Top 9 Things to Look for When Buying a Historic Home | Maryland’s Eastern Shore
Are you one of those people who grew up dreaming of an elegant home from a bygone era? Maybe you fell in love with the charms of an older home while visiting a sweet historic Eastern Shore town as an adult?
No matter when or where your passion began, a historic home can be a great way to live in multiple ages at once. Let’s talk about the financial side of a historical home, though: it’s a significant gamble. Historical homes in the right locations can see huge jumps in value. Others don’t and can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars each year in repairs. This is especially true when searching for a historical home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
We’re not trying to scare you off, only to make you cautious. If you wait for a home inspection while you’re under contract to find out about a house’s problems, you could lose valuable time. The trick is knowing what to look for during your tours.
Here’s what you need to know.
What to Look for When Touring a Historic Home
Spotting signs of damage and asking the right questions from the get-go can keep you from investing time in a house that would become a money pit. Here are some key areas to inspect on your initial tour.
What to Look for Outside
Your inspection should start the moment you drive up in front of the house. These spots can be key indicators of potential problems.
1. Survey the Roof
Does the roof look straight or do you see areas where it’s sagging? An easy trick is to hold up a folder or paper at the same angle as the roof and see if the roof follows the line or if there are sagging spots.
Look at the surface of the roof too. Do you see any missing shingles or other signs of damage? Can you see any spots where it looks like the roof was poorly fixed?
2. Walk the Foundation
Walk around the perimeter of the house and check out the foundation at the ground line. does it look like the house is sitting level or are some areas “sinking?” Living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has so many perks but, being so close to the water can sometimes end in disaster. Be sure to look for any cracks in the foundation as well.
3. Check the Chimney
If the house has a chimney, what shape does it look to be in? Is it standing up straight or does it lean? Do you see any chipped or missing mortar, or does the structure look to be intact?
It can be hard to tell from far away. Unless the roof has an easy area to access, like a widow’s walk, you might not be able to see the details from far away.
As you’re looking at the chimney, ask if it’s the house’s original chimney. This can affect the home’s future value.
4. Watch the Walls
As you walk around the perimeter of the home, take a look at the exterior walls. What kind of shape is the exterior in? Do you see any missing mortar between bricks or signs of rot in wood siding?
Keep an eye out for signs of water damage too.
5. Inspect the Porch
If the house has a porch, look for loose or sagging floorboards. This includes the stairs in front of the house as well. Don’t be too forceful, but touch the railing and see if it’s stable or shaky.
Perhaps most importantly, look at the posts that hold up the porch if you can. Look for any signs of rot or damage.
What to Look for Inside
As you step into the house, there are plenty of other opportunities to catch issues as well.
6. Glance over the Interior Walls
Many house hunters overlook the walls because they know they can make cosmetic changes. Be sure to look for any cracks or holes, though. You should also be on the lookout for any signs of mold or water damage.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore goes through all four seasons – this means lots of shrinking and swelling takes place year after year. Keep your eye out for these signs of seasonal issues:
- Wet stains, eroding surfaces, or efflorescence (salt deposits) on interior surfaces
- Flaking paint and plaster, peeling wallpaper, or moisture blisters on finished surfaces
7. Take a Look at the Windows
If the house has its original windows, this could be a major setting point or a money pit. Inspect the frames for any signs of damage or rot. Take note of whether the windows have any cloudiness or condensation because these can signal a poor seal.
As you do this, hold your hand near the window frame to see if you feel any air getting through. That can also be a sign of window problems.
8. Inspect the Floors
If you’re touring a historic home, you’re probably expecting to hear some squeaking floors. It’s not uncommon, but it’s something to note. Be sure to ask if the floors are original or if a previous owner replaced them.
Look for any areas where the floor sags or seems uneven. You can even set a golf ball on the floor and see if it rolls in any direction to look for floor tilts.
For hardwood floors, ask the realtor if and when the floors have ever been sanded, as you can only sand most hardwood floors a few times. If they aren’t sure, ridges on the floorboards can be a leftover sign of a sanding job.
Pay special attention to the floors near water sources, like in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen. Keep an eye out for signs of water damage.
9. Examine the Electrical Work
As you go through the house, test all lights and fans to make sure every part of the electrical system works. If any lights don’t work, be aware that it could be more than a burned out lightbulb.
Ask the realtor when the electrical work was installed and if they’re aware of any issues. In addition, look for signs of electrical fires. That could include damage or discoloration near electrical outlets.
Protecting Your Wallet When Buying a Historic Home
Whether it’s a passion project or an investment, a historic home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore can have a level of warmth and character that newer homes can’t match. It can also have a level of problems that newer homes can’t match, though.
The key is knowing what to look for at every stage of the process. The list above is a start.
If the house you’re considering has a basement or an attic, those areas will need an inspection too. Spotting warning signs during early stages can save you from wasting time and money on a house that isn’t a viable option.
If you’re ready to start shopping for your dream historic home, contact our expert real estate team today.