I Speak Vintage has heard quite a few horror stories from folks that have bought vintage or historic homes, only to be left holding the bag, as it were. While historic homes have an appeal and charm for many buyers, there are certain restrictions and expenses (that’s an understatement) you need to know about before signing on the dotted line.
While being the proud and preening owner of a piece of history or a home that may literally be one-of-a-kind is alluring, you may run into unexpected complications when purchasing vintage homes. Older homes can have serious structural problems as well as hidden problems, which will only surface later.
To help protect your future home investment, here is some vital information and expert advice about buying an historic home.
So, what is an historic home?
Here’s the Reader’s Digest take — A home is labeled historic or “architecturally significant” by the National Register of Historic Places or by a local historic or preservation board if it exemplifies a signature architectural style, captures the essence of a given time period (period of significance), or is associated with famous people. Also included in this category are homes located in neighborhoods that have been designated as historic districts. There is much, much more that to be considered regarding historic designations and land marking a property but that is for another time. Moving on.
Benefits of buying an historic home.
The aesthetic benefits of historic homes major draws for many homebuyers, as is the often-unmatched architecture that has withstood the test of time. Other homebuyers are attracted to the historical significance of the home or district, or have an attachment to the era that these iconic homes represent.
If you are thinking about buying an historic home, you will be happy to learn that additional benefits may accompany the purchase of an historic property. Many states and local governments offer tax incentives in the form of tax credits or lower interest loans for preserving and restoring historic structures. Although you have to qualify for these tax abatements and while the amounts won’t make you rich, they are still benefits you would not otherwise receive when buying a new house.
Listen up: here’s some sage advice on buying historic homes.
If you have set your sights on a vintage home, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of purchasing your coveted property. Before you seal the deal, here is some expert advice on buying an older house.
- Conduct a formal home inspection by a licensed home inspector who specializes in older homes and/or by a structural engineer.
- Make sure the house meets safety and health standards, including passing asbestos and lead paint tests. It’s an old house – be prepared for anything.
- If your dream house suffers from major structural problems, think long and hard about moving forward. The long-term headaches can far outweigh your emotional attachment.
- Solicit price estimates from contractors experienced with vintage and historic properties regarding all necessary repair work.
- Carefully study the Standards for Rehabilitation or Restoration of Historic Buildings imposed by local/state laws on owners of historic structures. You may have remodeling/expansion plans that you will not be able to fulfill.
- Historic Home Restrictions – Since the goal of historic home renovation is to preserve a home’s true nature and original construction, a homebuyer wishing to renovate must obtain special permits and is subject to restrictions aimed at protecting the character of the property or neighborhood.
Here are some of the typical restrictions and extra costs you need to know about before buying an historic home:
Additions: Adding square footage to registred historic structures is a messy task and requires strict adherence to local and national standards and guidelines.
Exterior Treatments: Since house exteriors such as windows, shutters and roofs embody the original architecture or design style, they are to be preserved and can only be replaced in kind. More on this in another post.
Utility Bills: Before you seal the deal, study the previous year’s energy bills. It may cost you significantly more to heat and cool an older home than a new one.
Taxes: Although you may qualify for tax benefits for investing in a home or in a district where preservation and restoration are priorities, tax levies for merely living in a historic neighborhood may be higher than other neighborhoods.
There is so much more to be considered when buying a vintage or historic home or building and DYSV will address more details in the future.