Architecture buffs or historians may want to narrow down the age of a house to learn more about construction or design during a specific time period, but it’s helpful for everyone to know when the original homeowners built their homes. If a homeowner wants to investigate the age of their home, they can sometimes find information quickly and painlessly. But for older homes, finding answers may entail a more complex sleuthing process.
Where can I find information on the age of my house?
The search for an original date of construction can sometimes take you down a long and windy path. Information may be available, but it’s up to you to decide if the date makes sense. You may come across conflicting information, leaving it up to you to decide which source is most reliable.
For many homeowners, searching for the age of a house begins with online research. Simply typing an address into a search engine may generate a list of websites and links to property records. You can also check the deed to your home if you have a copy. If not, you can request a copy at the local Register of Deeds office.
If you recently purchased your home, the closing documents you received at settlement may contain information on the date of construction. You can also request a copy of the home appraisal report ordered by your mortgage lender. A professional appraiser considers the year of construction when valuing a home. The date of construction, if available, should be listed in their report.
Sometimes, discovering the exact age of a home requires more intense research. Older homes, in particular, may not have verifiable records listing the date of construction. If your initial search fails to reveal an answer, you may need to make time for further investigation.
How can I tell how old my house is? Examine the interior and exterior for clues.
Many homes have clues that can help you estimate your home’s build date. Understanding when (and how) homeowner’s constructed a home, including the original materials used, can help date a property. This information also assists homeowners with decisions about upkeep and maintenance.
Can you identify a “seventies” kitchen or a mid-century split-level layout? Peeling back layers of paint and wallpaper may uncover dated styles that offer visual clues about the age of a home. And while many older homes have been remodeled to some extent, some features may not easily change—lower ceiling heights, for example.
You can also attempt to narrow down the age of your house to a particular era in time by examining the exterior architecture. Home styles change over the years as building technology improves and new designs take hold. Does your large, wrap-around porch and intricately carved trim indicate Victorian-era construction? Materials used to construct your home, combined with its unique features, can reveal the date of construction.
Internal home systems may also provide clues about the age of the property. HVAC contractors can look up your home’s heating system using the model and serial numbers to tell you the approximate installation date. Other original home fixtures, such as toilets, may also be stamped or marked with the date of manufacture.
How can I find out how old my house is using online information?
Aside from visual clues, a detailed web search may turn up additional information about the age of your property. Typing your address into the search bar may lead you to real estate websites that store data about your home, even when it’s off the market. This online information may include a date of construction that you can trace back to any other reports you find about your home. If the date online matches your personal records, you may feel comfortable with this verification method.
If a simple address search fails to reveal the year your house was built, try a search of local government websites to determine if your county or municipality offers public access to property records online. These online records, if available, may be another route to verifying the age of your home.
Still having trouble dating your home? There are additional steps you can take by stepping away from your computer.
Who can I ask: how old is my house?
When an online search fails to turn up the information you’re looking for, reaching out to community members may reveal a few clues. Consider contacting the following individuals to ask if they’re familiar with your address:
Real estate industry professionals
In the past, local real estate agents may have represented buyers and sellers in your neighborhood. Give them your address and ask if they have any information about the original construction of homes in the area. If they’re not personally familiar with your home, you can ask them for advice on continuing your search.
A real estate agent may also refer you to a title agency. In addition to providing title insurance and facilitating real estate settlements, title agents can run a search by an address that could turn up useful information. Real estate lawyers can also assist with researching property records.
Your neighbors may have a similar interest in knowing the age of their homes. If every home on your street was built around the same time, ask those living around you if they have any records dating back to the year of construction. Do they know the name of the original builder? Your homeowner association (HOA) may also have information on the neighborhood’s construction.
If you know the prior owners of your home and feel comfortable reaching out to them, you could ask them about the property’s history. Any information they are willing to share may assist with your research. Previous owners may also tell you when they bought the house, which could help you trace back information from previous sales by searching property records.
If you suspect your home was built before the digital age, you may need to follow an old-fashioned paper trail. Stop by the headquarters of your local historical society to ask if they preserve offline records of land deeds and building contracts. Research librarians with knowledge of your hometown may have some tricks up their sleeves to help you narrow down your search and find information about your house.
Sifting through the available information could take time, but you may find your address in old newspapers containing records of property transactions. Other documents listing local addresses to consider include phone books, legal filings, or historical city maps.
Your paper trail may continue with a trip to the local government offices. They might be the best place to start if you haven’t visited the deeds office. The Register of Deeds is typically responsible for maintaining land and property records.
You can also find paperwork related to building or construction at the permit office in your township or municipality. If the permit officials cannot find paperwork telling you when your home was originally built, they may produce approvals showing upgrades made to it over the years, such as a deck of addition.
The tax collector’s office might maintain records of previous property tax payments. Tax collectors may use parcel numbers rather than addresses for tracking purposes.
How do I know how old my house is? Broader research
If local records are sparse, you may need to broaden your search and think creatively. Try digging further by using any verbal history passed on from neighbors or previous owners, combined with visual architectural clues. Check websites like the National Archives and Records Administration for information about homes similar in style to yours. Find dated pictures to give you a starting point for the next step in your research.
You can also consult a professional architectural investigator specializing in residential homes or contact the local Archaeological Society and ask if they can offer advice or assistance with your research.
Why do I want to know the age of my home?
Plain-old curiosity aside, the more you know about your home, the easier it will be to value and maintain. Knowing the age of your home may be helpful when considering upgrades or building an addition. With a limited budget for renovations, you’ll want to ensure you’re spending money in the right places to care for your house.
Owners of older homes, in particular, need to know the age of their homes to optimize their budget for maintenance and repairs. You may buy an older home for several reasons like price, design, mature landscaping, or location within a highly sought-after neighborhood. If you purchase an older home, you’ll generally need to set aside more money for repairs and maintenance over the years. Likewise, insurance costs can also differ between newer and older homes.
How does the age of your home affects repairs and maintenance
Home repairs are a fact of life, and older homes will likely require more upkeep as they age. When the time comes to repair a portion of your plumbing or electrical systems, you’ll need to find the right materials for replacement parts. Searching for parts could take time and effort in older homes, where it is difficult to find replacements for many original fixtures. Regular upkeep of your home can help prevent or delay breakdowns. You don’t want to spend days without heat while you or your contractor try to locate a new part for your HVAC system.
The age of your home may also guide a repair or replacement decision. Should you invest $1,000 in a repair for an older heater or consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient system? Do you need to start budgeting to replace your water heater because it’s nearing the end of its useful life?
Many older homes also have unique, decorative embellishments that homeowners will want to preserve and protect. Caring for an older or historic home may require unique cleaning processes to preserve and protect the original materials. The National Park Service provides information on how to rehabilitate and preserve buildings in historic districts.
Older homes offer classic beauty and detailed features not available in modern construction. However, a common issue with older homes is that they may utilize discontinued materials that can harm your health or the environment. Even if these materials do not cause problems, you may want to understand what’s in the walls around you for peace of mind.
Some items to be aware of include the following:
Outlawed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1978, older homes may still have lead-based paint. If you suspect your older home may have lead-based paint, you can safely work with a professional to remove it.
Asbestos was used as a building material until the 1970s. Asbestos issues arise when the fibers begin to wear or deteriorate. If items in your home, such as roof shingles, pipes, or old flooring, contain asbestos, the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission recommends leaving them alone if they are in good condition. Concerns about deteriorating items made with asbestos should be addressed with a professional inspector or contractor. If you’re considering remodeling or notice some wear and tear in asbestos fixtures, you can have your home analyzed prior to making any changes.
Want to learn about asbestos in homes? Click here to read more.
Older homes may not have modern electrical safety equipment. Items such as the GFCI outlets used today can prevent electrical accidents in kitchens and bathrooms. If you own an older home, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) recommends recognizing potential electrical issues, such as circuit breakers that trip frequently, faulty light switches, or a crackling sound coming from an outlet.
Many older homes have fewer windows, resulting in less natural light. Older homes may feel more closed-in compared to more modern, open floor plans. Before you make major renovations, such as opening up walls or tearing apart your kitchen, you might want to investigate the age of your home and the type of construction. Do you know which walls are support walls and cannot be removed?
Understanding how your home was originally constructed can provide a starting point if you’re considering a large-scale renovation project. Meshing different architectural styles can be a tricky task. You can combine the best of what’s old and new in a unique design. Be cautious with design choices, though; if you own a farmhouse-style home, trendy new upgrades may not be the best option, although they are popular.
How the age of your home affects property value and insurance
Knowing the age of your home can help you estimate its value in the real estate market. What if your home isn’t just old, but historic? This could increase the selling price of the property, but it could also subject you to certain limitations when making changes to the exterior.
The age of your home may also affect your homeowner’s insurance. Older homes are generally considered riskier due to their aging plumbing, heaters, and electrical systems. Insurance costs also tend to rise for older homes as the predicted replacement costs of materials increase. To keep insurance costs down, consider making safety upgrades to your home. Small items such as smoke detectors and deadbolt locks increase safety and can lower your insurance premiums. You may also want to select a policy with a higher deductible, but only if you believe you can shoulder the extra out-of-pocket cost, should a claim occur.
You may never know the exact date of your home’s construction. But any knowledge gained from researching your home may be helpful to move forward with renovations. Determining the age of your home can also help you place a value on the property. Or you may go through this process simply because you’re curious about the history of the place where you live. Finding out more about the age of your home may take time, but it can be worth the effort in the long run.
When your search is complete, don’t forget to write down everything you’ve learned about your home. Building a file for future generations of homeowners will provide them with the recorded history of the place where you lived.