Owning Historic Property: What You Need to Know
Buying a landmark Del Ray home may be tempting, but it always entails specific requirements and limitations. If the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, ownership can be a mixed blessing. While there might be tax incentives to make a purchase attractive, there also can be stipulations, which require either a personal financial commitment or certain concessions regarding use and access.
Buying any property in a designated historic district also comes with some strings attached. Common restrictions govern exterior materials and colors, and limitations may exist regarding not only the addition of square footage, but interior renovations as well. Prior to purchasing historic property, buyers should check all zoning and building department restrictions.
Major concerns with any older home include structure, safety, insulation, roofing, toxic materials and aging plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling systems. Determine in advance what work might be necessary and what is allowable.
Upkeep and Repair Costs
Managing ongoing maintenance and periodic repairs on any property can become time-consuming. However, vintage homes can have structural deficiencies, which require costly updates to make them suitable for modern lifestyles. These renovations can be extremely costly, especially if exterior and/or interior authenticity is a requirement. Duplicating older materials and workmanship is often difficult and expensive. Determine if historical society or public funding might be available for needed restoration.
Restrictions and Regulation
In most areas, property in designated historic zones falls under stringent zoning rules. Current building codes might also require updating all aging home systems, even if only a minor update is requested. Always check with municipal authorities and other local jurisdictions before undertaking any renovations. Limitations may exist governing a home's size, physical appearance and use, even forbidding extensive alterations to existing landscaping.
Homes of the past were built under less stringent building codes, or perhaps there were no codes at all. Insufficient insulation can be relatively easy to remedy, but updating older electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems to current standards might be extremely costly. In addition, older fireplaces, wood stoves and gas heaters can be unsafe, limited their modern appeal. Don't be blindsided by the high costs of bringing a home up to modern standards.
Privacy and Personal Use
Living in a historic home can be rewarding for many reasons. However, depending on the home's unique history, it might constitute a reason for strangers to stop and take selfies, knock on the door, or even peer over a back fence, which can be disturbing and invasive. If privacy is important to you, living in a home with a historic plaque might not be dream come true.