Thursday, June 14, 2012

Key Things to Consider when Buying a Vintage Home


History can be a powerful draw to home buyers. A turn of the century home with unique rooms, window sizes, dormers, front porches, attics, stone fireplaces and hand crafted woodwork are sought after by many. Finding an affordable vintage home that has been properly maintained can be challenge. Sometimes the search can take a home buyer across the Twin Cities metro area from Summit Avenue in St Paul to homes along the St Croix in Stillwater to quaint neighborhoods in North St. Paul and Chisago.

There are vintage homes in every style and price point in the north and east Twin Cities Metro. Whether you seek a lovely old duplex, traditional two story or highly sought after mansion (the original executive home), there are some key considerations in purchasing a vintage home.

Updated with Style—Not current style but did the updates reflect the style of the era when the vintage home was originally constructed. If the updates to the home do not blend well with original home, the value of the home can be compromised.

Upgraded Plumbing and Electrical—If the furnace resembles and octopus and you need fuses for the electrical panel, there will be major updates required to the home at some time in the future.

Charming Windows—Decorative leaded glass and stained glass windows are beautiful. Many vintage homes will not only have beautiful window details but often there will be odd sized windows too. While this adds to the charm, it costs to have custom windows replaced.

Odd Sized Doors—Just like with the windows, often doors are not a standard size. This can lead to additional expense when repairing and/or replacing a door as it will have to be cut to measure.

A Good Foundation—When homes were constructed a century ago, there wasn’t a building code or city inspector. Often a corner of a home would be a “root” cellar without a foundation wall or floor. Sometimes the builder would just skim a thin layer of cement over the wall to make it look nice rather than use cement blocks. Though they have stood for decades, walls can deteriorate over time.

Garages and Sheds—Very few families owned cars or the lawn equipment we require today so when vintage houses were constructed there often weren’t garages. Look closely at any older detached garage as many can be unstable. Finding a vintage home with an attached garage means it was probably added on as a remodel. If this is the case, make certain it fits well with the existing structure of the home.

Closets—Homes in the early 1900’s were insured by the number of doors so bedrooms were often constructed without closets. Some closets or dressers were added later under the eaves in the upstairs of a home. Because people did not have the extensive wardrobes that we have today, closets were much smaller than what is expected today.


Original Hardwood—Properly refinished and maintained, vintage hardwood can be a one of the most beautiful features of the home. How do you check to see if the flooring is hardwood ? If the home has carpeting, look at the floor inside a closet or at the edge of the floor under a vent for clues as to what the flooring is like below.

Fireplaces and Chimneys—While beautiful and a focal point, be certain to have any original brick or stone fireplace inspected by a professional chimney expert prior to purchase. Over time bricks can loosen and linings crack which can be costly to repair.

This list is not all inclusive but a starting point of things to consider when searching for a vintage house to call home. The charm of a historical home is that it was handcrafted to be full of charm and not necessarily perfectly constructed.


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