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Historic Homes: 7 Considerations Before You Buy

Did you fall in love with a quaint stone cottage or an ornate Victorian? Historic homes often have impressive architecture and unique details, but beneath their turrets, gingerbread trim or original hardwood floors, they can feature some problems. If you’re considering taking up residence in a neighborhood treasure, do your homework to make sure you’re not sinking your hard-earned cash into a money pit or buying something that just doesn’t fit your needs. Keep these seven factors in mind while you are looking for historic homes for sale.


Old plumbing can wreak havoc on interior structures in the event of a burst pipe or an unnoticed leak. Find out the age and material of your main water and sewer lines, too. A rupture there could be a costly repair that also involves tearing up the yard. Check the water pressure in all the faucets to help ensure you aren’t getting stuck with constricted pipes. A good plumber might be able to solve some of these issues, but you’ll want to know about them up front.


The first concern with old wiring, of course, is safety. Get your potential new-to-you old home inspected by a professional electrician. Another consideration: Historical properties often lack the wiring to keep up with our current plugged-in lifestyle. Check to see if you’ve got enough outlets and power to meet the needs of your appliances. An electrician might be able to help you make changes, of course. But if you’re dreaming of total “smart home” functionality, a modern build might be more your style.

Heating and cooling

Your home is your sanctuary, and you should be comfortable there. That shouldn’t require wearing three sweaters to keep warm in winter. Check the insulation as well as what type of system heats your historic home. If that Colonial Revival you’re in love with has radiators, ask a professional plumber for an opinion on the working order of the steam valves. Likewise, depending on your climate, you may need to investigate the potential for adding a cooling system if there isn’t one

Structural issues

A cracking foundation, crumbling brick, a bowed roof — these are all visual red flags that a historical home might have an unsatisfactory structure. Use your nose too. Does the basement in that mid-century ranch smell dank? It could be rot or mold. A detailed home inspection will help reveal the less obvious signs and the more sinister ones like asbestos or lead materials, which are huge health risks.


No one wants to think about the creepy crawlies, but pest patrol should be on your radar. Termites are a terror for wooden homes and can create damage that’s pricey to fix. Roaches can create an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals, and you don’t want them around anyway. Other pests, like spiders, might just be an unwelcome nuisance, but you’ll want to be aware of an infestation, especially if you live in an area where brown recluses or black widows live. Rodents like mice and squirrels hiding in walls can damage insulation and wiring — a huge fire hazard. A pest inspection and any necessary treatment recommendation will be worth it.

City or neighborhood requirements

If you have big renovation plans in mind for the historic beauty you’ve been eyeing, check with your city or neighborhood about any overlays or code requirements. Certain rules might prevent you from altering paint colors or making even bigger changes like putting an addition on the back.

Storage space

Older homes were built with the idea of needing to contain less stuff in tucked-away spaces. Although a historic home might have a fantastic attic that you can convert into a master suite, it may lack storage or closet space in the rest of the home. Consider your possessions and where they’ll go before you put down that offer.

Whether your home is a new build or a historic charmer, it’s yours to protect. We can help. Talk to your Farm Bureau agent today to make sure you’re move-in ready.