Many of us love vintage and dated items because they take us back to a time that we wished we lived in. This also applies to homes, with many of us looking for older homes to move into because of their character and the decades of memories they hold.
If you’re someone who’s moving into a home that’s been around for decades, we’re sure you’ve always wondered about the history the house has and the stories it has to tell. It’s only natural; after all, you’re walking the same rooms someone very similar to you might have done a long time ago.
Looking for how to find out the history of your house? First, let’s look at why this can help.
Why Find Out The History Of Your House
There are several reasons why looking at the history of your house can be beneficial, and these often encourage homeowners to dive deep into the process.
One of the biggest reasons for finding the history of your home is for restoration purposes. When you buy a home that’s been standing for decades, there are bound to be certain areas that are falling apart or just don’t work for you anymore.
At the same time, many homeowners look to restore the original character of the house while carrying out renovations. You won’t know what to restore if you don’t know what the house looked like before, so finding the history in the form of pictures and blueprints helps!
Know The Ins And Outs Of The House
More than anything, finding the history of your house helps you understand every nook and cranny of the house. You’ll know the areas that work and that don’t, the areas that were additions and those that were taken down through the years. You’ll know where the plumbing runs from now, where the original bathrooms were, and when the chimneys were closed off.
Knowing all about your house will help you save money in the long run because you won’t come across unexpected costs if something goes wrong. You’ll have a home maintenance plan in place this way and you don’t have to live in mystery for the rest of your life.
You could also just want to embark on this adventure because you’re curious like so many of us naturally are. We’ll help you with your adventure, with a list of methods you can try that’ll give you all the information you’re looking for.
Quiz Your Realtor
One of the first things you can do to find out about the history of your home is to ask your realtor about it. Either that, or go through the listing of the house if you haven’t bought it yet. Nine out of ten times, information about the history of the house will be available there.
Your realtor will also usually have records of when the house was first built, how many times it was renovated, or how many times it changed hands. Information about renovations usually includes the additions that were built, the exterior parts that were replaced or closed, etc. This is because an older house will definitely have features that weren’t of much use as the decades passed, like a chimney or a sleeping porch.
It’s highly unlikely that your realtor won’t have the necessary information about the house. Many times, when asked, realtors can even give you information about a home’s owners through the years too!
Also See: Firing Your Realtor?
Look Thoroughly For Tiny Clues
If you’re someone who loves a little mystery and adventure, then this activity is just the right one for you! An obvious step that you might miss in your effort to try to find the history of the house is looking through the house itself. What we mean is that tiny details regarding the way the house was built, its design and architecture, tiles, flooring, and wallpaper, etc. usually have a lot to say about a house.
Every decade has had its own design elements, and looking for those minutely can prove to be rewarding. Usually, homeowners discover these gems if and when they start renovating an old house. For example, in an attempt to take out a wall of wooden boarding from a wall, you might come across wallpaper from the 1930s underneath it!
You can also find clues in a house by going through attics and tiny built-in cupboards that old homes are known for. Surprisingly, you might come across personal belongings like old photographs or other trinkets that belonged to previous owners. So get your family or friends together and start looking!
The people who live next to the house are ones that might just know a lot about your house. If not your house, they might have a good idea of the details of the street your house is on and its history, because there’s a big chance that they did their own research when they bought their own house.
If your neighbors have been there even for a few decades, you might find information from them about the house and its previous owners that you otherwise wouldn’t have found anywhere else! Many times, neighbors also have old pictures of the neighboring houses and streets, so it’s a step worth considering.
Time For Some Independent Research
If you’ve not been able to find any information about your house from your realtor or by looking through your home, then it might be time to do some external independent research yourself. There are several places where you might come across information about your house:
1. The National Registry Of Historic Places
Keeping in line with our last tip, if your house is an old property, it’s best to also take a look at the National Registry of Historic Places to see if it’s been registered. It’s a collection of data from the National Parks Service which will give you all the information you need to know about your house if it has been listed as a historic property.
What counts as historic? A property is added to the official list based on numerous categories like architectural features, the age of the house, design elements, etc. If you don’t find any information on their website or by contacting them, you should check the State Historic Preservation Office since they have properties listed according to specific states in the country. At the end of the day, if your house is old enough for you to think that it might count as historic, one of these two places will definitely have information on your house.
2. The Local Library
Your local library is one place where a little digging might lead to discovering a host of information about the history of your house. Libraries are places that stay around for a while and there’s a big likelihood that your local library might have something or the other about your house if it’s been there for just as long.
From archives to historic photography sections, go through everything possible that might have references to old structures in the locality. You might also find something of importance in older maps of the locality your house stands in. If you’ve got your sleuthing gear on and want to go a step further, ask for old newspapers, local history books, or preserved documents!
3. Census Reports
You might’ve thought of this already, after all, census reports are highly accurate and can give you a big box of interesting information about a home’s inhabitants. From names and ages to information on the occupation and immigration dates, census reports are like a treasure trove of information.
You must know though, that even though the country started taking an official census in 1790, official records after 1940 are not easily available to the public because of restrictions. You might also have a hard time finding information about houses that are extremely dated, because the older the records, the higher the chances that they were never digitized or are lost.
4. Property Records
You’ll be surprised to know that you can actually find information about a house from a state’s property records. These records usually contain information about tax details and ownership details among others. What’s best is that if you’re lucky, you might find sketch vectors of your house from which you can find out all about the various additions that were made to the house through the years!
But, there’s a reason why it’s not the most promising option – these property tax records have to be made public by your state, or you can’t access them. You can check this directory to see if your state has property records available to the public. If it does, you’re in luck because you can check whatever you want for free.
5. Look At The Title
You’ll most probably conduct a title search when you’re purchasing a new home because that’s always professionally recommended. The good part about a title search is that it might give you information on the people who owned the house before you. Once you have the names of the owners, you can always try searching through tax records or just the internet for any kind of information you can find.
6. Phone/Street Directories
Did you know that you can actually go through old directories online? They’re available according to the states in the country and these telephone directories can prove to be that place where you find information about the people who once lived in your house.
Even street directories will have ample information on the history of your home, easily found at local libraries. Remember though that street numbers and layouts change through the years, so you’ll have to keep track of that if you’re browsing through street directories.
7. Look For Deaths
If nothing works and you don’t know where else to look, you might want to look at any past owners who died in the house, because from there you can work towards obtaining a lot of information. There’s a website specifically for this purpose called Died In House which gives you the name of the person and when the death occurred. While this might seem like a rather morbid option, you might want to give it a go.
8. Online Websites
There are multiple websites online that’ll help you find information about the history of the house you’ve bought through the years. While some of these require a payment for the service, many of them are free to use like Trace My House and Old House Web.
How Do I Find The Original Purchase Price Of A Home?
You can take a look at quite a few places to find out what a house cost originally. Some of these are:
- Property deed records
- Records at the tax collector’s office
- Listings of the area from the past
How Do You Find Out Who Lived In Your Home Before You?
If you want to find out who lived in your home right before you and have no luck finding the same from the realtor, you can always visit your county’s town/city hall for the information. Even the tax assessor’s office can have the information you’re looking for so check that out too.
How Do You Find Out When A Property Was Purchased?
As we’ve mentioned before, the best way to find this out is by first asking your realtor for any available information if the house is new. If you’ve forgotten when you purchased the house and need the date, you can try contacting your county tax assessor’s office or look for details based on the title of the house. There’s another thing we suggest you do and that’s looking through your mortgage papers because that usually has the exact date of when the purchase was made.
How Can I Find Out What My House Looks Like Years Ago?
To find out what your house looked like years ago, the most obvious thing you can do is contact your relatives and ask if anyone has old pictures with your house in it. Try finding old albums or go through film footage from the time when you were young. You can also find this information from your home’s blueprints if they’re still available in the form of deeds or plans.
Finding records about the history of a house can be an extremely exciting prospect. Often, you might come across details about the people who live there that really touch your heart or are in line with your life. While the task of finding the information might seem detailed and strenuous, once you start the process, you never know what treasures you might find. So, get your research pants on and start looking!