It may be better in VA but not in CA. It's the codes that have changed through the years that make the newer houses more efficient, that's all. If the contractors building today didn't have these restrictions, the houses built would be real cheap (in construction and quality) so they can make more money. It's the things you don't see that can make or break the house.
There are some things they require today that I think need to be improved still, in the SFBA, the only walls that are required to be level are on the outside corners and no interior walls. Also, what ever way the foundation goes, so does the house, if it isn't square, the house won't be either. I've never seen an inspector check this in any track or custom home I've worked in.
In my business (kitchen & bathroom remodeling), I live by the square and level. I was trying to install kitchen cabinets in one of these buggers, the "L" shaped kitchen was 2" out of square in a 10' run and 1/2" out of level at the window. This was a 2 year old $Mill+ Presley (builder) house with all the energy saving gizmos. Why remodel when everything is new? They didn't like the color/wood of the cabinets. At a glance, it looked great ... until you got to the fine detail, they were the cheapest crap you can buy.
The outside of these houses look beautiful but if you look closely at this detail you'll see cracks in the places where they stucco'd over styrofoam shapes or broken pieces of this type of outside window trim that were knocked off. 5/8" plywood sub-flooring that gives when you put weight on it (level up a cabinet and step back, it's no longer level), I could go on and on, don't get me started. As these houses get older, they tend to fall apart.
IMHO, any of the houses built up to the 50's were of better craftmanship/detail/materials but had no thought of efficiency but this can be corrected and you can end up with a awesome house depending on what you do to it. The problem is that the neighborhood probably won't be as nice as a gated community like a Blackhawk/Presley home.