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Buying

In Defense of Buying a Historic Home: It Could Be Downright Amazing

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Victorian Houses in San Francisco

Maybe you've always dreamed of buying a beautifully built home, something that doesn't look like it came out of a cookie cutter.

And you probably also get some side eye as soon as you mention your historic-home dreams. Real estate agents, friends, and family are often quick to tell you to think twice before investing in an older home. And they're not wrong.

There are any number of problems that could come with buying a period home. Asbestos! Zoning restrictions! Small rooms! But if you do your homework, those things won't catch you off guard.

And if you can get past those possibilities, you can embrace the fact that sometimes historic homes are downright amazing.

"Sometimes there's nothing to worry about -- it's just 200 years old, is all," says Ernesto Caldeira, a New Orleans Realtor who specializes in period homes.

In fact, there are several reasons historic homes can blow their newer counterparts out of the water. Check out these advantages -- but also make sure to find a knowledgeable agent and home inspector you trust.

Quality of construction

The No. 1 thing you'll find in a historic home that you can't get nowadays? Sturdy construction with meticulous attention to detail. Leaded glass windows that survive high winds and hail better than its newer neighbors. Floors made from heartwood, which won't scratch easily or warp (and hasn't been available in decades).

"It is more comfortable, better built, and better designed than anything else around," says Caldeira, who himself lives in a house built in 1810. "It has cross ventilation, it has galleries -- everything about it is wonderful and gracious and charming. And it's solid as a rock."

Functional charm

It may feel like a tank, but the architects of yore crammed a lot into a home that you don't get with today's fast-paced construction -- and most of it served a purpose. Transom windows can be cracked open, pouring cool air into your living room and keeping your AC bill down. The dumbwaiter that used to carry food upstairs can now be used to drop your laundry hands-free to the first floor. And the picture rail lining the bedrooms can safely display your art collection without having to tear holes in the walls. Plus, it all just looks cooler, right?

Tax benefits

If you're terrified of a bad investment and looking for a little financial reassurance, there are several local, state and federal tax breaks for owners of historic homes. The government wants you to keep preserving these properties, so it's generally willing to chip in a little bit -- even if that means reducing your bill to the IRS.

Landscaping

The advantage of living in an, ahem, "mature" home is that you usually get the mature landscaping to go with it. Imagine living along a tree-lined street that not only makes everything feel cozier, but also increases your home's value.

Finally, if you're looking to show off a little, remember that you can always open your home to the public -- having a beautifully preserved historic home comes with the possibility of hosting garden or holiday tours. Sure, these old bones aren't for everyone. But if you've done your research and your Realtor and home inspector approve, why not make a commitment to own a piece of history?

"Give me an old house any day of the week," Caldeira says. "They're just built to last."