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Old Houses and 'Fixer-Uppers'

Character and History

Old Houses and 'Fixer-Uppers'Antique, historic and old houses appeal to some home buyers because of the high degree of craftsmanship.  Carvings of stone or wood, brickwork, stenciling, rounded windows, ornamental trim and raised paneling attract the romantics among us as we look at these symbols from the past that are part of our American heritage and remind us of other cultures from which designs were rediscovered.  Some buyers find antique homes because of the charming touches provided by their owners: carved fireplace mantels, crown molding, and built-ins.

The visually appealing design of many antique homes are based on the relationships between height and width, window openings, and wall surface, creating a strong sense of symmetry and balance.  Homes in the classical design, based on buildings in ancient Greece and Rome, manifest themselves in 18th and 19th century homes in the United States. Gothic Revival homes, noted for their asymmetrical look and decorative woodwork, provide another option among antique homes that appeal to home buyers.  And the second empire style with its famed mansard roof with a French look and the Italianate villa with round head windows, wide eaves, and off center tower have design features which appeal to some antique home lovers.

Historic Preservation

Historic preservation is considered good for property values.  Studies have shown that homes located in historic districts have 21 to 27 percent higher value and appreciate at a annual rate that is 50 percent higher than similar homes that are not in an area with historic preservation guidelines.  Homes with original features are particularly desirable.

People like to feel that they are part of the history and are willing to pay for it.

Tracing a property's history can be an interesting project for home buyers and home owners.  Documentation for historical claims can be found through the town or city's inspection services department (where permits are issued).  It may be possible to determine the names of the architect, builder and original owners.  Other sources include the original deed to the property and maps and surveys of neighborhoods.  Information about the original owners may be traced from city directories and obituaries.  In climates where cellars are common, they can sometimes be used to tell some history.  Exposed posts and beams that are visible can be dated by their construction method.  Are posts, beams and sills hewn or are they separate, sawed pieces nailed together?

Older Neighborhoods

One of the advantages of buying an older home is buying into established neighborhoods with tree-lined streets that are often centrally located.  Access to highways, schools, business districts and entertainment may be better than newer sub-division homes which are generally on the outskirts of towns.

Coping with Unexpected Costs

Keep in mind that many home buyers are turned off by the problems that come with an older home that has not been maintained or updated:  slanting floors, drafts, failing sills, loose plaster, peeling paint, questionable roof, older electrical service and outdated furnaces.  If an antique home is in your future, decide if you have the time, money and ability to restore your home.  If you love the look but don't want the headaches of restoring a home, look for an antique home in good or great condition that the previous owners have made a 'labor of their love'.


The term fixer-upper can be used to describe homes that range from needing cosmetic improvements to structural problems serious enough to warrant expensive, time-consuming renovations.  Oftentimes the kitchens and baths are in dire need of updating.  The renovations for these rooms can be costly.  Inadequate wiring and outdated plumbing are common in old homes that haven't been modernized.  For this reason it is hard to pin down the final cost of the improved property.  Having some ability to do some of the work (or most of the work) or having family and friends with the kind of skills needed to make the improvements can make this a good economic decision for home buyers.  Be sure to get good estimates of the renovation expenses and subtract that amount from what the home will be worth fixed up so that you don't end up overpaying for a home.

The $250,000/indiviudal $500,000/couple exemption on capital gains from the sale of your principal residence applies to fixer-uppers and favors buyers who change homes frequently.  They can buy a fixer-upper, live in the property while refurbishing it, and then sell after two years and claim the exemption for up to $250,000 profit for an individual or $500,000 for a couple.  This favorable treatment may stimulate fixer-upper home purchases for buyers willing to take on the task.

Buyer's Choice Realty

Buyer's Choice Realty

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