Question: I’ve always loved the idea of living in a historic home? Which, if any, things should I consider before purchasing one?
Many historic homes offer a level of craftsmanship, character and charm that’s not always found in more modern homes. Depending on whether or not the home has been renovated and how it was done, historic homes often have solid hardwood floors, beautiful “seeded” window panes, extensive wood trim on the interior, eye-catching staircases, multiple fireplaces and, sometimes, original claw-foot tubs. In the case of historic homes in downtown Wilmington, you’ll also enjoy the convenience of being within walking distance of some of Wilmington best restaurants, entertainment and shopping.
But, many historic homes, especially those in a downtown area, are often missing features and amenities that are popular today.
Ask yourself: how important is a walk-in closet? They are uncommon in historic homes. In fact, some of them have no bedroom closets. Instead, clothes are kept in armoires. Are you okay with having the master bedroom upstairs? Keep in mind, it’s possible the master bedroom may not have an en suite bath, as most older homes were built with just one bath to serve all the bedrooms. How important is an open floor plan? Typically, historic homes have well-defined rooms, with a formal sitting area and formal dining area. Can you live without a garage and no off-street parking? Keep in mind these homes were built in the days of horse and buggy.
That doesn’t mean all historic homes are without these amenities. It’s quite possible to find homes that have undergone major renovations to add bathrooms and update plumbing; create more closet space; and “open up” the main living rooms.
Depending on your budget and your willingness to do or not do renovation work, you can find homes in varying conditions. When evaluating a historic home, it’s important to know whether or not the electrical system, plumbing system, and heating/cooling system have been updated. If so, how long ago was the work done and does it meet current safety codes? For instance, some older homes may still have aluminum wiring. If so, it may be really hard to get financing or insurance. A home inspector and licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, masons, roofers, HVAC contractors, and structural engineers are essential to help you understand the state and condition of the home.
One last point to consider is the specific location of the historic home. Is it within the boundaries of the city’s designated historic districts? Homes that are in these specially recognized areas benefit from rules and regulations that require owners to adhere to practices that will preserve and protect the character of their older home. However, if you have dreams of tearing things apart (especially exterior elements) and improving the home with new siding, windows, doors, and/or a roof, keep in mind you will be required to get those changes approved before you start the work. If you skip the step, hoping no one will notice, you may face steeps fines and be required to restore the house to the condition it was in before you started to work your magic.
For more details on Wilmington’s Historic Commission rules check out this brochure 645775. COW Historic District