May 25, 2022

Advice for Buying a Historic Home

Advice for Buying a Historic Home

Buying a historic home is an exciting process, offering interested people a chance to own and preserve a piece of history. From Queen Anne to Greek Revival and Federal architecture styles, historic houses come in many varieties.

While these unique properties offer a lot of charm, they are not without their quirks and limitations. Before you commit to owning a historic home, you should first understand the level of maintenance and care required to determine if these properties are the right fit for you.


Contrary to popular belief, there are distinct differences between older homes with retro qualities and historic homes. Historic houses, buildings, landmarks, and districts are designated and evaluated by the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places based on their age, integrity, and historical significance. To qualify as a historic site, the property must meet the following criteria:

  • It is at least 50 years old (barring a few exceptions)

  • It is connected to significant historic events, activities, developments, or people

  • It has retained its original appearance, architectural character, and material integrity

Currently, the National Register of Historic Places houses more than 88,000 listings. Beyond the federal level, states and municipalities can also designate homes or districts as historic. Being on the National Register of Historic Places in and of itself is not directly associated with federal restrictions. Regulation of historical homes often occurs on a local and municipal level.


Historic homes attract specific buyers, often history, architecture, or art enthusiasts. As a result, perhaps the most attractive aspects of buying a historic home are the one-of-a-kind qualities and ties to the past that these properties offer. Historic homes are a chance for buyers to be a part of something bigger. However, beyond these reasons are other factors that people sometimes overlook.

Unlike new construction properties or renovated homes, historic houses offer appealing architectural features that you don’t see often. Even if these qualities could be mimicked, the recreations would pale in comparison to the originals. The relative character of historic homes also lends itself to a homey and warm quality that differs from the often stark and modern appearance of new construction.

Beyond what meets the eye, historic homes also provide certain cost benefits such as higher appreciation of property values in historic districts and financial assistance options for preservation efforts. To figure out what grants and loans may be available to you for renovating your historic home, you can visit your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or explore historic preservation easements.


Despite the charm that historic homes provide, they are not without drawbacks. Some downsides to keep in mind include potentially strict restrictions and oversight, less ability to customize your home, more frequent repairs and renovations that can be costly and time-consuming, and difficulties navigating financing and insurance for your home.

That is why it’s crucial to be realistic and well-researched when considering purchasing a historic home. According to a study conducted by of the National Register of Historic Places, historical homes are 5.6% more expensive on average than similar-sized non-historic counterparts in the same zip code.

To protect yourself from costly surprises if you find a historic home of interest to you, we recommend that you get an appraisal and multiple home inspections to identify the value of the property, any rehabilitation needs, and potential hazards like lead paint.

In addition, if you plan on buying a historic home, you should be prepared for hidden costs, specific guidelines, and sharing your home with your community.

Historic homes pose numerous benefits and drawbacks related to time, aesthetics, and cost. Ultimately, when considering purchasing a historic home, you must decide if owning a piece of history is feasible and worthwhile to you.

Navigating a historic home search can be overwhelming without expert help. As a top-selling real estate team in the D.C. metro area, where there are many historic homes, Keri Shull Team understands the historic home search and can help you make an informed purchasing decision. Get connected with seasoned agents and gain access to off-market homes you won’t find anywhere else by contacting the Keri Shull Team today!

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