What You Need To Know Before Buying a Historic Home

Throughout American history, people have left their marks on this country in a number of ways. One avenue to look back and connect with the culture and identity of those who came before us is through appreciating the places where they lived. Historic homes are a treasure to many communities and districts around the country, telling stories of the past both virtuous and controversial. Because of their unique architecture and rich history, these homes can make for very charismatic places to live. If you are looking to purchase a historic home to make your own, there are some peculiar details in addition to the basics of buying a home you should know first.

Here's what you need to know before buying a historic home:

Structural flaws are more likely. In addition to many of the common issues found during a home inspection, older homes may have more serious structural imperfections. Make sure you hire a home inspection company which specializes in old homes — they will know exactly what to look for. It is unlikely that any historic home will be in near perfect shape, of course, but some structural issues may be impossible or extremely expensive to reverse. While having imperfections is part of a historic home’s uniqueness, you will have to decide how much you’re willing to accept.  

It comes with a lot of responsibility. Living in a locally or nationally treasured home means you are responsible for preserving and appreciating what makes that home special. You will have the opportunity to take a great amount of pride in doing your part to keep the home’s history alive. If your idea of owning a home is having a private, personalized opinion on your house, owing a historic home (which will be much more visible to the public eye) might not be your best option.

Your utility bills may be higher. Due to the way homes were built in previous decades and centuries, and the wear and tear they have undergone since, older homes are often more expensive to insulate and maintain. Your utility bills will likely be higher than that of newer homes, no matter how hard you try to be proactive about keeping bills low. You might consider entirely replacing heating/cooling systems or updating the insulation or piping throughout the home. 

Upgrades might not be an option. In order to preserve their value and meaning, many historic homes are part of historic districts which have strict rules for what homeowners can and cannot change about their homes. In some places, there are set guidelines for what you can upgrade, often restricting homeowners from making any changes to the exterior of their homes. In other cases, you’ll have to apply before a board to request permission to make changes or upgrades to a home. Even in cases where an upgrade seems necessary in order to make the house livable, some districts will allow no such altering of their historic homes. Your Realtor should walk you through the neighborhood’s unique guidelines and help you find a home that you can properly live in, restore, and preserve.

Some tax breaks are offered. Because historic homeowners are taking a responsibility to restore and preserve pieces of local history, they may receive breaks on their taxes. This will help offset some of the repairs that may be necessary.

Your home will have a personal charm. If you want a home like no other, look into purchasing a historic home. While there may be some extra costs and responsibility involved, it can be a rewarding and exciting experience to bridge the stories of the past with the present.

What You Need to Know BEFORE Buying a Historic Home 

We hope this overview was helpful if you are considering purchasing a historic home! Please comment with any other suggestions or questions.


If you liked this article, you will also like: 

In Defense of Buying a Historic Home: It Could be Downright Amazing by Rachel Stults for Realtor.com

Historic Home Buying 101 by Bobvila.com 

Tax Incentives for Historic Preservation by Houselogic.com