Historic Homes: What You Need To Know Before Buying

July 6th, 2015

There’s nothing quite like driving through a neighborhood of beautiful, old homes. The homes are full of charm, elegance and often have historical significance – both in the architecture and ownership. Historic homes offer a certain appeal to prospective homebuyers; however, like any home, you should always weigh the pros and cons before making a purchase.

How do you know if a home is historically significant?

Before buying you will want verification of the home’s importance. Keep in mind that how a home is “historic” may depend on various factors. The original owner or architect of the home may have been historically important, a notable event may have taken place within the home or the home may be a part of a historic neighborhood. However the home became “historic”, a homebuyer will want to do their own research and verification. The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the official site for historic properties and can help you discover if your home is historic. In addition to the NRHP, the National Trust for Historic Preservation also lists homes and properties for sale.

Benefits of purchasing a historic home

Besides the beauty and charm, a historic home offers a story that takes you back to a time in US history. As a historic homeowner you are preserving US history and possibly opening up your home to historians and others interested in learning about the home’s personal story. The property of the home may also be filled with significant and established landscaping, like effigy mounds, which is an added benefit to the home.

Historical homes have numerous benefits:

  • They are aesthetically pleasing
  • State and local governments may offer you tax incentives or lower interest loans to restore the historical home or just purchase and preserve it
  • You get to live in a piece of history significant to your area
  • You may meet other historian enthusiasts
  • If desired, you may be able to host public functions such as weddings, parties or tours

Disadvantages to purchasing a historic home

There are many advantages to owning a historic home, however, there are a few disadvantages that are important to consider. Because the home is historic and meant to be preserved in its as-close-to-original state, it is common for the home or property to come with restrictions. The restrictions can be as simple as paint colors while others may require that the home cannot be changed in any way. As mentioned above, to understand what you can and cannot do to the prospective home or property, you should do as much research as possible before purchasing so you know exactly what to expect. You may also have to take on the role as “caregiver” in addition to owner, in which case you will be required to hire particular landscapers or preservationists to keep up the appearance. Knowing that this home or property will require higher upkeep, you’ll want to be honest and realistic about your dedication to the home and know that you will likely have much higher maintenance and repair costs. Lead paint, mold and asbestos are some of the major upgrades that can come with maintaining a historic home.

Disadvantages include:

  • Structural issues
  • Possible home hazards like lead paint and asbestos
  • High upkeep and maintenance costs
  • Need to hire expert professionals and preservationists
  • Need to adhere to strict guidelines, rules or restrictions

Tips for buying a historic home

If you are dedicated to preserving a historic home and are ready to dive in and purchase one, make sure you do your research early and thoroughly to ensure you get the most out of your investment. In addition, understand how the home is significant and how it contributed to the history of the surrounding area. A good owner is enthusiastic about preserving the home in all its allure and grace and is happy to share the story with other historians and enthusiasts.

Tips for buying:

  • Have a full understanding of what you can and cannot do to the home
  • Hire an experienced home inspector to do a thorough walk through
  • Get estimates from local contractors to see how much repairs and restorations will costs

By choosing to buy a historic home you are allowing a tradition to live on within your community along with respecting the original owner and family. You become a part of the unique history the home manifests and will continue to manifest for generations to come, and that is something truly special.