Across the housing industry nationwide, more and more homeowners are opting to buy and restore a historic home over buying or building a new, modern, home. One might find it a bit curious that there would still be such interest in 100 year old objects in an age with unprecedented electronic connectivity and technological innovation, and yet it endures. What is it about historic homes that has captured our hearts and our wallets? Even if you never thought of yourself as a fan of old homes, be prepared to fall in love with the magic and mystery behind these historic gems.
Heartfelt Connections Many believe the widespread interest in historic homes is simply the natural state of the human condition to strive to connect to our past. “I think it goes back to a basic human desire to feel connected to our roots.” says Elizabeth Finkelstein, founder of the curated historic house marketplace and fan club, Circa Old Houses. The feeling of walking into an old house is an unmistakable sensation in itself. Elizabeth explains, “it’s as if you’ve suddenly become part of a larger story. It’s very powerful. You can honestly feel the love of the home that has come before you”. She thinks the popularity of historic homes arises from the fact that people crave a return to something more authentic and one-of-a-kind, in an age of fast fashion and fast food, filled with instant results. Lisa Hassler, owner of Historic Homes of Cape Cod, explains that for her clients, the emotion is as genuine a love as there ever was. They truly care for the house and their connection to it is real and visceral. She has found that it is the character of the house and the historic home’s story that they seek out to most. “The history of real people and real lives connects the current homeowner to the craftspeople who built the house as well as to the generations who have lived there before them” Lisa explains. It seems that people’s interest in historic homes is also overwhelmingly driven by their quest for an authentic connection. As Lisa says, “it isn’t just the house – it is a lifestyle that people are after“. The soul-touching connection is more than just a spirit of the house, it’s something you can feel and hold in your hand. Just imagine running your hand down a banister that generation after generation of people have held before you.
Historic Craftsmanship Another huge appeal of historic homes are the unique high quality materials that simply do not exist anymore.The materials used in historic homes are much sturdier than anything used in today’s buildings. As the decades have worn on, more efficient and cheaper construction methods have overtaken traditional building techniques. For example, as lumber prices increased over the years, stud dimensions became smaller and plywood became the default building material. As Dave Radleman, CEO of home renovation firm Heirloom Design Build explains, the high end materials used in historic homes like solid brick, old growth hardwood floors have unmatched beauty and integrity that is nothing short of true craftsmanship. Nowadays, most builders just want to build the home fast and large, and forgo many of the small, decorative touches. These ornate, decorative touches are what Dave loves most about working with historic homes.“There else is nothing like the incredible details you’ll find in historic homes” he says. Dave also told us that one of the biggest things his Heirloom Design clients like about historic homes is that the scale of historic homes is just right; the proportions all seem natural and organic, unlike today’s “McMansions”. Historic homes tend blend together nicely as a picturequest streetscape, with consistent design and styles amongst the homes. Historic homes also have front porches and the surrounding yard most likely has very old grand trees, and the surrounding street is more likely to consist of friendlier scaled houses.
Historical Treasure Hunt Restoring historic homes is something of a hobby for enthusiasts. Many describe feeling abundant joy from uncovering your home’s secret past, step by step. Many historic home inhabitants are simply delighted to tell you all about their latest discovery, or the research they’ve uncovered about their home to date. Many of the historic home experts we spoke with described the experience as being similar to a treasure hunt for them and their clients alike! One Hometalk member recently shared his excitement over uncovering a secret walkway under a few inches of dirt in their yard. He immediately laid his yardwork aside and spent the entire rest of the day uncovering the walkway piece by piece, which ended up mysteriously leading out into the woods behind his house. The fabulous discoveries one can come across at any moment in a historic house is the stuff of great novels and ghost stories.
Historic Business Opportunities There are also, of course, monetary reasons for people’s love endures for historic homes. Properties within designated historic districts are worth more than their newer counterparts, appreciate faster, and retain more of their value. In an often turbulent housing market, a home inside a historic district provides much more price stability. Historic homes also have a much higher return on investment when you remodel, so you not only have the potential to dramatically increase your home’s value, but you can also feel confident you’ll get substantial bang for your buck. State tax credits also make historic preservation more attractive; 24 states now offer some form of credit for historic rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes. Yet even the most avid old home lovers must still deal with the budget limitations of purchasing an actual historic home. Luckily, there are unique details you can identify in a for-sale new home or add to your home yourself to get the historic look! Historic home decorator and appreciator, Colleen Stevens of 58 Water Street, has a few suggestions of often overlooked details to keep your eyes out for: “many new construction homes will have tall, double front doors made of solid wood, hexagon tile in the bathroom, and other charming ornate details”. The true beauty is in the details, according to Colleen. Other historic details or renovations you can add yourself include front porch trim, crown molding, decorative ceiling tiles, and antique hardware like door handles or cabinet knobs. At their core, historic homes evoke a sentimental, emotional response as well as a deep appreciation of a true, genuine quality that has been lost to the ages. As this appeal will endure for generations of homeowners, historic homes are well-equipped to stand the test of time. Check out Hometalk to learn more about historic architecture or to browse more beautiful historic homes.