We all love the grand old homes around Charlottesville. At some point in our lives, many of us actually dream of owning or renovating our own old historic home. For many, that dream probably should end there. Charlottesville historic homes for sale will require some amount of love and attention. Historic home owners need to know more about purchasing an old property than just appreciation of its charm, and sometimes the choice is not appropriate beyond the dream.
First let’s start with potential zoning or architectural restrictions. It feels wonderful to be a part of a designated ‘historic district’ where likely most properties in that district also carry the historic architecture of their neighborhood. One local example is the Green Springs National Historic District in nearby Louisa County. (Our firm has handled the sale of Boswell’s Tavern there, which previously was visited by Presidents Jefferson and Madison.) But if your district is officially designated as an historic district, there also might be restrictions on what you can do with the exterior of your property. Those might include things like what paint colors are acceptable or what eave and window trims will be allowed. Some historic areas restrict the construction of outbuildings and even the planting of some kinds of vegetation.
If your historic home has restrictions in the deed, those terms will apply to you and to all future owners. You can find out more details regarding historic preservation by contacting the National Trust for Historic Preservation or researching the property deed at the county courthouse. If you want to begin to preserve your historic home’s attributes, it’s possible for you to enroll your historic property with a preservation agency yourself, and then all future owners of that property will have some restrictions too (and you might see a tax deduction). Typically if you are in a designated historic architectural district, you will benefit because your neighbors will also share your interest in preserving the historic atmosphere of the neighborhood.
But whether or not your dreamy old home is in a designated historic district, you’ll want to be aware of the differences in the buying process while obtaining an historic property. The condition of the home is important. For instance, if the home needs a lot of repairs it could impact your ability to get financing for a home loan. In some cases you might be able to get a renovation loan to cover the costs that a standard mortgage wouldn’t support. And condition also affects your home insurance. The logic for increased insurance costs is that replacement costs are more expensive for older homes because the materials and construction are not easily duplicated. If you are a first time buyer, a good piece of advice is to make your offer to purchase contingent on your ability to buy suitable insurance to cover it.
And on that thought… lenders know that old homes can be very expensive to renovate, and thus they will look more closely at your own earnings and savings before they agree to any mortgage loan or renovation loan. It can be a surprise during remodeling when you open a wall and discover that the previous insulation consisted of newspapers from 1910. And then the dollar signs begin to roll around your eyes.
We recommend that buyers utilize a thorough home inspection process as part of their potential purchase of historic properties. You won’t be allowed to tear apart the walls or floors to discover hidden features, but you will be able to have a professional inspector evaluate the condition of the systems and the basic structure. Some older homes have been so well loved and well maintained over the years that they are in wonderful condition. Others, not so much.
And times have changed. If you expect walk-in closets they likely won’t be there unless the home has been renovated. Lead-based paint was legal until 1978, thus it can involve a very detailed procedure to remove lead paint legally and without health hazards. Ditto the removal of asbestos. Insulated windows, plumbing systems, wiring,… all potential issues for historic home first-time buyers. A quirk that seems charming (as in, the marbles roll to one side of the room) can forecast structural problems in the future. Or not. Old homes can trick the best of us, one of the reasons we love them.
Be sure to discuss your plans with someone who is knowledgeable about the impact on property values of any planned historic renovation. Some of your updates or additions to the home make actually decrease its market value if not done carefully and with knowledge of historic property values.