Have you ever found yourself wondering “how old is my house”?Unfortunately walls can’t talk, but here are three tips for figuring out the age of your home.
When we purchased our house, the previous owners said it was built in 1912. I’m no house expert, but one look at the Folk Victorian trim and fancy porch details told me otherwise. Sorry guys! I call bologna!!
So then…how old is my house? Good question! Let’s see if we can find out.
The first and easiest way to figure out the age of your house is to ask previous owners. Of course, they might not have great answers for you. But they may also be a wealth of information.
You don’t even have to go to the previous owners before you. Once you figure out the whole line of previous owners (more on that in a minute), you may be able to find some of them on Facebook or other sites.
Who knows what they might know! And even better, they may have old pictures of the house. I haven’t been that lucky yet. But maybe one day!
No matter where you live, neighbors will know more about your house than you do. And sometimes if you’re lucky, they’ll be able to give you valuable pieces of history.
When we first moved in, one of our neighbors told us a rousing story of how he used to get drunk in our root cellar as a kid. As a hardcore introvert, I had no idea how to respond other than to laugh and pray silently he didn’t wish to revisit his youth.
However, neighbors can also tell you stories of who used to live in your house and what they did. I’ve heard our property used to be home to a bunch of buffalo. And a doctor. And horses.
Some of these stories you’ll have to take with a grain of salt. But any little glimpse into the history of your home is worth listening to.
Reading up on house architecture styles is always a good thing. But knowing the style of your home is particularly important when asking yourself ‘how old is my house.’
Hands down my absolute favorite reference book for this is Field Guide to American Houses. This book is a goldmine of information and pictures to help you identify your old house.
The exact dates can fluctuate a little bit especially depending on location around the country. But this book will absolutely help you identify the building style of your house, and maybe even the age.
Our house is a Folk Victorian style farmhouse. This style of house was built all the way up to 1910. Field Guide to American Houses is stuffed full of pictures, so it’s really helpful to identify the different house styles.
Side note: This is also why I have been calling our kitchen renovation a Victorian kitchen. Technically the era between 1901 and 1910 was the Edwardian period. However Edwardian houses aren’t really a thing in America as best I can tell. Because our house is a Folk Victorian house, the kitchen still falls under the Victorian umbrella. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
The Local Courthouse
Visit your local courthouse! I went shortly after we moved in, and it turned out WAY more exciting than I thought.
First, the Property Valuation Administration in our county keeps records of every property. The PVA had a picture of our property from 1945. This is the only picture of the house I have from before 1979. Naturally this is a treasure.
Second, check out the sale deed for your house. Read through the deed carefully. Your deed will specify “this is the same property sold in Deed 123” or something else similar. It will tell you the number of the last deed that dealt with selling that property.
Then you should be able to go find Deed 123, the previous sale deed. That deed will also have a section that says something like “this is the same property sold in Deed 456.”
You can then go find Deed 456 and continue the process. You can basically bunny hop across time! At some point you will have no more deeds left, and hopefully that will be the original owner.
I did this and found that the original owner of this house purchased the land in 1903. A little snooping on ancestry.com, and I found he already had a wife and children at that point.
I believe he built the house shortly after purchasing the land, possibly around 1905-1907.
Is this all conjecture? Absolutely. Reasonably well informed conjecture. And it’s more information than I had previously. So that’s what I go with!
So…how old is my house?
Honestly, unless you come up with a piece of documentation that specifically tells you when your house was built, you may never know. Especially if you have a farmhouse or other less extravagant home.
Using these tips, however, you can begin to identify the time period of your home and an approximate build date.
From there, the possibilities are endless!
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