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6 Things to Consider When Buying a Historic Home

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6 Things to Consider When Buying a Historic Home
4 min. read

Image: Fotimageon / Shutterstock.com

Historic homes are a link to the past, to better times when experienced craftsmen never rushed. Love and attention went into the small details, and homes were built to last. If you’re in the market for a historic home, you may have already fallen in love with a stunning property from yesteryear. 

However, beneath the charm and history, there lurk a few potential problems. Each home is different, of course, but it’s well worth being aware of these six considerations when buying a historic home:

1.   They Can Be Hard Work

The clue is in the name, really. Historic homes are old, and with age can come potential problems for the new owner. It depends entirely on how the home has been maintained until now; some are freshly renovated and fitted with modern conveniences, while others have been neglected for decades and need a full rebuild. Either way, older homes demand far more regular maintenance than their newer counterparts.

It helps to be handy, as there’s often something that will need to be fixed. Expect to spend much of your free time working on the home and dealing with issues that have been around for decades, in some cases – such as damp basements, termite damage, electrical problems, etc.

2.   Renovation Restrictions

If you’re in the market for a cheap, historical fixer-upper, it’s worth doing your homework first. Many such homes are situated in designated historic districts, which are subject to their own set of local laws. Often, owners are required to get the green light from the city or the local historical society before making changes to their homes. Requests can take a long time to approve, and authorities have the power to demand that you reverse any changes you make that go against the rules.

It’s not all bad news, though. Many restrictions focus on the more historic (typically exterior) elements of your home that set it aside from modern homes – things many homeowners would prefer to keep. Upgrading your electrical and plumbing is normally okay, as is fitting a new kitchen or bathroom. However, replacing doors and windows can be trickier.

3.   A Possible Mish-Mash

When a building has housed numerous families over the course of a hundred years or more, it’s almost inevitable that there will be a clash of design elements. In some cases, you may find homes that have modernized the kitchen, but kept the 1970s decor in the bathrooms. If you’re looking for a home that flows, there’s a high chance that a historic home won’t deliver.

4.   A Good home Inspection is Essential

With so many potential issues associated with the old-age of a historic home, a good inspection is extremely important. First of all, be observant when taking your first look around. Look for signs of dampness and water damage, faulty wiring, drafts or poor plumbing. Next, hire an inspector who has experience with the style and age of the home you’re planning to buy. They will have a better idea of the particularities of certain models of houses, and will be better able to identify problem areas.

5.   You’ll Probably Pay More

In one way or another, a designated historic home will probably cost you more than a more modern one. If it’s been well-maintained and renovated, it’ll probably sell for a premium. On the other hand, you might bag a bargain and buy one that needs a lot of work. The renovations and upgrades will typically cost more than normal, as it’s likely that you’ll need to buy special replacements for windows, trimmings, moldings, and doors. Finally, historic homes typically need a more specialized insurance policy. You’ll need to take great care when budgeting, and set aside more than you need to keep up with mortgage payments, insurance, renovations, maintenance, and utilities.

6.   Possible Financial Gains

On the flip side, there are potential financial benefits to be enjoyed when owning a historic home. In some areas, state or local governments offer tax incentives and lower interest loans to people who wish to purchase a historic home, hoping that they will either restore or simply preserve them. As homeowners in designated historic districts are required to abide by strict rules, there’s a good chance that all the homes in your neighborhood will be well-maintained, and less chance of a neighbor building a value-dropping eye-sore on your street. As such, property prices are less likely to drop, meaning you can be sure of a decent resale price.

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