There are many factors to take into consideration if you are looking at buying an antique home. While some people are perfectly suited to taking on large-scale updating projects, installing new fixtures, and staying on top of the maintenance that often comes along with living in a gracious, stately older home, others would prefer to leave the hassle of a long and possibly unknown home history out of their housing search.
If you’re the type of homebuyer who values charm and nostalgia above sleek, top-of-the-line modern conveniences, an antique home might just what you’re looking for. Perhaps you even have your eye on a particular property that seems to be calling your name. But before you make a commitment to purchase, you should check over the following list and make certain that you’re satisfied with the current condition and future possibilities that owning such a home might present:
Updates. Some homebuyers don’t mind a fixer-upper, while others are specifically looking to purchase an older home with all of the modern conveniences. If the remodeling work has already been done for you, you’re going to see a much higher price tag attached – particularly if the previous owners pulled out all the stops and spared no expense in melding old and new for a seamless interior and exterior look. If the house needs a lot of work, be prepared to spend more than you initially plan. Small changes to an older home have a way of unveiling larger fixes that need to be addressed.
Status. Is the home merely antique, or is it actually listed on a historic registry for the community, county, state, or even the U.S.? If it does have any official designation, there will likely be limitations that come along with the title. You’ll want to check with the body overseeing its status and determine what changes you are allowed to make, both inside and to the exterior, and make sure you can work within those parameters if you plan to implement any changes.
Structure. Starting with the foundation, and expanding to interior walls, ceilings, and floors, are there any obvious concerns that must be addressed? Is a sloping floor or crooked door frame or stairway simply part of the package in an older home, or an indication of a larger problem? How old are the roof and chimneys, and will they need to be replaced? Enlisting the aid of an expert who can determine real damage or deterioration could save you major headaches down the road.
Systems. Older homes may have updated electrical, plumbing, and heating systems – or they may not. Find out whether and when any of these systems have been upgraded or replaced. Has insulation been added? Are the windows original to the home? Have the fixtures been updated to look antique, or are they the real, old-fashioned deal? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you determine the degree of energy efficiency you can expect, as well as potential future problem areas.
Safety. All homes should be inspected for the presence of carbon monoxide and radon as well as the functionality of smoke detection systems. Older homes can also carry additional safety concerns in the way of lead paint or asbestos. If there are hazardous materials remaining on the property, you will want to look into the cost of remediation. Additional concerns might include the absence of hand railings or presence of steep stairways and uneven floors that could contribute to falls.
History. How much of your home’s history you’re willing to leave a mystery is up to you, but searching public records dating back to the home’s construction might lend insight into events or damage (fires, flooding) that might have affected its current condition. Moreover, digging into the home’s history might just supply you with some juicy stories to share when guests visit.
Once you’ve thoroughly researched the antique home you wish to purchase and consulted your real estate agent about any potential pitfalls unique to the home and surrounding area, it’s time to step back and evaluate whether you can live with the antiques “imperfections,” like sloping floors or noisy radiators, simply add to the home’s charm. In the end, the decision to buy an antique home is, above all else, a matter of personal taste. Happy antiquing!