1. How tall are you? Do you clamor for an early period home with an enormous hearth complete with beehive oven? These early gems have wide pine floors, multi paned wavy glass windows, iron thumb latches and built in cupboards. But what they usually don’t have, is high ceilings. Many late 17th century or early 18th century homes have low ceilings. So if you are a contender for the NBA, you may want to look at a later period style home or a vintage 1940’s reproduction.
2. Basements. Many of the antique homes on the Cape have what we affectionately refer to as a “Cape Cod” basement. It is a circular pit lined with stone or, more commonly, brick. At any given time it will fit your water heater, your boiler, your electrical panel, and if you don’t weigh very much, you. There will be no man cave, no movie theater, no basement tavern.
3. Kitchens and Bathrooms are a new fangled thing. Some buyers will scoff at the little bathrooms that are shoe horned under the back stairs or into a closet off the kitchen. But these are an improvement from the original “bathroom” which consisted of an outhouse, a chamber pot and a moveable tub placed in front of the kitchen hearth. Sometimes kitchens and baths have been added to an ell off the older section of the house to accommodate those modern amenities. If not, be prepared for more cozy bathrooms and kitchens- small in square footage but big on charm.
4. Financing. The condition of the home will be a consideration when choosing your financing options. Some forms of financing may not work if the home has chipping lead paint or knob and tube wiring. Never fear, there are financing options that work well for an antique home in need of some TLC (203k, HUD Title 1 Home improvement loan).
5. Location. Yes, you may still be able to find a lonely cottage down a long lane surrounded by the changing marsh. But more likely, that historic home is going to be on Main St. surrounded by historic homes of different vintages and walking distance to a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Also, ye old settlers shied away from building their homes on the ocean, though late 19th century homes appreciated the sea air. If you want an earlier home that is waterfront, you may want to look to the rivers.
6. Historic District approvals. This, for some reason, strikes the greatest of fear. What if I want to change the color of my door? What if I need to re-roof? Breathe, the process isn’t as bad as it seems. Even new houses in a historic district may be subject to architectural review. But if you are an old house enthusiast, it is unlikely that you are going to want to change the exterior of your home to look like an airplane hanger. And, in most cases, the historic district doesn’t have purview on the interior. The historic district protects the value of your home, preserves its setting, and is the reason that the Old King’s Highway looks the way it does.
7. Are you feint of heart? The inspection for the purchase of your historic home is going to separate the sheep from the goats. Be prepared to have a long laundry list that includes non functioning GFCI outlets, evidence of a previous powder post beetle infestation, and not-up-to-code tree trunks in the basement supporting the floor joists. Don’t panic, keep your eye on the prize. It will be worth it!