This Old House

The pros and cons of buying a historic home

It’s easy to fall in love with historic homes. Not only are old houses beautiful and charming, they also have an air of mystery – an intoxicating combination that can persuade even the most levelheaded buyer to make an offer on the spot.

Along with all that allure, however, they often come with their share of challenges. For example, you may run into some unexpected (and costly) complications you wouldn’t otherwise encounter if you bought a newer house. On top of this, you could be required follow some pretty strict guidelines when renovating the interior and exterior of your property.

Sure, historic homes are quick to captivate, but they also require a certain level of TLC. To help protect your soon-to-be investment, here is some important information to consider before you seal the deal.

 What is a historic home?

 Just because a house is old doesn’t mean it’s historic. According to the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, a historic house meets the following conditions:

  • Age. There are always exceptions to the rule, but most properties must be at least 50 years old to qualify as a historic home.
  • Integrity. Does the house look the way it did in the past? Are the details consistent with a specific architectural style used during a given time period?
  • Significance. The property should be connected to or associated with historically important events or people.

 Pros of buying a historic home:

  • Perhaps the most obvious benefits of owning a historic home are the aesthetics and quality. They’re gorgeous and the craftsmanship is typically top notch.
  • Buying a historic home might mean more money in your pocket at tax time, as owners can often cash in on federal and state tax credits. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a real estate tax benefit from your local tax assessor’s office, too.
  • You may have an easier time when you’re ready to sell. A study of South Carolina home sales showed that properties in Columbia’s historic districts sold 26 percent faster than the overall market.

 Cons of buying a historic home:

  • If your house is located in a historic district, you may be limited on the types of renovations you can get away with. For example, window upgrades are often prohibited.
  • Living in an older home means your plumbing, heating, and electrical systems could be ancient, which means they’re also costly to repair and maintain.
  • Many insurance companies don’t offer the type of coverage you’ll need for a historic home. In this case, you’ll have to go with historic property insurance, which can be more expensive.

Image: Design | Tim Cuppett Architects  Photography | Alec Hemer

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Kate Kasbee
Kate Kasbee is a blogger and freelance copywriter living in Los Angeles. She has a background in real estate marketing and has also written about a variety of subjects including pet care, how to adopt a vegan diet, and technology. Prior to living in sunny California, Kate spent eight years in Chicago where she lived in nine different apartments in five different neighborhoods. Though she’s not quite done exploring, Kate dreams of planting her roots and owning a home with creaky floors and plenty of land for starting an organic farm.
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