One way preservationists can express their love for old buildings: live in one. After all, older and historic homes bring with them craftsmanship, unique details, a sense of history, and -- for the handy among us -- an opportunity to restore a home to its former glory.
But finding and buying a historic home can be daunting if you’re not familiar with real estate, financing, historic building and district regulations, and inspection procedures. So, to set you on the right path, we’re kicking off a series on how to find, inspect, purchase, and rehabilitate your old-but-new-to-you property.
Our first toolkit in this series is on how (and where) to find your historic dream home. Check back over the next several weeks to follow the series.
How to Find a Historic HouseThe First Step in Locating Your Historic DreamHome Photo courtesy wallyg, flickr
1. Define “historic.”Every historic house is old, but not every oldhouse is historic. Historic houses are usuallydesignated as significant examples of thecultural or physical developments of thatcommunity, state, or the entire nation, eitherbecause of their architecture or association withan important historical figure or event. Theymight also be related by a common theme withother buildings, such as in an architecturalmovement.Photo courtesy Rockin Robin, flickr
Photo courtesy Elizabeth Thomsen, flickr2. Outline what you want (and can afford).Develop a wish list, including style, number and size of rooms,type of yard, and preferred neighborhoods. Decide if you’d like ahouse that needs rehab, or one that’s already restored. And, ofcourse, figure out your budget for both the house and also forrepairs and alteration.
3. Find a knowledgeablereal estate agent.An agent familiar with historic propertiescan be a great asset in your search. Tofind one, drive around historicneighborhoods and contact agents whoare listing houses in the area. Ask otherhistoric home owners whom theyrecommend. Gauge the agent’sfamiliarity with historic homes with a fewshort questions -- for example, if thehouse is in a historic district, ask whatregulations apply there, and whether thehouse is listed on a national, state,and/or local register. Photo courtesy Studio Amore, flickr
Photo courtesy NCinDC, flickr4. Know the Multiple Listing Service’s (MLS)limitations.The MLS provides basic, useful facts about properties, but it doesn’t usethe same terms as architects and architectural historians. Oneworkaround is to combine the MLS’s style name with the date ofconstruction; that might give you a clue about its true architectural style.
5. Check out real estate ads & websites.In addition to your local newspapers and real estate tabloids, checkout national and regional publications that carry ads for historichouses. Plus, the National Trust maintains a Historic Properties forSale site, where you can search listings, connect with an agent, andmore. Image courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
6. Contact your SHPO.Your state historic preservation office can likelygive you a historic property list for your areawhich you can then compare to the MLS list orshare with your agent. The office can also sharecopies of a specific property’s nomination formfor the state or national register, which will giveyou more info about the appearance, style, andhistory of the house.Photo courtesy Universal Pops, flickr
7. Contact other localorganizations andagencies.Your community’s local historicsocieties, nonprofit preservationorganizations, and local governmentpreservation agencies can also lenda hand. Connect with staff at thecity’s community development orplanning department, too; they canprovide lists of locally designatedhistoric properties. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Thomson, flickr
Photo courtesy UGArdener, flickr8. Examine the environment.You know what they say: location, location, location. One benefitof many older houses is their proximity to schools, shopping,houses of worship, and public transportation. Evaluate if the areaor neighborhood meets your standards for safety, crime rates,and relative stability.
9. Know the pros of NationalRegister designation.Listing a building (or district) on the NationalRegister of Historic Places publicly recognizesthe place’s importance to the nation’s culture,history, and/or architecture. It doesn’t interferewith your right to alter or sell the property. And ifyou plan to use the property to generate income-- for example, renting or housing a smallbusiness -- you might be eligible forrehabilitation tax credits.Photo courtesy Kansas Sebastian, flickr
10. Understand local historicdesignation.Local governments’ preservation ordinances often include designguidelines and procedures for any proposed alterations to yourhome. They let you make changes to your home as long as they’rein line with the district’s architectural character. This protects yourinvestment in the long term. Photo courtesy beautifulcataya, flickr
Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.