Perhaps the most common argument made by anti-preservationists has been that local historical commissions — the cityfolk who decide what’s a landmark and what you can do to your landmark — are inherently subjective in making their decisions. It is very often assumed that a board of commissioners will deny a homeowner’s proposal for an addition on his or her historic house because it’s just not very pretty. Sometimes, this has held up in court, and there’s a robust history of property owners attempting to sue the pants off their municipality for denying a building or demolition permit.
Some surprises in old houses are great — like finding original wallpaper under layers, or finding hearty wood floors under carpet or tile. But some surprises are bound to be unpleasant and costly. Buyer beware.