Are you lucky enough to own an old farmhouse? A Victorian or Edwardian in town? A home that is full of character and the kind of workmanship not commonly found in more modern buildings? While older homes often need upgrades and repairs to keep them reasonably economical to run and maintain, there are certain elements that you may want to think twice about changing. Buyers who will consider an old, historical home will do so because they like the details that remind us of when these homes were built. They’re not looking for rooms that could be purchased piece-by-piece in a big box store, they’re looking for charm and character, old world details, craftsmanship and unusual features that make the home stand out from its neighbours. If you have any of the following in your home, think twice before replacing or modernizing them because these are the features buyers are looking for in old homes.
You’ve hit the old house jackpot if you have original stained glass panes and transoms still in tact. Reproduction replacements cost a fortune and often have to be one-off commissioned pieces. While the frame and surrounding area of an exterior window may need upgraded in order to improve energy efficiency, etc, do what you can to preserve the windows themselves and keep them in their original places.
Tin Ceiling Tiles
While stores like Home Depot carry plastic, paint-able models that allow the rest of us to recreate this historical style, in our kitchens, for example, original tin ceiling tiles are hard to come by and quite expensive to purchase. Again, if you’re able to preserve a feature like, it’s worth doing.
Glass or Ornamental Doorknobs
According to decorating magazines that I find lying on the couch at home, this kind of hardware can have a real impact on resale values. Original hardware helps to solidify an old home’s place in time and the reference back to the time of construction is something that old house enthusiasts really appreciate. If old knobs on closets or cabinet doors have been painted over, try to remove paint while doing as little damage to the finish of the knob as possible. Country Living magazine suggests using a mixture of hot water and baking soda, mixed into a paste, to help to loosen old paint. This may not be as effective on more modern paint formulas.
Apron Front Sink
If your farmhouse kitchen still has its original apron front sink, you’re already half way towards achieving the kitchen that seems to be most popular with today’s buyers. One of the things we plan to do in our own kitchen renovation is swap out the standard metal double sink for an apron front model…and we’re not the only ones doing it. All of the big box stores carry this kind of sink in a variety of sizes and styles because it is so popular. You’ve already got one, so you’re a step ahead of the rest of us! If that original sink has some stains or scratches, once again, hot water and baking soda will apparently do the trick without damaging the finish.
Wood Molding, Paneling and Built-Ins
Something else buyers look for in older homes is original moldings and panels. You know what I’m talking about; baseboard that is 6 inches wide or more, those medallions found in the corners of door frames, paneling along the bottom half (or maybe the full length) of a hallway or dining room wall or if you’re really lucky, a built-in window seat or bookcase. Details like this are not found in modern homes unless the owners make an effort to install them themselves. Maybe that’s why they are so popular in older homes. Unfortunately, woodwork like this is often found in very dark browns or colours that don’t match our modern sensibilities. Rather than removing it, consider painting instead. Die-hards would encourage you to leave things as is in order to keep them historically accurate but I know first hand the difference that a coat of white paint can make. Just do what you can to ensure that no damage will be done to the wood…and maybe think twice if what you’re considering painting is very old raw wood.
I’ve seen quite a few old farmhouses in Grey and Bruce counties that have scarred and/or discoloured brick around the front or main entrances. At some point the house had a front porch that likely fell into disrepair and was removed. If it is at all financially possible to repair or replace a front porch, especially one that had spindles or some sort of fancy gingerbread-like trim, that is your best option. As I have just said, it is often obvious where the porch originally stood as the old brick discolours or gets an uneven amount of damage over time. Buyers notice that kind of thing and can’t help but compare what they see in front of them to what they think it would have looked like in its glory days. A gracious front porch is on many of the wish lists I see, particularly but not exclusively connected to country properties and older homes.
French Doors or Pocket Doors
Again, these just aren’t found in many modern builds, unless homeowners make a point of installing French doors or working pocket doors into their plans when building from the ground up. Features like these give a house a certain kind of gravitas that goes a long way towards swaying potential buyers in your direction. As with wood panelling, pocket doors are often found in dark wood which is less popular with our modern-day styles but a couple of coats of paint can make a big difference and can always be removed at a later date.
The thing that old house aficionados are drawn to is the charm and grace that these buildings embody. They are full of a kind of warmth and character that is often missing from more modern, boxy houses. If a potential buyer can locate a historical house that has any of the features they love already in place, there’s less restoration work for them to do and the house is already a step closer to being their dream home. That’s a property that will be hard to walk away from. And while you’re living in the home, you get to enjoy these charismatic, desirable features and the gracious, welcoming atmosphere they help to create.