 years. Plus, these older homes may have deteriorating foundations that need fixing.

Homes of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s can be costly to upgrade, and they tend to be smaller, lacking the spacious open layouts today’s buyers are looking for.

Average home value:

  • 1960s: $304,803
  • 1950s: $299,638
  • 1940s: $283,547

1939 and Older

After newer homes, historic homes hold the most value, with the average home value coming in at $333,852.

Older homes are packed with charm and unique details that buyers love. Of course, they do require a lot more maintenance, but they’re also usually built to last, featuring hardwood or old-growth wood frames that can withstand the test of time.

Related: How to Determine a Property’s Value Using Real Estate Comps

Expect these homes to have good bones, but understand they may need costly upgrades to fetch top dollar on the market.

Average home value: $333,852

Conclusion

Now that we’ve looked at home values and features across the decades, we can come to a few conclusions about which era of homes has the best value and why.

  • Newer constructions are the highest-value homes because they’re up to modern building codes, they’re cheaper to maintain, and they better meet the preferences of today’s buyers.
  • The oldest homes (built prior to 1940) hold value well and remain desirable for their unique features and durable construction but can be costly to fix up and maintain.
  • Homes “in the middle” (1940 to 1989) are worth the least because they’re usually dated, in need of expensive upgrades, and not up to today’s safety—or living—standards.

Of course, individual cities may have their own market quirks, so it’s always a good idea to look into decade-by-decade average home values for your city before making your next investment.

Questions? Comments? Which era of homes do you prefer and why?

Join the discussion below!

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    D.J. Parten from Tallahassee, FL
    Replied 13 days ago
    This is interesting. I'd be curious to see how architecture style impacts those numbers. I'm sure it varies based on what part of the country and even what neighborhood it is in, but it would be interesting to see the overall preferred architecture type.
    Brad Taylor from Chicago, IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    Great point D.J., and I was wondering the same thing. Chicago has some of the most beautiful residential architecture of any city I’ve been to, AND they were still built en masse. Gorgeous rows of brick bungalows, brick and stone 2 and 3 flats, and 2-story frames of all styles can be found in nearly any neighborhood. Lots of charming details in almost every home. I think that definitely contributes to strong, stable appreciation for decades in a market that has this kind of architecture.
    Mona Lisa Harrison Realtor from Greenville, SC
    Replied 12 days ago
    I would agree with this in our area. EXCEPT, the true mid century MODERN is a hot trend now. There's not that many here in Upstate SC, but even in not great condition, you can get good prices.
    Julie Marquez Investor from Seattle, WA
    Replied 10 days ago
    This is a fabulous discussion and I love a solid 90's home that just need a little cosmetic upgrade to bring it to the current century.