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What you need to know before you buy a historic home

The Westchester County area is rich with historic homes that showcase the nation’s history. The Elijah Miller House, located in North White Plains, was built before the country existed. It served as General George Washington’s headquarters during the Battle of White Plains. The home stood vacant for years, but is now being turned into a public museum.

Residents often find themselves charmed by area homes filled with character from the 18th or 19th century. These homes range from Gothic Revival to Federal-style Colonials. Though the homes are incredibly charming, buying a historic home can be difficult. Homes on the historic registry have limitations on what kind of renovations can be made. Older homes may also need significant repairs. If you are interested in purchasing a historic home, here are some things you should consider before you move forward.

Get a home inspection by a specialized inspector

With an older home, there could a variety of issues, including the presence of asbestos, lead paint and structural issues. An inspector that specializes in older homes will know what to look for and may find problems that another inspector may miss. You may also consider hiring a structural engineer to evaluate your potential home.

Find out what guidelines apply to the home

Homes on the historic registry typically have restrictions on how the homes can be renovated. The restrictions are meant to preserve the historic features of the home. However, this makes fixing up an older home more difficult. If the home is on the federal registry, the U.S. Department of the Interior has Standards for Rehabilitation that should be used to guide restoration projects for historic homes. Some of these guidelines include repairing deteriorated historic elements instead of replacing these features.

In White Plains, there is a Historic Preservation Commission that also guides the maintenance of historic homes in the area. If the home is registered with this commission, many renovations will need to be approved by this committee. There is a Certificate of Appropriateness Application that you submit to the commission. This application will ask you to describe the type of rehabilitation projects you are undertaking on your property. Typically, these applications are concerned with renovations that occur on the exterior of the home, so these would include elements like rooflines, paint colors and fencing.

Buying a historic home allows you to preserve a piece of the nation’s history. However, you want to make sure your potential home is safe to live in. Additionally, renovating a home on the historic registry is a complex process. If you are considering purchasing a historic home in the Westchester area, you may want to reach out to a local attorney experienced in real estate transactions. An attorney can help make sure your investment is sound and can assist you with filling out paperwork needed to begin any renovations.

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