The Sales Directory of Antique and Historic Properties

Historic New England

By Sally Zimmerman Share:

Tips on how old or new is right for you

Recent news reports suggest first-time home buyers may be entering the real estate market in greater numbers. One banking industry newsletter noted that 2018 witnessed the largest jump in first-time home buyers since the Great Recession. While perhaps too early to be a trend, the inventory of “starter homes” in the market seems to be increasing while prices may be moderating, bringing home ownership within reach of more buyers, at least in some areas of the country.

Thinking about buying a house comes with many questions beyond just the proverbial “location, location, location.” These include the affordability, condition, upkeep, and eventual resale of the property, but also significant emotional and lifestyle questions as well: What will the house feel like to live in? Does it suit one’s requirements as well as providing shelter and comfort? 

Many Americans say they’d prefer to live in a newly constructed house, if it costs the same as an existing home. In New England, however, housing stock is typically older than in many other regions. Most first-time buyers are likely to purchase an existing house: often old, and often in less than move-in condition.

Historic New England has a long commitment to maintaining the character and integrity of properties with significant architecture and history. We can provide valuable insights to novice home buyers on planning for and understanding the implications of purchasing an older home that may need repairs. It is important to understand how a house’s age affects the type and costs of repair that may be needed before making a choice that fits your expectations and budget.

Lifestyle is another important consideration. What kinds of spaces best fit the way you live? When contacted Historic New England for advice on what to consider when buying an old home, we urged first-time buyers to think seriously about lifestyle needs before purchasing a very old house. 

For example, if an open-concept floor plan is appealing, it would be much easier (and much less damaging to the building’s integrity) to create a flowing living space in a 1950s ranch house than it would be in a house of the eighteenth or nineteenth century. That ranch house may also be more forgiving of a major new addition than houses built in the pre-Modern era.

Making informed choices about old houses, whether as a first-time buyer or a seasoned owner, is always easier with access to expertise. Members at the Sustainer level and above can contact me by phone or email for personalized advice, or read Historic New England’s preservation white papers at the link below.

Sally Zimmerman
Senior Preservation Services Manager

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