The idea of preserving the integrity of an old home is very appealing to me and I always feel so sad when I see the loss of the home's character during a renovation. There are ways to keep many aspects of an old home while bringing it up to code, adding modern conveniences and creating a space for your lifestyle but a good renovation is not for the faint of heart or those with limited budgets. If you have been thinking about taking on an old home renovation, here are a few things to keep in mind before you buy.
Make sure a licensed contractor or home inspector thoroughly inspects the home. Electrical, plumbing and heating are huge considerations in an older home and can take a big chunk out of your budget. Other big ticket items are foundation, siding/stucco, windows, flooring and the roof. A coat of paint can often cover flaws so don't be fooled!
Uneven floors are often a tell-tale sign of foundation issues. Roll a ball or quarter to check level and hire a structural engineer to inspect the structure if you have concerns. Anchor bolts, compromised bricks. cracks in the walls are all considerations especially in an earthquake state.
Research zoning regulations BEFORE you release your contingency. Most of the Peninsula cities have historical home ordinances that relate to provenance, age and architectural style. Generally, a designated historic home will require a historic committee review for any exterior renovation. This includes possible changes to the exterior including windows, paint colors, siding, roof line, additions, dormers, landscape etc...
Check for tax incentives like the Mills Act. The Act contract is an agreement between the government entity and property owner of a designated historical building. The property owner benefits from a reduction in property taxes, and the City/County is ensured the historic building will be preserved. Annual reports are submitted to the government entity to chronicle upkeep and obligations. Each local government establishes their own criteria and determines how many contracts they will allow in their jurisdiction.
Research city/county records to understand the history of the home. Are they any stigmatizing events that might influence resale or create concern. A violent crime, a flood, a haunted house?
Study the architectural style of the home. Are you up for the challenge and does the house fit your needs? Victorian era homes require a lot of upkeep. Some older homes have dormers, porches, dark paneling and small rooms. If you love light and large open spaces, maybe there's a mid-century modern that might be a better fit!
Create a budget and add a buffer. Surprises will always pop up so be realistic about costs and time. If you are short on funds, your renovation may need to be done in phases so choose your projects carefully.
Sometimes old homes call to us but renovating a maintaining an old home takes a lot of love and money. Think carefully before you buy but if you do, take care of the home, respect it's history and don't destroy it's character.