How old are America's houses? The surprising results of our old house poll

Shannon Lee

Over a decade ago, we posed the question: How old is your house? Over a thousand of you answered, and the results were clear: at least among the readers of OldHouseWeb.com, when it comes to housing stock in the U.S., those historic gems are winners. Well over half of all respondents owned old American homes - those built in 1945 or earlier. 45.5 percent owned homes built between 1900 and 1945. 33.3 percent owned homes built between 1800 and 1899. And a brave, history-loving 5.1 percent of respondents owned homes built before 1800.

We compared your answers with those from a 1995 housing survey conducted by the U.S. Census. In that poll, only 27.5 percent of homeowners lived in a house that was built in 1949 or earlier, and 8.9 percent of those polled lived in a home that was built in 1919 or earlier.

Piechart  showing how old are houses among OldHouseWeb visitors

How old are houses in the rest of the country?

Those who visit OldHouseWeb tend to own homes that are older than the average. A housing survey conducted by the U.S. Census in 2009 found the median age of American houses to be 36 years, with 22.9 percent of homes built during the 1950s and 1960s.

The median age of homes also depends heavily on the area of the country. Homes in the Northeast are older, with a median age of 51 years. This isn't a surprising statistic for old house or history buffs, as homes built in the early to mid-1800s are common in the New England states. Homes in the South tend to be younger, with a median age of 31 years.

The 1950s and 1960s saw a housing boom across the nation. Of the homes standing today, 22.9 percent were built during those two decades. Regionally, 12 percent of the homes in the Midwest and 14 percent of homes in the Northeast were built in the 1950s. 11 percent of the homes in the South and in the West were built in the 1960s. The housing boom in the Northeast began well before the 1950s, however; 14 percent of homes in the area were built before 1919.

Breaking old house age down even further

Many of those vintage homes are located in metro areas of the state. A quick survey of homes in New York shows 101,800 of homes in Buffalo were built in 1919 or earlier. In New York City, that number jumped to 792,800, accounting for a large chunk of the older homes in the state. Rochester also offered a significant showing, with 91,800 of the homes there built before 1919.

What about other states? Here are how a few of the biggest metro areas stack up with homes that were built before 1919:

1.     Chicago: 310,400

2.     Boston: 288,800

3.     Northern New Jersey: 271,400

4.     Philadelphia: 271,400

5.     Minneapolis: 112,500

How old is America?

America will be 235 years old this 4th of July. As expected, the largest concentration of older homes in metro areas are also in areas that were settled earlier than most of states in the nation. However, some older areas of the country buck the trend with a lower incidence of historic homes. For instance, Atlanta offers only 15,500 homes that were built before 1919. Kansas City, Missouri offers 38,000, while Norfolk, Virginia has only 16,600 homes built before the roaring 20s.

Where are older homes least popular? You won't find many of these historic gems in Tampa, Florida, where there are only 2,100 homes were built before 1919. The median age of all homes in Tampa metro area is 31 years. Looking to the other side of the country, San Diego homes have a median age of 36 years, with only 8,100 built before 1919.

However, it is that desert oasis of Phoenix, Arizona that takes the top prize among metro areas with few older houses. There are only about 900 homes in Phoenix that were built before 1919, and the median age of homes in the area is 28 years.

old American homes

We want to hear about your old house

Now we're ready to see how trends have changed. Are you living in an even older house? Have you moved into a new build and left the historical structure behind? How does your old house measure up against the age of other houses in your region, metro area or across the nation?

This is National Preservation Month, and in celebration we want to hear you sound off about your old house by taking our online poll. Tell us all about your old house, then come back and see the results of what you and other old house aficionados had to say about your historic treasures.


How old are houses in the U.S.?

Year Built Number of units
% of Total
 2005 to 2009  
 4601  6%
 2000 to 2004  
 6371  8.3%
 1995 to 1999  
 6221  8.1%
 1990 to 1994   
 1985 to 1989  
 1980 to 1984 
 1975 to 1979 
 1970 to 1974 
 1960 to 1969  
 1950 to 1959  
 1940 to 1949  
 1930 to 1939  
 1920 to 1929  
 1919 or earlier 
 Median  1975  

Source: U.S. Census Bureau - 2009 American Housing Survey


About the Author
Shannon Dauphin is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. Her current home was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her necessary hobbies.

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