Owning a home is probably the biggest aspiration most of us hold. However, whereas there are those that prefer modern furnished apartments, a good number also prefer historic homes with quirky features and unique charm.
And some of the things to be admired about historic homes are the quirky decorations and odd aesthetics which are an explicit stamp of expression and creativity from different generations.
If you are thinking of acquiring one, there are multiple things to keep in mind.
But first things first…
What Is a Historic Home?
Generally, a historic home is a listed piece of real estate that officially recognized by either the local or federal government. The historic aspect is derived by from either the age of the house or any event of historical significance that may have happened at the house or the site where it is built.
Here are some of the things you need to know about purchasing a historic home:
They Come With A Manifold Of Restrictions
All historic homes are governed by restrictions in form of codes, covenants and preservation guidelines, all which are meant to preserve their character and that of the neighborhood they are located in.
If you’re looking to purchase a historic home with the intentions of renovating it, you may need to part with an extra amount of money to get these approvals. You may also consider involving an architect to help you draw the plans or risk rubbing the authorities the wrong way.
In Wichita, there is the County Planning Historic Preservation Board, tasked with preserving and protecting historic homes and their neighborhoods.
Although the restrictions vary from one area to the other, there are common ones that you can anticipate. They include;
- Additions: Adding even a square foot to a historic home is extremely difficult, if not impossible. And when approved, the County Planning Historic Preservation Board may require you to overhaul the entire design to avoid creating a pseudo sense of history.
- Windows and shutters: No matter the type of house you are living in—modern or historic—windows and shutters communicate the era on which the house was constructed. For this reason, you may be required you to retain them in kind.
- Roofing materials: Another important aspect to keep in mind is the roofing materials. If you purchase a house where the uniform theme within the locality is wooden shingles or raised-seam metal, you may be required to follow suit.
- Exterior painting: This is probably the most conspicuous element of any house. As a homeowner, you may be compelled to have an exterior paint that is harmonious with the overall neighborhood theme.
Recreating The Vintage Theme Can Be Challenging and Costly
Preserving the past of a historic home without disrespecting its character can be challenging and costly at the same time. This is because some of the technology and material used to build some of them has since been rendered derelict.
This makes finding paraphernalia such as wainscot, crown moldings, picture rails, and richly decorative almost impossible. You may need to clone some of these aspects which goes against saving the vintage theme of the house. And if you are lucky to find an architectural salvage company with such materials, they come with a steep price tag.
It Could Require Extensive Repairs and Maintenance
For many home buyers, dealing with the nitty-gritty of repair and maintenance can be tricky. For this reason, buying ready-to-occupy homes as opposed to dealing with extensive repairs that could end up costing an arm and a leg always seems like the best option.
However, we are talking of a house that has been standing for several years if not decades. You could be looking at repairing most sections of the house to make it livable especially if it has been abandoned. For instance, homes constructed 100 years ago had unrealistic and impractical interior features compared to today’s standards. Some would require enlarging or even total overhaul and installation of new systems.
This is another grey area that you should brace yourself for when buying a historic home.
That piece of history you are looking to acquire may require you to knock several insurance companies’ doors looking for a replacement cost coverage.
Most insurance companies get jittery when dealing with historic buildings given the potential high replacement cost attached to them. And if you are lucky to find a historic home insurance policy, the premiums are always over the roof.
Depending on where you live, historic homes and district taxes may be equal to that of the surrounding or even high. This uncertainty may prove challenging especially if you are buying a home using a mortgage where the terms are normally fixed.
With that said, there are instances where homeowners get tax holidays, grants and even low-interest loans especially in areas where restoration is a priority. You may not save a million bucks with these tax rebates, but you could save a decent amount that could help you offset the house preservation costs.
Energy bills may come as a no-brainer suggestion to consider until you ask someone residing in a historic house.
It’s important to note that most historic homes don’t have energy saving features and appliances. For instance, single-pane windows allow minimal light into the house, meaning you will need constant artificial lighting which essentially drives your electricity bill up.
The same applies to heating systems, water, and others.
Does This Spell Doom To Your Historic Home Fantasy?
Absolutely not! This article isn’t meant to water down your efforts towards owning a historic home. It’s simply a precautionary reference to make your journey much easier.
Here is what you need to do:
First, you need to test your gutsy pulse by asking whether you truly need an old house. If your guts tell you otherwise, you may want to reconsider a new home.
Without the fervent desire to own a historic home, chances are that you will easily give up midway due to the many potential problems you will come across. With that in mind, having an unswerving appreciation for preservation and history behind the house will serve as an antidote even when you face the biggest of adversities.
If you make the personal decision to go ahead, here are some few nuggets to help you move the needle forward.
- Ensure you hire a home inspector before signing the dotted line. They will help you conduct an audit of the entire house and give you an idea of what needs to be done which will help you estimate the budget.
- Personally visit the County Planning Historic Preservation offices to explain the limitations you will be facing as a homeowner. Additionally, try talking to community activists and history buffs within the neighborhood as there is a lot of politicking when it comes to matters of historic buildings preservation. The last thing you need is to attract unsolicited opinions from dogmatic neighbors for distorting the classic feel of their neighborhood.
- Always put aside additional funds when buying a historic home. You will occasionally run into unexpected and costly surprises that need immediate attention.
- Modifications of any nature or magnitude should come as the last option. They may seem minor but significantly impact the historic truthfulness of your house and most can’t be undone.
The Take Home
Historic homes and neighborhoods in the US are governed by overly restrictive policies and Wichita in particular. They are effective preservation and deterrent tools that help avert scenarios where homeowners create architectural clones potentially distorting the neighborhood’s character and aesthetic qualities.
As a potential historic homeowner, educating yourself on all these policies could save you a lot of time and resources in the future. If you are looking to buy in a neighborhood that restricts mods, you may as well take pride in knowing that you are helping keep history alive.
On the flipside, if you are lucky enough to find a relatively accommodative neighborhood that allows for modifications. You will need to hire a good architect to help you create a historic replica or modern modifications that structurally and aesthetically gels with your locality. And with this article as your guide, that shouldn’t be a problem to you.