What should I know about buying an historic home?

A. Buying an historic home is a romantic idea. You’ve seen a home that you fell in love with and you want it!

But there are some important things to know beforehand. Many of these homes are in some state of disrepair. That can lead to potential problems for a number of reasons.

You may already have some ideas of things you want to do to your historic home, but before you make any changes to the structure itself, you need to do some research and make sure you have the answers to these questions:

1. Is your home designated as historic – part of a state or federal historical building or neighborhood registry? If so, you may have to adhere to a number of regulations and be subject to some historical preservation oversight in order to update the home. There will be many limitations to what you can and cannot do.

2. How extensive do you want the updates to be? Often these homes require all new plumbing and electrical just to get up to local codes. And beware if you are planning to add on to the structure as most communities will not allow you to change the original “footprint” of a designated historic house. Many will not even allow you to change the exterior look of the existing structure.

3. How authentic do you want the renovations to be? The more accurate the details, such as spindle bannisters and intricate moldings, the higher the cost in materials and labor. Just painting one of these homes in several different colors can be a very expensive undertaking.

Find out if there are any local or state subsidies for historic preservation for homes in your area. You could get tax breaks and special home improvement loans or other assistance. Contact your local housing authority for more information.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has some excellent resources for homeowners of older or historic homes. There are also a number of websites that cater to historic homes, such as historicproperties.com and thisoldhouse.com.

As you can see, there is much to know. I’d be more than happy to discuss this further with you and answer any questions you may have. Just give me a call!


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