While ownership of historic homes can be appealing, it’s definitely not for everyone. Historic homes have their own set of challenges and responsibilities. Here’s a look at the joys and frustrations of owning a piece of history.
What qualifies as historic? Historic homes are recognized by an agency or organization such as the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places or other state and local historical societies. Typically a home is designated because it is associated with a famous person or historical event, or the architecture is noteworthy and needs to be preserved.
Before purchasing, find out from the governing agency if renovations and use of the property are restricted. Repairs and replacements are typically permitted but owners may not be permitted to renovate in such a way that significantly changes the interior plan or the outer appearance.
The benefits of owning an historic home. The old saying is true: They don’t make them like they used to. The architecture, the attention to detail and the solid craftsmanship of historic homes have a lasting value. Sometimes, historic homeowners will receive tax abatements as an incentive to keep the historic property in good condition. Additionally, historic homes are typically in mature neighborhoods, with large shade trees and peaceful environments. There’s a restful atmosphere in historic home districts.
Costs of ownership. As idyllic sounding as it might be to live in a piece of history, significant costs are associated with aging homes. Structural issues are one potential problem. Before purchasing, find an inspector that specializes in old homes who can do structural engineering analysis. You may have to weigh whether the home is worth the cost of repairs. In aging homes, you also must look out for health and safety issues, such as the existence of lead-based paint, lead plumbing and asbestos. Removing and replacement costs are significant.
Check the utility bills. Older homes were built before the age of energy efficiency. Ask for one year’s worth of utility bills to see how the house fares in terms of costs.
The sewage goes where? It’s possible that the original sewage system for the home was a cesspool or septic tank out in the yard. If the house is not in an area where it can be connected to city sewage, then you’ll need to make sure the sewage system is up to date and will pass health department inspection.