There are plenty of reasons to invest in a historic home. From charm and aesthetics to the value of long-lasting materials and workmanship, you have your own piece of history you can add your story to. If you're in the market for a house with a bit of history, we know exactly where you should look.
Data measured by Realtor.com ranked the largest American cities by the percentile share of homes for sale built before 1900, with their median price listed. These cities are the perfect places to find a cozy vintage home to lay your hat at the end of the day:
- Boston/Cambridge, MA — $799,000
- Newark, NJ — $144,500
- Allentown, PA — $57,000
- Hartford, CT — $141,500
- Providence, RI — $275,000
- Manchester, NH — $185,000
- Grand Rapids, MI — $125,000
- Chicago, IL — $325,000
- Cincinnati, OH — $170,000
- Milwaukee, WI — $63,000
Three areas—Boston/Cambridge (34.7 percent), Manchester (8.5 percent) and Providence (8.8 percent)—are all New England cities where the Pilgrims first landed, constructing Colonial homes. These cities have kept up the historic contributions where travelers have walked for centuries on hand-built streets.
The Midwest also has a variety of styles of vintage homes constructed over a century ago. For example, the lakeside cities of Chicago (7.2 percent) and Milwaukee (6.8 percent) have been long-established cities with prominent history.
That said, even if you've always dreamed of owning a vintage home, take a minute before packing up and running for one of the above cities. There are many important factors that go into the purchase of a new or older home that you'll want to consider before taking the plunge.
A Few Factors to Consider When Buying a Vintage Home
If you're considering the purchase of a historic home, there are important upkeep factors to keep in mind. Some homes in historic neighborhoods may require specific and regulation restoration codes to be maintained.
While some vintage homes are well taken care of, others have extensive work that needs to be done to get them ship-shape. With the purchase of a new or older home come aspects that need to be factored into the budget and inspected properly, such as:
1. Lead Paint
This goes first because it needs to be in your deal breaker category. Houses built before 1978 are likely to have lead paint, and it is a major health issue. Lead paint abatement can fix the issue, but it's costly. A lead paint test kit can be purchased from the local home improvement store to plan ahead.
2. Previous Renovations
Were renovations done properly? Have plumbing renovations been inspected? Get a structural engineer to come out and give the home and its renovations a sound analysis.
Do you see signs of water damage and signs your roofing hasn't been kept up? Major leaks, minor leaks, missing shingles and punctures from branches are all indications that repair or a new roof is necessary. Inefficient roofing material and design will only lead to more damage throughout the years. Some inefficiencies are hard to spot, so it's wise to have it inspected.
4. HVAC/Hot Water Heater
Is the heating and cooling systems reaching their expiration date? The inspector may tell you "in a few years," but be prepared to factor the replacement in now as an expense, so you're not scrambling for the cash later to get a new one.
5. Poor Insulation
Unfortunately, poor insulation is the curse of older homes. Parts of the house may be better insulated than others. Get quotes for redoing the insulation. To save on power and money, you can also DIY home insulation by using spray foam or caulking openings near windows, for example.
6. Old Wiring
You are required to be informed if old wiring poses a fire hazard or is faulty. Replacing the existing electrical system is expensive, and sometimes simple solutions fix small electrical issues. The old wiring is usually knob, tube or aluminum. Factor this into your budget, and have an electrician examine the home.
So, yes, buying a vintage home comes with its own set of challenges, but once restored or renovated, an older home is a jewel with an unparalleled history that you are now part of. It's true when folks say, "They don't build 'em like they used to!"