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What You Need to Know About Buying a Historic Home in D.C.

If you love a home with rich culture, quirky features, and historical significance, Washington DC  should be on the top of your home buying list. D.C. is home to an array of historic homes that you’ll fall in love with and want to call your own.

Aside from being beautiful and overflowing with character, a historic home comes with potential tax benefits as well. In addition, with there being specific guidelines to historic districts, your neighbors aren’t allowed to change the appearance of their homes significantly. Providing a greater chance that the property value of a historic home will remain high. Making a historic home in the D.C. area a great investment. Here’s what you need to know when looking to purchase a home in D.C.

Where can you find a historic home?

Nearly 1 in 5 homes in the D.C. area are protected by local historic designation laws, making purchasing a historic home much easier than in most areas of the country. To designate a home as “historical,” the National Registry of Historic Places must deem it to be “worthy of preservation.” The registry is a part of a national program under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to evaluate the home’s age, architectural style, and overall significance. There are nearly 30 historic neighborhoods in D.C., so that you won’t be short of choice. Some of the most popular include:

What type of historic home is right for you?

Each historic district is home to different styles of historic homes. The most popular type you’ll find in D.C. is a Victorian-style home. Renaissance and Gothic revival movements influenced Victorian homes. If this is your sort of historical flavor, keep an eye out for:

  • Bay Windows
  • Porches
  • Dormers
  • Roof gables
  • Pointed roofs decorated with wooden trim

The interior of a Victorian-style home will include:

  • Elaborate decorations
  • Fancy trim throughout the residence
  • Fireplaces with wide mantels
  • Cast iron baths
  • Intricate wallpaper

The next most popular style in D.C. is Federal-style homes. This style reflects design elements from the Greek Revival movement. The exterior is typically laid out as such:

  • Simple
  • Square and/or rectangle
  • More than one story
  • Narrow columns and moldings
  • Symmetrical windows and doors

The interior of a Federal-style home typically include:

  • Arches and curved casings
  • Wallpaper
  • A central hall
  • Well-lit
  • Two rooms in depth

What red flags should you look out for?

Before you close the deal on a historic home, it’s important to be extra careful throughout the inspection process. Considering the home’s age, red flags will come up in the inspection. But it’s important to know which ones to look out for. Some important red flags to take into account are:

  • Previous renovations to the HVAC system
  • Hot water heater
  • Foundational issues
  • Poor insulation
  • Old wiring
  • Odd odors

The above issues are some of the most expensive for historic home buyers. Depending on your budget, these issues may or may not be deal-breakers. But it’s vital to budget the cost of repairing these issues with the home’s purchase price. They are likely to cost a pretty penny.

What renovations will you need to make?

With an old home comes old problems. And with some of the houses reaching hundreds of years old, you’ll likely encounter renovation projects. It’s vital to remember the home’s age when considering DIY or hire a professional. To protect the longevity and health of the home, it may be best always to choose to contract the projects out. That said, always choose an inspector and contractor who specializes in historic homes.

To start, focus on practical renovations, such as leaky roofs and outdated windows. These homes will likely have areas with damaged wood and/or unusable insulation. When tackling renovations, it might be in your best interest to also budget the cost of material removal. Lastly, if the HVAC system is needing replacement, be careful of newer heating and cooling systems. They are both bulky and can damage the charm of the historic home. Instead, try to find a split system that has smaller components.

If you’re looking for a beautiful historical home to call your own, let one of our Washington DC real estate experts help you today.

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