Buying a Historic Home

Tuesday October 26, 2021

New England and especially the North Shore, has plenty of historic homes to appreciate and for many buyers, love.  With its unique charm there is so much to love about an antique home, from its quirky features to its unique charm.  After visiting a few over the last few weeks and talking with a new buyer about purchasing one, there’s also lots to consider.  As anyone who’s watched any of the real estate restoration shows can tell you, owning a historic home often comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of buying a historic home.


  • Beauty:  Upon entering a first period home you are sent back in time.  From the huge fireplaces, antique fixtures, hand milled boards, built-ins and paneling there are so many things to like about an antique home.  Chances are you will find period details well after you move in.  
  • History:  There are lots of physical characteristics in a historic home but what about the previous owners?  If you are a history buff you will want to find out more about past owners as they all had their own sometimes fascinating history.   
  • Preservation:  By purchasing a historic home you are helping to keep history alive, and by keeping it up you preserve this history while at the same time breathe new life into it.  
  • Style:  If the center entrance colonial or cape isn’t your cup of tea you may enjoy living in a home with all sorts of unique features inside and out.  This area is rich with first period homes as well as others that come in all different architectural styles; Federal, Georgian, Colonial and Victorian just to name a few.  
  • Location:  Most towns in our area have a historic district where it is required that homes stay looking a certain way.  If that is the case with the antique home you are looking to buy you know that the neighbor won’t be able to paint their home pink or add an addition that looks out of place.  


  • Prepare to Work:  If you’re buying a historic home, you better be ready to do some work.  Even the homes that are restored completely are going to need upkeep as you are talking about something that is possibly 200+ years old.  Homes that haven’t been properly preserved will most certainly fall into disrepair.  If you decide to purchase a historic home make sure you have the money tucked away for unforeseen projects like a crumbling chimney or restoration of a fireplace.  
  • Follow the Rules:  I mentioned it above in the “pro” category but if your home is in a historic district it can act as a “con” as well.  You may not be able to change or add on without the historic board’s review and approval.  Most historic boards are forgiving and want to work with you but it is another layer of red tape.  Most owners of antique homes put the fact the home is in the historic district squarely in the “pro” column but it is something to keep in mind.
  • Surprise:   Have an inspection done prior to your purchase, preferably by an inspector who specializes or has extensive experience with older homes.  You want to avoid anything you can’t see that could be a problem down the line (asbestos, knob and tube wiring, etc.).  

Should you buy a historic home?

Take a look at the pros and cons mentioned above.  Are you willing to work, are ok with unexpected repairs and the rules that can come with a historic home?  If you are willing to put the time in, most antique home owners will tell you that it is well-worth the extra time and effort. Lastly when house hunting, make sure to ask your REALTOR® whether or not you’re looking in a historic district.  Happy historic house hunting!  

If you have any questions about this article, real estate in general or are looking to buy or sell a home please contact me, John McCarthy at Rowley Realty, 165 Main St., Rowley, MA 01969, Phone: 978 948-2758, Cell 978 835-2573 or via email at

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