Real estate defects by year of construction: building fabric, masonry, insulation & Co. – Valuation

Old existing properties and their defects – You would like to invest in a property as a capital investment? Whether built in 1920, 1930 or 1960, old properties have their own individual deficiencies and disadvantages compared to new construction. Have you found a suitable apartment built in 1938? Or an apartment building built in 1982 that you would like to buy? Then you can find out everything about the building fabric, the brickwork, heat and sound insulation and which repairs and defects you should expect. In addition, at the end the question: Should you invest in old real estate?

Old real estate: apartment & house from older decades

Over 2,650,000 properties in Germany were built before the year 1919. And some time later in the middle of the century, there were even almost 7,500,000 houses! Of course, construction technology was different back then. But as the decades passed, the building industry rapidly learned and not only resorted to more efficient building materials, but also focused on the topics of sound and heat insulation, as well as fire protection.

Here is a brief overview:

  • Built before 1919: 2,655,042
  • 1919 – 1949 Built: 2,374,762
  • 1950 – 1979 Built: 7,357,255
  • 1980 – 1989 Built: 2,090,142
  • 1990 – 1999 built: 2.490.829
  • 2000 – 2011 built: 1.954.588

Each decade brought different advantages and disadvantages. Do you want to invest in a condominium built in 1940? Or buy an apartment building built in 1967 as an investment? Before we go into the different defects, here in advance the advantages and disadvantages of such an older existing property:

Existing property: advantages and disadvantages summarized

If you want to invest in an income property, then an existing property from older decades has very clear advantages: The purchase price is low and the rental yield is high. The ancillary purchase costs and the equity capital to be invested are also kept within reasonable limits. At the same time, maintenance costs are comparatively high.

Older existing properties in B and C locations make excellent yield properties!

Here again summarized, the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantage of buying an old property:

  • Mostly more favorable purchase price
  • Costs are calculable if you are aware of the defects
  • Lower purchase price often ensures better return on investment
  • Location in grown infrastructure

Disadvantage of buying an old property:

  • High costs for maintenance and repairs
  • Possible hidden defects

So what distinguishes the properties of different construction years from each other? And what are the respective defects you should expect? So let’s start chronologically – with properties older than 120 years.

Real estate with year of construction 1900

Cracks in the masonry are typical for older properties built before 1900. Due to the outdated construction technology of that time, thermal insulation is either non-existent or inadequate. The windows are usually single-glazed, letting the cold into the house in winter, while moisture accumulates in the attic and basement rooms. And some deficiencies can be found in the bathrooms as well: Lead pipes, which have not been permitted since 1971, can often be found here and usually need to be urgently replaced after purchase.

Typical for 120+ year old properties: energy sufficiency was not an issue back then!

Defects of real estate before 1900

Here is a brief overview:

  • Cracks in plaster and masonry
  • Lack of thermal insulation on the facade, roof and windows
  • Damp basement
  • Outdated technology and electronics
  • Outdated clay and lead pipes in the bathroom

Real estate with year of construction 1900 – 1939

Similar defects can also be found in properties built between 1900 and 1939. A lack of underlayment lets cold and damp into the house, wooden beam ceilings are plagued by sponge infestation and the walls, which are often constructed far too thinly, are prone to mold. Not only the ceiling is made of wood, but also the stairs – an enormous fire risk!

Characteristic: In the past, no attention was paid to fire protection during construction!

Checklist: Defects of real estate around 1900 – 1939

All shortcomings briefly summarized at a glance:

  • Missing underlays
  • Condensation problems
  • Sponge and mold infestation
  • Hardly any fire protection available
  • Obsolete clay and lead pipes
  • Cracks in the masonry

Real estate with year of construction 1939 – 1945

Typical for real estate built between the years 1939 and 1945 is the poor building fabric. During the war, raw materials, time and energy were put into the war. Building was therefore fast and cost-saving, which is why both building fabric and the statics of some properties suffered. Unsuitable building materials were also used, such as building rubble and summer wood.

Checklist: Defects of real estate around 1939 – 1945

Typical deficiencies include:

  • Poor building fabric
  • Pest infestation due to wrong building material
  • Static problems
  • Cracks in the masonry
  • Obsolete gas pipes
  • Hardly any fire protection

Real estate with year of construction 1945 – 1959

Above all, poor or missing thermal insulation is often found in properties built between 1945 and 1959. Building materials that are now considered questionable were also often used. These include asbestos, tar, formaldehyde paint and lead paint. Still an issue: the lack of fire protection. After the war, houses had to be built quickly and efficiently. As a result, there is usually a lack of access for the fire department, and fire doors are also almost non-existent. Soundproofing was also not considered at the time, which is why old apartments from this period are often very bright.

Checklist: Defects of real estate around 1945 – 1959

Characteristic of real estate from the period are:

  • Use of questionable building materials
  • Lack of fire protection
  • Lack of soundproofing
  • Lack of thermal insulation
  • Leaking gas pipes
  • Cracks in the masonry

Real estate with year of construction 1960 – 1969

In the second half of the 20th century, the construction method improved. Wood was no longer used for stairs and ceiling. Instead, stone and concrete were now used and the windows were insulated with aluminum. Drains prevented moisture from causing mold in the basement and attic, and underlayment was installed. From now on, emphasis was placed on thermal insulation, but harmful substances continued to be used for this purpose.

Checklist: Defects of real estate around 1960 – 1969

Here is a brief overview:

  • Building materials of concern
  • Insulation harmful to health
  • Concrete damage
  • Uninsulated roof trusses

Real estate with year of construction 1970 – 1979

In the 1970s, building technology once again improves immensely. The newly adopted requirements for sound insulation lead to more efficient construction. Lead pipes are no longer laid, but copper water pipes, and construction is mainly done with concrete. Despite improved building materials, cold penetrates the living spaces in winter and leads to mold.

Checklist: Defects of real estate around 1970 – 1979

Typical deficiencies include:

  • Parquet adhesive containing tar
  • In need of renovation
  • Concrete as a building material

Real estate with year of construction 1980 – 1999

Properties built in the last 30 to 40 years are usually characterized by their modern construction technology. Nevertheless, some deficiencies can be found here as well. The costs for maintenance are high, the roof connections are broken and the central heating before 1985 often leads to problems.

Checklist: Defects of real estate around 1980 – 1999

Here again the typical defects from 1980 – 1999:

  • Connections and terminations for flat roof
  • Central heating
  • Expensive maintenance

Conclusion: Should you invest in old real estate?

Admittedly: Compared to new buildings of the modern age, properties from older construction years have their very own charm. And depending on the year of construction, they bring their own advantages and disadvantages, and with a little capital, even building services, roof and masonry can be renewed.

You can now find even more about the respective defects by year of construction on my new project for real estate buyers (