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

Scott Jackman scott.jackman at
Sat Jun 21 16:47:50 MDT 2008

I'll add my two cents to the Linux Homebuilders Discussion.  It's an
interesting topic.


> 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?

 Quality is in the eye of the beholder and builders know that.  See below.

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?

Yes.  If that weren't the case, builders would be more likely to let to
choose what A/C unit to put in the house.  There are lots of different kinds
from different vendors.  When we built our house we could choose from a few
models of GE.  Period.  If I liked something else, too bad.

> Or is it that people just don't care about quality, and thus, builders
> don't have to care either?

 In general, people are less educated about quality.  Builders understand
that.  They can get by with lower quality by talking it up with cheap
comparisons.  Most buyers aren't going to bother going to understand the
difference between what builder 1 does and builder 2.  This is especially
the case with an entire house.  It would take a very long time to look at
every detail and compare them.  Finally, even if you did that you'd be
surprised in the end.  Once you're locked in and you find some cheap
workmanship in the end, what can you do about it?

One popular alternative is the owner being the general contractor.  At this
point you have a lot more say into what's going on.  However, it is very
painful and sub-contractors know it's a one-time job (they're more likely to
do better work for a company that builds LOTS of houses, not just one).
Again the builder's know all this and take advantage of it.

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?

This is a little true I guess.

Or it because laborers are less skilled today than they were 50 years ago?

I don't think this is the case.  The laborers are building enough houses
that they ought to be skilled.

It's unfair to say that your neighborhood, as average as you claim it is, is
a good comparison point.  Many of the homes built in the 50s are gone.  If
the quality isn't good enough and they don't survive.  It makes you wonder
where these McMansions will be in 50 years.  Will the cheap framing really
last that long?

I think you can generalize a little and link it to the other popular thread
in this group right now.  The average American seems to care less about the
world around them.  You see it in politics, economics, recreation, and even
things like building a home.  Thus the quality of these things decline.

As an example, politics today are nowhere near where they were in the last
1700s.  And the average American values them less.  The voter turn out on
Tuesday will be abysmal.  I guarantee it.  I'll cast my vote, but I'll be in
a great minority.  Yet we're making a very important decision that will
affect us one way or another for the next 2 years.

To get back into this particular thread.  Homes today aren't what they were
even 50 years ago.  I agree with you that the long term quality has
decreased.  But I also believe that people don't value their homes like they
used to either.


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