Whether you grew up in an older home, knew someone who did, or passed by one every day on the way to school as a kid, you might have a fascination with the charm that they possess. While these older homes are full of charm and architectural detail that you will find no where else, they might lie within a historic neighborhood or be classified as a historic home. Since Arlington County and Northern Virginia have several historic districts, I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the topic of buying a home in a historic district in this week's Real Estate Tip of the Week. So before you act on buying one of these preserved beauties, here are the major topics that you should know first.
Exterior of the Home
The exterior of the home is typically what makes a home historic or a neighborhood a historic district. However, since the county tries to preserve the architectural style of the home, there are usually very strict rules on changing the exterior of the home. Limitations include changing the paint color, renovating, or adding additions. All of these need to be approved by the county first. Also, to preserve the authenticity of the home, if the windows, shutters, and roof have to be repaired, they have to be done with similar parts which can be very costly to replace.
Financing and Insurance
Make sure to talk with your financial institution first before buying a historical home. You might have trouble getting financing and home insurance for the home depending on its condition.
One of the things that you need to find out before buying a historical home is to see if there are any historical easements on the property. If there are any, what do they entail and who holds them? An easement is a right to use the property of another for a specific purpose. In this case, the easement would be to restrict private and commercial land development in order to protect the historical nature of the home.
There could be potential tax benefits for living in a historic home. Many states and local governments offer tax incentives in the form of tax credits or lower interest loans for preserving and restoring historic structures. However, at the same time, taxes can be higher in historic neighborhoods. So that is something you should look into.
As with any older home, you should get a formal home inspection before purchasing. There could be potential structural problems with the home or necessary repairs that need to be made. Therefore, it's good to get estimates from contractors on repairs. Finally, if you plan to remodel or make any additions to the home, make sure to study the Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings imposed by local/state laws.
Another thing to consider is your monthly energy bills. Since historical homes are older, they may not be well insulated which could make it expensive to heat/cool the home.
Thus, before buying an older home in Arlington, make sure to have your Realtor check if there are any historical restrictions. Since Virginia is a buyer's beware state, the seller has no obligation to tell you if there are any such restrictions. It's also always good to talk to the neighbors to get additional information on the neighborhood.
Here is a list of historic districts in Arlington.
On a side note, I was previewing a house a couple blocks away from the heart of Clarendon last summer and the tree in the backyard was historically protected. Meaning that the owners couldn't do certain things to it and the basement had to be half its normal size to prevent it from intruding on the roots. Thus, you always have to do your research when buying a home.
To read more of my Real Estate Tips of the Week, click here!
*Picture taken by @clousey Instagram's Account of Maywood Historic District in Arlington, VA