Crappy Houses (was: OT - Gas to hit 4.00)

Dave Smith dave at
Sat Jun 21 11:41:21 MDT 2008

Andy Bradford wrote:
>> That's  my answer.  What's yours?  Here's the  question, restated:  If
>> houses really are more expensive  today (even inflation adjusted) than
>> they were in days past, why isn't the quality higher?
> Higher than what?  To which standard of quality are  you referring?

Perhaps you missed some of the earlier posts in the thread. Earlier in 
the thread, there seemed to be consensus that homes built today are made 
with shoddy workmanship and cheaper materials than homes of yesteryear. 
I'll spell it out for you we're so fond of splitting semantic hairs on 
plug. Homes today seem to be built with materials and workmanship of 
lower quality than what is *available* today than they were 50 years ago 
with what was *available* 50 years ago. Obviously, it wouldn't be fair 
to say that modern plastic plumbing is clearly better than 50-year old 
clay/metal plumbing, therefore homes built today are higher quality. So 
let me share some specific examples to make my point (and question) more 

Example 1: I live in a neighborhood where virtually every house is brick 
on all 4 sides. The houses in the neighborhood range from 50 to 90 
years-old. This was not a high end neighborhood when it was built, and 
yet today, you'd have to pay premium prices to get an all brick house. 
And even then, the brick is generally cosmetic and not structural. My 
house and most others around me are made of 4 inch block surrounded by 
red brick. The walls are nearly a foot thick. It's great for insulation 
and you could crash a truck into it without destroying the house. Why 
can you not buy such a house today without paying through the nose?

Example 2: My parents bought a large, new home 8 years ago in Northern 
Virginia in an upscale neighborhood. They paid extra for lots of 
upgrades like granite counter tops, premium cabinets, and real wood 
flooring. And yet, despite the fact that they paid through the nose, the 
doors don't all shut right and you could poke a ball point pen through 
the siding that covers 3 of the 4 faces of the house. Furthermore, the 
air condition unit is the absolute cheapest you can buy and has died 
after only 8 years. The builder offered no upgrade for the A/C unit at 
purchase time. The same is true of the dishwasher, garbage disposal, and 
other appliances. They are all the least expensive appliances available, 
and the builder offers no upgrade for these units. In talking to their 
friends in other Northern Virginia areas, my parents have discovered 
that virtually all new construction is of the same poor quality and low 
quality appliances. Do you think consumers *want* that? If houses are so 
much more expensive today, don't you think you'd be getting better 
quality stuff?

Example 3: (again from my house). My 50 year-old home was built with 
hard wood floors throughout the house. Every house I've seen in my 
neighborhood was also built this way. In a new home, you have to pay 
*extra* for hard wood floors instead of the cheap linoleum or low-grade 
carpet you get by default.

Why is this? I don't know for sure, but I have some theories:

Is it because builders of yesteryear took pride in building quality, 
long-lasting homes? Or is it because market forces aren't what they used 
to be, and thus consumers have less influence today than they did 50 
years ago about the quality of their homes? Or is it that people just 
don't care about quality, and thus, builders don't have to care either? 
Or is it because "cheap stuff" just wasn't as readily available 50 years 
ago as it was today. Perhaps 50 years ago there wasn't a global economy 
providing cheap labor and imitation knock-offs from overseas markets? Or 
it because laborers are less skilled today than they were 50 years ago?

Do you agree with my examples? If so, what's the explanation in your 


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