5 Things to Look For When Searching for a Historic Home

Austin Black II

To own a historic home is to own a unique piece of history itself — a physical representation of some significant event or individual in our country’s past. Of course, the importance of these homes decrees a set of specific standards. A home may be old, centuries old even, but age alone is not enough to designate a home as historic. If you are in the market for historic homes in Detroit, you need to know what defines one. Here are five things to know about what makes a home historic, as well as a handful of tips to help you preserve its value and significance.

The age and integrity of the home

One of the major defining factors of a historic home is age. A historic home must be at least 50 years old, but exceptions may exist depending on the cultural and/or historical significance of the property. A historic home must also retain most, if not all, of its original integrity — that is, it should look nearly identical to how it did when it was first constructed. The history of a home is largely defined by its appearance and unique character, but if too many renovations have stripped the home of its original, historic charm and style, it risks losing its historic status.

Connection to significant historical events or figures

Often historic homes are connected to a significant point or person in history. Important historical associations include being the childhood home of a historical figure, the studio of a famous artist, the final resting place of an important individual, or even the site of an infamous crime. You would be surprised at the number of people who are drawn to old, historic homes rumored to be haunted.
Other matters of historical import may also include the architecture, engineering, or the history of the surrounding landscape. If the property has strong links to a significant event or person in history, it qualifies as a historic home.

The architectural style and era

To best take care of a historic home and understand its value, devote a few hours into researching its architecture, including the style and the era it hails from. Detroit’s historic districts feature homes of various styles, including Roman, Tudor, Dutch Colonial, Greek Revival,Italian Renaissance, and Mid-century Modern. You can feel the sheer amount of history just by looking at these homes and taking a tour of their interiors.

Source of historical information

Every historic home should provide or have already provided some degree of historical information worth preserving. For example, an old diary detailing a historical event or a photograph of a Civil War general and his family are prime examples of artifacts that define a home’s historic value. These homes tend to be large with all manner of hidden nooks and crannies, meaning there could be new relics waiting to be discovered if you look in the right places.

Local guidelines about the home

Before you commit to buying a historic home, you should first educate yourself on the local guidelines about that property. Historic homes are subject to a different set of guidelines and regulations for the sake of preserving their value and original integrity. You need to learn these jurisdictions to ensure you take proper care of the home while playing your part in its preservation.
To verify if a home is truly historic, and to learn more about Detroit’s historic districts and regulations, contact the Historic District Commission in Michigan.

Tips for preserving historic homes in Detroit

Historic homes are old and mostly left in their original conditions, meaning they are more likely to wear down over time. You want to avoid making major changes to these homes, or else you’ll ruin their historic status, but you also want to make sure the home is stable for living. Below are a handful of tips to help preserve the integrity of your new home while ensuring it receives the care it needs.

Schedule routine maintenance

As with any old home, your historic property needs regularly scheduled maintenance. Routine cleaning, waxing, and painting are crucial tasks conducive to the preservation of an older home.

Minimize the number of repairs

Fixing a historic home is a long, costly process that depends on regular maintenance and a selective amount of repairs. The materials and designs used in older homes may no longer be available, requiring certified professionals to attend to the unique features of your home. Duplicating these unique details is nearly impossible nowadays, but there are professionals who specialize in the historic and antique.

Preserve noteworthy details

The most unusual and eccentric details of a home contribute to its appeal as a piece of historical import, considering those aspects aren’t typically found in modern architecture anymore. Although you may find yourself with strangely patterned tile or clunky, ornate door knockers, understand that these details signify your home as historically important and valuable. Don’t alter them — embrace them for the unique pieces of art and history they are.

Maintain original flooring and walls

You want to maintain the original flooring and walls of your home as much as you can. Most historic properties used plaster in their walls, and although plaster is still used in modern home construction, the exact usage and application is vastly different. Hire a professional to repair your plaster walls instead of replacing them with drywall.
The same goes for hardwood floors. Too much sanding can erode the durability of these old floors, but if you absolutely need a bit of maintenance, opt for sanding by hand instead of with a machine.
Once you are ready to begin searching for a historic home of your own, you would do well to get in touch with a real estate agent familiar with the Detroit area. Austin Black II is a certified Detroit Realtor with a passion for the historic neighborhoods famous throughout the region, making him the best choice for helping you browse genuine, historic homes in Detroit. Kindly give Austin a call at your earliest convenience to get started!

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