Are you dreaming of owning an elegant Victorian mansion, a Queen Anne cottage with soaring ceilings, a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow, or a stunning Mediterranean Revival residence from the roaring 20s?

Chicagoland has tens of thousands of gorgeous historic places and is a fierce competitor for the title of “the architecture capital of the world.” The Oak Park community boasts more buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright than anywhere else in the country. 

If you have your heart set on purchasing a house built in the 19th or 20th century, it’s crucial to be prepared for what lies ahead. Historic homes come with a unique set of benefits and challenges for prospective buyers. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know before beginning your house hunt and what you can expect once you’re the proud owner. 

Do Your Research

Chicago has more than 50 designated Landmark Districts, with varying levels of affordability. Your real estate agent will steer you to the neighborhoods that feature charming older dwellings that most closely match your taste and budget. 

Depending on the area, you may pay substantially more for a home with historical or architectural significance, especially if it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Housing on this list is designated as worthy of preservation and may be eligible for federal tax credits or grants from the National Park Service.

The Illinois State Historic Preservation Office is a great resource for learning about restoration regulations, conservation organizations, and other useful information for potential homeowners.

Researching a property’s history is vital for ensuring you know exactly what you’re getting into. You never know what fascinating details you might discover. 

Your real estate attorney will be able to perform a title search, which will reveal a comprehensive accounting, including any liens, mortgages, or encumbrances. Reviewing the title report can help you avoid any problems and ensure that you’re fully aware of what you’re investing in.

It’s also smart to look into current market conditions. Comps will show how the sales price of how your dreamy vintage place compares to newer residences in the same area, and your agent can help you come up with an offer that makes perfect sense.

Always Get an Inspection

Hiring a professional inspector is a crucial step in the home-buying process, but it is especially critical when you want to own a historical building that could be over a century old. 

These can often have elements that require specialized knowledge to inspect properly. For example, it may have plumbing, electrical, or heating systems that are no longer used in modern construction. 

The presence of lead paint, asbestos, or other hazardous materials is also more of a possibility. A quality home inspector will have the expertise to identify any issues and give you a realistic assessment of the home’s condition.

Go with an inspector that comes highly recommended and is familiar with the wide variety of historic homes in Chicago. An expert evaluation can save you thousands of dollars, so be sure to add a home inspection contingency to your purchase contract

Partner With a Pro

When it comes time for renovations or repairs, it’s essential to work with a contractor who has experience in historic renovations, can complete the work correctly, and will preserve the home’s intrinsic character. 

A reputable construction firm can give you an idea of the cost of repairing and modernizing before you finalize the sale. If your inspection reveals a host of expensive headaches that need immediate attention, it might not be worth the investment. Many older dwellings have fewer bathrooms than is common in today’s new construction, so having to add those facilities might be a financial consideration as well. 

If you decide to DIY to save money, tread carefully. Less-than-professional level results can lower the resale value or cause irreparable damage to a property of historic significance. 

Many real estate agents specialize in these kinds of homes and will have an extensive network of trusted designers, plumbers, landscape architects, and other service providers who can help you refurbish and customize your classic abode. 

Those who are into historic houses also frequently want the latest technology as well. Many new owners want security features like web-enabled video doorbells and motion-sensing cameras, smart home toys like automatic lighting or vacuuming robots, or a cutting-edge chef’s kitchen with all of the bells and whistles. If that describes exactly what you have in mind, make sure that the installation teams have experience working in historic buildings.

Maintain Your Beloved Home

If you love history and have always wanted to live in a beautiful old house, then Chicago is the place for you. First incorporated as a city in 1837, there are many historic buildings here that need preservation and TLC. 

Owning one definitely comes with both rewards and drawbacks. These properties can be highly sought-after and sometimes come with a hefty price tag. If a ton of repairs and updates are needed, it could be a nightmare that’s hidden by charm and character. 

Before you close on the atmospheric vintage residence of your dreams, it’s wise to get a thorough home inspection from a licensed and experienced professional. Our skilled team understands the allure of historic homes and we know exactly where to look for potential problems. 

Know before you buy — reach out and talk to an expert today!