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Purchasing Your Historic Dream Home: What You Need to Know

There’s something enchanting and even romantic about the thought of living in a historic home.

Maybe you’re imagining lemonade on the veranda or tea and scones in the sitting room.

The reality is that it certainly can be all the things you’ve pictured.

But, you have to jump through some hoops in order to get there and stay there!

What designates a home as “historic”?

There are a few criteria that must be met in order for a home to be deemed historic:

  • It must be a certain age, usually older than fifty, though this could vary slightly with location.
  • It has to remain recognizable for the period it was built.
  • Either an event of historical significance happened at the site, or that a person of historical importance has an association with the site, or that the building itself is significant for its architecture or the interior.

Along with this designation usually, comes some rules.

Common restrictions

Keep in mind that you may be limited in what you can do in terms of renovations and cosmetic changes to the outside of the home.

These are some examples of common restrictions placed on historic home owners as well as some potential drawbacks:

  • Adding on. It is typically not allowed to add any kind of footage to a historic home, including adding stories.
  • Roofs, shutters, and windows. Since these elements are crucial to the original architecture, they are not allowed to be replaced with any style or design other than the original. Keep in mind that there may be added expense in duplicating these components to match the original.
  • Higher taxes. The taxes are typically higher for living in a historic district. Some cities or districts will give a tax credit for purchasing a home in an area that they are trying to revitalize or restore the area.
  • Higher utilities. This may or may not be the case, but it pays to look at the previous bills for the year. Many times it does cost more to heat and cool an older home.

It’s best to visit the local planning and zoning office of the area where you are looking to purchase your home to find a detailed list of regulations for your specific area.

What to look for

You’ve made your decision and you’re ready to start historic house hunting!

There are some tips to keep in mind as you begin to explore your home options:

  • Find a home inspector who has dealt with historic homes in the past. You’ll want someone who is very knowledgeable in this area to make sure you don’t end up with unforeseen trouble, like major structural damage, for example.
  • Gather estimates from contractors. Chances are the home you purchase will need some amount of work. Know up-front what needs to be done and how much it will cost you.
  • Don’t downplay health and safety standards. As perfect as a home may seem, you don’t want to have to deal with asbestos, lead paint, or any other environmental toxin that could be lurking in an older home.

Encouraging statistics

Take a look at the resale statistics of some sample cities:

  • Homes in Columbia, South Carolina’s historic district sold 26% faster than the overall market, according to a 2000 study.
  • Historic homes in Beauport sold for 21% higher than other homes.
  • New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania all showed an increase in property values ranging from 5 to 20 percent in designated historic districts.

When buying real estate in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, you can expect a similar return on your investment!