When it comes to old houses, history has its charms. It also has a number of limitations because the goal is to preserve the house’s character. If you’re buying a historic house now to take advantage of still-low interest rates, do your research before jumping in.
Know what you can and can’t change
Typically, when you buy a historic house, there are a few rules about what you can and can’t do to the property. Regulations can vary by neighborhood or by address. If you’re considering a historic home in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, for example, you should know the rules and regulations for fixing up or replacing the roof and windows. According to Bankrate, you need to use custom-made single pane windows on historic homes in the district and to preserve the wooden shutters on the sides of the windows. If your house needs a new roof, you’ll have to replace it with the same materials: either slate, wooden shingles or raised seam metal. The historically accurate roof might look charming, but it won’t feel charming to your wallet.
If you are buying a home and thinking of expanding it at some point to accommodate a growing family, you should find out if adding on to the structure is allowed. Some districts might approve an addition as long as it meets certain requirements. Others might not because they want to preserve the look and feel of the original homes.
Look into incentives
Maintaining your historic house can be pricey, but there might be a way for you to save some money. Some areas offer tax breaks or tax incentives to the owners of historic homes. For example, Virginia has a tax credit for certain historic homes that are being rehabilitated as long as homeowners spend at least 25 percent of the value of the home fixing it up. The home must be in a historic district to qualify for the credit.
Don’t forget insurance
If you do decide to purchase a historic property, you might have to purchase a special type of homeowner’s insurance. It can be difficult and expensive to repair or replace certain features in an older home, such as original wood shutters. When choosing an insurance policy, opt for replacement cost if a historic home plan isn’t specifically available. A replacement cost plan will cover what it actually costs to repair anything that’s damaged, instead of giving you the current market value of the item — which might be less than it costs to replace it.
Buying a historic home allows you buy a house that’s full of character, personality and history. Just remember to look before you leap and investigate all the ups and downs of owning historic property in your area.
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