Should you buy a stucco home in Atlanta? A better question might be should you buy a home clad with synthetic stucco or EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish System)?  This cladding was very popular around Atlanta during the 80’s to early 00’s because of the ease and low cost to install. The foam board installed behind the stucco provides synthetic stuccoadded insulation and the product is very easy for architects to use in design.  Synthetic stucco was meant to be a barrier system that kept water out, but poor installation (mainly flashing issues) can allow water to penetrate and remain unable to escape. Over time, the trapped moisture will eventually eat away sheathing, structural framing, and even interior finishes. Mold, fungal growth and rot are common. Termites are a concern as well. Because synthetic stucco holds moisture, termite activity is more likely to infect rigid board insulation covered with synthetic stucco and move on to the framing members.

In 1995, several EIFS-related lawsuits were filed in North Carolina and homeowners alleged a laundry list of issues. Engineers were brought in and it was demonstrated that once water gets into the EIFS insulation board, it has no way of getting out. Water penetration was not the main issue as water can easily penetrate many types of exterior finishes. The problem, according to some civil engineers, was water retention. The EIFS system virtually wraps the exterior of the home in an energy-efficient blanket, which promotes energy efficiency but can leave water trapped within.

Problems noted with synthetic stucco homes:

  • Increased level of humidity within the home
  • Infestations of termites, ants, and other insects
  • Mold, mildew, or fungi growth on the interior walls or on window frames
  • Cracking of the drywall
  • Cracking, peeling, and bubbling of paint
  • Cracking on the EIFS dressing bands around windows
  • Delamination—EIFS coming loose from the sheathing of the house
  • Rotting of wood trim
  • Loss of structural integrity

We always make our buyers and sellers aware of these issues. Walking into a home with synthetic stucco siding can be enlightening for a buyer and alarming for a seller. We regularly see wood rot by windows and doors. In some cases we see signs of moisture damage inside, under windows and along baseboards. On basement homes we have noticed signs of moisture along sill plates and on joists.

Another factor in the mix are appraisals. Appraisers will likely note any materials that are regarded as defective or that have industry concerns. If a home has wood rot, signs of excessive moisture or infestation, the presence of synthetic stucco may be noted. If it's serious, calls for inspection may be made by the appraiser and this can result in underwriting and loan issues.

Suggestions for homes with synthetic stucco:

  • Inspection by a firm specializing in this field
  • Secure a stucco bond to cover any damage and repair
  • Cut the stucco 6” from the ground to keep air flowing and termites at bay
  • Regularly check for rot, mold or termite activity

synthetic-stucco-rotThese suggestions apply for both buyers and sellers. Sellers should anticipate inspectors raising flags and buyers acting with trepidation. Buyers that don’t bring in a dedicated stucco inspection firm are asking for trouble.

There is one last thing to consider with stucco homes; many relocation companies discourage or simply direct transferees not to purchase them. High value employees are often covered with “buy outs”. This is when a relocation firm purchases the home to expedite the move and make things easy for the transferee. Given the potential for issues and resulting market stigma with stucco homes, some will suspend offers to buy out transferees of stucco homes.  In a market like Atlanta which has significant relocation activity, this can be a problem for owners of stucco homes as the buyer pool shrinks.

While these issues are particularly troublesome with EFIS, hard coat stucco also has things to be concerned about. In and around Atlanta, both are considered “stucco” and painted with the same broad brush. The key for both buyers and sellers of stucco homes is to be educated and work only with professionals.

The Hank Miller Team puts 30+ years of full time sales & appraisal experience to work for you. Act with complete confidence & make sound, decisive real estate decisions. 678-428-8276 and

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