The Stories Your House Can TellTopic: Home selling
Many owners of historic character homes become curious as to its origins. After all a hundred year old home has a lot of stories to tell. Tracing its roots is similar to tracing the genealogy in a family. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, you gather clues from leftover paper trails and information from long-time residents to assemble a chronologic history of the building.
A word to the wise, your house may not have the romantic history you imagine. Our first home was an old schoolhouse built in 1873 that we renovated and turned into a two bedroom house. Looking out our bedroom window into the backyard we imagined a Norman Rockwell scene of children running and playing. Once we began researching the roots of our charming home, we discovered that same school yard was the scene of an unsolved murder where a teacher had been killed with an axe. A local historian claimed she had solved the murder, believing it to be a crime of passion, and that the revered Dr.Whitehead was the killer. It wasn't quite what we expected.
Throwing caution to the wind, if you still wish to proceed, here is a list of steps that will help you trace the history of your home.
Listen to your house ... what does it have to say? Beginning with the home itself, try to determine its architectural style. Whether it is Victorian, Georgian, Queen Anne, or a more recent design, the style will give you a clue to the year the house was built. Pay attention to the materials used in construction. Did the builder use stone, brick, wood siding or stucco? Look at the shape of the roofline, the shape and placement of the windows, the chimney, doors, and foundation.
Look for any upgrades to the home; distinguishing between new and old building materials. Sometimes old newspapers were used as insulation that may give you a clue to the date of the home. Comb the attic or any cubbyholes that may have old clothes, diaries or other artifacts.
Speak to long time residents or local historians and find out what stories they have about the home or its past owners. Often, this personal exchange of information is your best source.
Next, head over to the local courthouse or land registry office and do a search on past titles. If you're lucky you may find the deed from the first owner giving you the date the home was built. For reference, make a note of the legal description of the property and names of prior owners. In addition, check the will and probate records in case the property had been passed onto another owner through a will. Mortgage and tax records may provide clues to any improvements or changes to the home throughout the years.
Archived building permits can provide clues to previous owners, structural changes to the house and maybe even the original blueprints.
When you're done here, move on over to the library and search through the section dedicated to local history. You may even find old photos of the property or prior owners. Census, birth, marriage, death records and obituaries can also provide valuable information. Learning about the people who lived there helps to form total picture of the life of the home.
Be sure to take detailed notes, photocopies and record your reference sources in case you have to go back to them.
About the Author: Mark Hostetler
WelcomeHomeNevada.com provides a professional guide for Las Vegas Nevada Real Estate. For excellent agent services in the Las Vegas area, contact Mark Hostetler, your Rhodes Ranch Real Estate agent.