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-   -   Looking at buying a house built in 1919, historical questions (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=642973)

obbn 02-22-2012 09:00 PM

Looking at buying a house built in 1919, historical questions
 
Hello Everyone,
The wife and I are looking to purchase a home and have found a beautiful historical home built in 1919 that I think we are going to make an offer on tomorrow. I am asking this question here because we saw the house so late in the day I had no one to ask at the county.

The house is marked is a historical home in the city and I do realize that there are certain restrictions that come with purchasing a home that has this designation. Can someone give me an example of what the restrictions might be? I am assuming most have to do with the exterior of the home, colors, siding and such.

I would think that the majority of any changes inside would be up to our discretion. The house is beautiful inside with real wood floors and even wood ceilings. We would never think of compromising the look of the interior with modern upgrades, sans the kitchen where of course modern appliances would be put.

As I mentioned, I will be contacting the county to find out all the important things we should know, but would like to get some idea of what we are getting into.

Hilarity N. Suze 02-22-2012 09:45 PM

Where I live, most of the houses covered under this will have to have approval for things done to the exterior, and a couple of friends have found it such a tremendous hassle that they finally declined to make any changes. For example one friend wanted to add another story (and this was being done a lot in her neighborhood, which may be what prompted the zoning change to make it a historical neighborhood). She submitted plan after plan. One wouldn't work because it changed the footprint. The next one wouldn't work because while it adhered to the footprint it changed the topline. Each one of the changes was drawn up by someone charging money, and then it took months to get the rejection. In one case her architect followed the guidelines given for rejecting it, and then next version came back with a whole new set of rejections that didn't correspond at all to the previous ones.

Just for example. (And the weird thing was this house was not particularly spectacular and was built in 1949, among a lot of houses that were, in fact, older, in addition to being much modified from their original looks.)

So it's worth checking out, but you ought to be able to see what's required when you get a home inspection done.

Hakuna Matata 02-22-2012 09:49 PM

It really depends on what kind of historical designation it has, national or local. And then on what that means locally. The upside is you can live in a beautifully detailed and maintained area. The downside is that you leave a lot of decisions (which cost money) in other peoples hands, who don't necessarily have your interests in mind. Think of it as a HOA, on steroids.

Rand Rover 02-22-2012 10:38 PM

My house has a similar historical designation, and the restrictions cover outside appearance only. We gut-rehabbed the place without having to seek permission from anyone.

Mr Downtown 02-22-2012 11:54 PM

. . . but you're not allowed to even hint at what country the house is in, much less which city?

In the US, it's very rare for landmark designations to include residential interiors, unless it's a very well-known mansion or the like.

obbn 02-23-2012 12:30 AM

FWIW the house is in Mount Dora, FL. what has really attracted us to the home besides the beautiful woodwork is the neighborhood. As mentioned above, because it is in a historical area all the homes are maintained wonderfully. No junk in the yards or dead lawns.

Does anyone know if asbestos was widely used in the very early 20th century? Of course we will have it tested, but I am unsure if it was used in construction in 1919.

zweisamkeit 02-23-2012 12:31 AM

A good place to start would be your state's SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office; most often pronounced "shippo"). Any nominations to be added to the National Register (of Historic Places) has to go through the SHPO, along with any state-level historic site/landmark/district.

obbn 02-23-2012 01:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by zweisamkeit (Post 14801996)
A good place to start would be your state's SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office; most often pronounced "shippo"). Any nominations to be added to the National Register (of Historic Places) has to go through the SHPO, along with any state-level historic site/landmark/district.

Thanks for the information. I have sent an email to the office in Florida and hopefully they can provide some history on the property or at least steer us in the right direction! It would be interesting to know a bit about the history of the home. My wife just keeps wondering if anyone died in it. She figures that with almost 100 years of existence there is a good chance! My wife is a wonderful, but twisted woman!

Mr Downtown 02-23-2012 09:47 AM

The SHPO is irrelevant. Unless you're using federal money, National Register listing has no effect on what you can do with your property, including demolition.

Mt. Dora has an ordinance regarding exterior changes:

Certificates of Appropriateness are required for any proposed exterior alterations or renovations to any buildings (residential or non-residential) more than fifty years old that lies within the defined historic district. The streets included in the historic district are Helen Street, McDonald Street, Alexander Street, and Donnelly Street lying south of 11th Avenue; Baker Street, Tremain Street, Grandview Street, Clayton Street, and Highland Street lying between 11th Avenue and 1st Avenue; and, First Avenue through Tenth Avenue, inclusive, lying west of Highland Street. Here's a map of the affected area.

A somewhat larger area is a National Register District, but as noted above, that designation carries no restrictions.

RealityChuck 02-23-2012 10:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by obbn (Post 14801993)
Does anyone know if asbestos was widely used in the very early 20th century? Of course we will have it tested, but I am unsure if it was used in construction in 1919.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, homes built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation. This house predates that, so it isn't likely to be a problem.

zweisamkeit 02-23-2012 11:55 AM

Even if it isn't on the National Register, the SHPO can still be a good starting point since they also deal with historic designations at the state level. Even if the property in question isn't in a state-level historic designation, SHPO should be able to give him contact info at the local level (which can save time compared to trying on your own and potentially ending up bouncing between departments while you/they figure out who actually can help you).

zweisamkeit 02-23-2012 12:02 PM

Also, I gave the suggestion before the OP said where the house was (we posted a minute apart), so I tried to couch my advice in general terms. :)

Kimballkid 02-23-2012 12:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by obbn (Post 14802113)
My wife just keeps wondering if anyone died in it. She figures that with almost 100 years of existence there is a good chance! My wife is a wonderful, but twisted woman!

Your wife would love my house then as there have been two people that have died in it that I know of and it was only built in 1956.

zut 02-23-2012 12:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by obbn (Post 14801484)
The house is marked is a historical home in the city and I do realize that there are certain restrictions that come with purchasing a home that has this designation. Can someone give me an example of what the restrictions might be? I am assuming most have to do with the exterior of the home, colors, siding and such.

I would think that the majority of any changes inside would be up to our discretion. The house is beautiful inside with real wood floors and even wood ceilings. We would never think of compromising the look of the interior with modern upgrades, sans the kitchen where of course modern appliances would be put.

As I mentioned, I will be contacting the county to find out all the important things we should know, but would like to get some idea of what we are getting into.

As I think you realize, the people that set the rules, and the people you'll have to deal with in getting approval, are the folks at the local Historic Preservation Office. That means the most important information is what Mr Downtown uoted:
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 14802668)
The SHPO is irrelevant. Unless you're using federal money, National Register listing has no effect on what you can do with your property, including demolition.

Mt. Dora has an ordinance regarding exterior changes:

Certificates of Appropriateness are required for any proposed exterior alterations or renovations to any buildings (residential or non-residential) more than fifty years old that lies within the defined historic district. The streets included in the historic district are Helen Street, McDonald Street, Alexander Street, and Donnelly Street lying south of 11th Avenue; Baker Street, Tremain Street, Grandview Street, Clayton Street, and Highland Street lying between 11th Avenue and 1st Avenue; and, First Avenue through Tenth Avenue, inclusive, lying west of Highland Street. Here's a map of the affected area.

However, I would be surprised if historic renovation guidelines are not essentialy the same across most localities. I live in a historic district, and our local Historic District Commission has guildelines that sound essentially the same as what's quoted above.

Basically, any renovations you do to the interior of the house that don't affect the exterior appearance don't need any kind of approval. External changes need approval, and how much of a hassle that is is probably a function of how much you want to change the appearance. We had our house re-roofed with similar shingles to what existed before, and approval was routine. Re-roofing with a different material probably would have been a bigger headache, but there was no reason to do so.

If your house has a slate roof, make sure you take a hard look at it. Slate roofs are pretty durable, but a 90+ year old roof may be getting up to the end of its useful life, and fixing a slate roof will be far more expensive than fixing asphalt shingles. The chances of the local historic board allowing you to replace a slate roof with asphalt is pretty slim. Likewise, windows can be a problem spot: replacing wooden windows can be quite expensive, and you're unlikely to be allowed to replace them with vinyl windows.

All in all, for us, dealing with the historic board was no more onerous than having to pull a construction permit anyway. It's only if you want to make major external changes that it's an issue.

elbows 02-23-2012 01:21 PM

Where I live usually 'Historic' districts are concerned with streetscapes, hence exteriors. Whereas individual homes designated as 'Historical' usually means the interiors are also intact.

There are also sub categories for older homes with existing altered exteriors, which makes those easier to alter again.

Zsofia 02-23-2012 01:56 PM

You have got to find out exactly what it means in your city - I didn't know until after I'd bought my house that the historical neighborhood it's in has some serious rules which meant that when I added a garage I had to go before a design review board, and when some asshole threw a rock through a window I had to replace it under cover of night.

madmonk28 02-23-2012 02:15 PM

In DC, the first question any contractor asks before giving us a bid is if our neighborhood is an historic district. We're not, but I get the sense that if we were, their bid would be much higher.

obbn 02-23-2012 04:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zsofia (Post 14803614)
You have got to find out exactly what it means in your city - I didn't know until after I'd bought my house that the historical neighborhood it's in has some serious rules which meant that when I added a garage I had to go before a design review board, and when some asshole threw a rock through a window I had to replace it under cover of night.


I thought of this, but thankfully the property has a garage and two free standing workshops.

Cheesesteak 02-24-2012 03:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by obbn (Post 14801993)
Does anyone know if asbestos was widely used in the very early 20th century? Of course we will have it tested, but I am unsure if it was used in construction in 1919.

My home (1903) had asbestos pipe insulation, and some renovations with asbestos vinyl tile.

If you are considering having children in the future, take a close look at the paint, you will likely have lead paint somewhere, it can be a hazard if it's around windows and doors, or if it is in poor condition in any accessible places.

Caffeine.addict 02-24-2012 08:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by zut (Post 14803353)
If your house has a slate roof, make sure you take a hard look at it. Slate roofs are pretty durable, but a 90+ year old roof may be getting up to the end of its useful life, and fixing a slate roof will be far more expensive than fixing asphalt shingles. The chances of the local historic board allowing you to replace a slate roof with asphalt is pretty slim. Likewise, windows can be a problem spot: replacing wooden windows can be quite expensive, and you're unlikely to be allowed to replace them with vinyl windows.
.

I really want to highlight this. I was talking to a colleague in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and she was telling me about someone who had to go with a slate roof of their house and not a product that looked similar and it got very expensive. Shutters and windows can also get pricy compared to what they cost in a non historic neighborhood. Other houses had to go with copper roofs which I don't think are as pricy as slate.

SubaRhubarb 02-24-2012 09:57 AM

Hi neighbour!
 
obbn I live in a 1922 wood Craftsman home 5 miles from Mt Dora. Lake county now has the ability to apply for permits online, and anyone you contact through the website (either by email or phone) is VERY friendly and helpful.

The first home I bought wasn't just in the district, I was in a registered home. I wasn't allowed to change the layout inside, but I could do odd things, like create a room inside a room without removing/moving any of the old walls.

Basically I wound up just flipping it, as my situation changed and I didn't want to live in a 2 storey home.

As I said, the permit office goes well beyond their duties, and probably give more advice then they Should (legally and TMI style). I called about getting a permit to replace all the knob and tube, and wound up getting a kitten pawned off on me. :eek:

Oh and FWIW, the house itself is all awkward as it was added onto so many times, but I have the wood floors and Really high ceilings. My living room is as a bowling alley.

obbn 02-26-2012 12:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SubaRhubarb (Post 14806048)
obbn I live in a 1922 wood Craftsman home 5 miles from Mt Dora. Lake county now has the ability to apply for permits online, and anyone you contact through the website (either by email or phone) is VERY friendly and helpful.

The first home I bought wasn't just in the district, I was in a registered home. I wasn't allowed to change the layout inside, but I could do odd things, like create a room inside a room without removing/moving any of the old walls.

Basically I wound up just flipping it, as my situation changed and I didn't want to live in a 2 storey home.

As I said, the permit office goes well beyond their duties, and probably give more advice then they Should (legally and TMI style). I called about getting a permit to replace all the knob and tube, and wound up getting a kitten pawned off on me. :eek:

Oh and FWIW, the house itself is all awkward as it was added onto so many times, but I have the wood floors and Really high ceilings. My living room is as a bowling alley.

Howdy neighbor. It is getting late tonight, but possibly tomorrow I will shot you an PM and if you don't mind ask a few questions. The SD is really a small world isn't it?

obbn 02-26-2012 12:15 AM

Oh and since the terminology is all new to me, I could be wrong but I think our house is registered as well. It has one of those historical markers near the front door. Also, our offer was accepted by the seller today! Now we just have to wait on Bank of America to approve the short sale..... hopefully it won't take months for them to let us know.

SubaRhubarb 02-26-2012 11:34 AM

If you have the gold marker, the home itself is registered. There is a site (I think it includes MtDora) that you should be able to research your home with the # on the plate. Lake Co. Historical Society doesn't seem to tech savvy though. PM away, sorry if I am slow to respond though.

BrotherCadfael 02-26-2012 01:11 PM

I'd say that, before you even think of making an offer, you need to find out exactly the terms of the historical designation and what conditions it imposes.

Mr Downtown 02-26-2012 02:41 PM

Making new friends is great, but I'm puzzled that you would consult with someone in a completely different jurisdiction rather than going to city hall and buying a copy of the preservation guidelines booklet (easy to read format, $20), or just calling Gus Gianikas, Assistant Planning & Development Director, 352-735-7113.

obbn 02-26-2012 07:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 14812704)
Making new friends is great, but I'm puzzled that you would consult with someone in a completely different jurisdiction rather than going to city hall and buying a copy of the preservation guidelines booklet (easy to read format, $20), or just calling Gus Gianikas, Assistant Planning & Development Director, 352-735-7113.


Of course I will head down to the city and find out what their requirments are, however from what I got from SUBA's post is that they at one time owned a home in the historic district and currently own a "vintage" home. Not only will it be an opportunity to make a new friend in a new city, but I am sure that SUBA will have some good advice on living in and fixing things in an old home.


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