Buyer’s Beware: The Hidden Costs of Historic Homes

Historic homes prescott arizona


Did you know that Prescott, Arizona, has 65 properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Historic structures are abundant and beautiful in Prescott!

There’s much to admire about owning an historic home. However, before you fall in love with the gleam of summer light cascading through a century-old stained glass window, pause and consider what you’re really in for when you buy an historic home.

1. Historic districts may have restrictions
A truly historic home may be ineligible for certain renovations depending on preservation guidelines. Ownership of a historic home does not give you an open license to make changes, especially to the exterior of the property.

You will need to check with your local planning department to find out if there are restrictions on improvements that can be made to the exterior of the historic home.
Although this may feel restrictive, it is in the best interest of the overall district. Historic districts tend to have steady property values and an active neighborhood association invested in the quality of the area.

2. Lead, asbestos, and other buried “treasures”

Pipes and paint can be lead culprits while asbestos in basements, attics, and walls may be lurking. Also, it’s not uncommon for there to be abandoned septic tanks, cesspools, wells, or even heating oil reservoirs buried somewhere on the property. Remediation and removal can run into the thousands, should you decide to go that route.

3. Maintaining a historic home’s integrity can get pricey

Most historic homes were built to be structurally sound. It is not uncommon to find homes that were built in the 1980s in worse condition than a 1600s house. Although, if your historic home needs extensive repairs, costs can add up.

If the electrical system in the house hasn’t been upgraded, you might find yourself facing problems if you want to add significant appliances or other major power loads to the system. Older plumbing can also prevent necessary repair jobs as well.

4. Financing and Insuring a Historic Home Can be Difficult

There are several ways to finance your historic home purchase. Although, some home lenders may be concerned if the home needs extensive repairs.

Insurance companies may show reluctance to sell a home insurance policy based on the assumption that replacement costs are higher for designated historic homes. But this is not always the case, particularly if your home is only federally registered and therefore free of restrictions. Since historic homes are unique, you may have to spend some extra time shopping around for homeowners insurance.

5. Old homes may equal old problems

Although lenders usually don’t require a home inspection, getting one may be a good idea before you make a commitment on any home. It is advantageous to find an inspector who has experience dealing with historic homes and the issues they present, such as the possible presence of asbestos or lead paint if the home was built before 1978.

6. Authenticity is expensive

Authenticity is expensive. The materials you’ll need to repair or restore original fixtures, windows, or other aesthetic components of the house can add up quickly. While you may be investing in quality materials to keep the home in line with its original construction, the costs may be too high to guarantee a return on your investment.

Before purchasing a historic home, it is good to ask yourself: What are your goals in purchasing a historic home? What can you live without? How important is the home’s original character to you, and how will changes to that character affect the sale price?

If you’d like to look at historic homes in the Prescott area, contact Colleen at CLA Realty at (480) 688-4443 or visit

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