Advise on buying on old house

KCLulamaeJune 21, 2012

We are looking to move and in the search I found a listing for an old house that really intrigues me. (The link to the listing is below.)

It was built in 1878 and it is a Texas Historical Landmark. (Will that make any renovations we may want to do harder?) The price is $50K-$70K high for the area but maybe that's because it's historical?

The historical marker reads: Built by William Dickerson Milliken, born in Paducah, Ky., Nov. 1, 1848; married Margaret Crockett Young. Children: W. D., Jr.; Samuel Ramsey, M.D.; Thomas Gillespie; Martin Horace; Maggie Bell (Mrs. Edens); Charles Young; Elizabeth Angelina; John Barnes. After going into mercantile business in Lewisville in 1877, Milliken built this house, 1878. Framing is native oak. Siding was freighted from Port City of Jefferson, in East Texas. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1969

Any thoughts? Suggestions? We have NO idea what to look for when buying a house this old. From all the This Old House episodes I've seen I know we should have the foundation evaluated by an expert. What else should we be watching for? Is the historical designation worth more on the selling price?

I was born & raised in this town and even went to Milliken Middle School so owning a piece of history here would be neat. However, I don't want these feelings to lead us to buy a money pit. Any advise you can give is MUCH appreciated! thanks, -lu

Here is a link that might be useful: House Listing

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You need to talk to the Texas Historical Landmark people to find out what you can and cannot do to the house. Having said that, I would hope their answer to what you can do would be "very little." It is a part of history and usually that means it has significant value as it is.

If you want a house that you can remodel, why not buy a newer home?

In any event, if you consider an older home, I would (and did) hire both a structural engineer and a home inspector who are well versed in older homes to check out the house. If the house you are considering also needs some remodeling, you also might have a contractor look at the house and give you input as to the costs of the changes you want to do.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 11:18AM
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Personally, I don't really see much left of historic value--everything seems to scream of a 70s renovation. For that amount of money, you are buying a so-so house on a nice piece of land. Judging from other sales shown, is a bigger lot worth an extra 100k?

Just me, but I wouldn't call it an old house anymore....

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Does not appear to have any visible surfaces or details that would date to 1878. It is, in its present state, a 1920-ish craftsman-y kind of place with a lot of more recent updates.
IMO, hack away at it because there is nothing early or significant to save.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 7:10PM
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It looks to me in the 7th photograph that there is uneven color on the ceiling -- looks like a large area of water staining??

My house is 100 years younger than this one (1975) but here are the things I did for the "home inspection" (YMMV):
1. Had a regular home inspection
2. Had a plumber run a camera through all the pipes, and run a leak pressure test
3. Had the septic system pumped and inspected
4. Had a contractor do a walk-through to give me estimates for fixing things that the home inspector identified
5. Had 3 air conditioning companies look at the A/C system and give replacement estimates
6. Had a master electrician inspect for aluminum wiring and overall system
7. Had the popcorn ceiling tested for asbestos (positive)
8. Had the foundation inspected by a structural engineer
And I still got burned with multiple unforeseen repairs after I bought the house (roof, undisclosed 2nd septic tank, flooding garage, etc etc etc).

It's all a crapshoot. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 5:47AM
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its either a bad sheetrock finishing job
or some other issue.
you can see all the ceiling framing in the pics.

its a pretty house.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 6:38PM
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It's a pretty house! I can see why you like it :)

The only room (I only looked at the downstairs photos) that would bother me...was the family room. That ceiling is a bit creepy. Could a gable be added to open up the other side and bring in more light? I've seen some very similar to the breakfast nook window, but with a peak at the top. That would make a huge difference!

The higher price might be for the historical value...or the people are just unrealistic about their property value. I'd definitely get a home inspector, who specializes in old houses, before I made an offer...but it does look like a very nice home.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:20PM
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It's a pretty home. I once looked into applying for historical registry for my own house. It was built in late federal style and still retains a lot of architectural elements defining that I read up a little on what defines acceptance for this designation. Although it's desireable to have a house stay as closely as possible to its original state, many make the register simply because something about the house reflects a particular architectural style, or historical event, or prominent person has lived there. It doesn't necessarily mean you have a close replica of the house true to the era in which it was built. Will any future modifications compromise it continuing to be a marker building? Well, I guess that depends on why the request for inclusion was granted in the first place. I don't believe they can stop you from making's not like it's in a public trust. They may just come and take the marker away. People may have already made modifications since the marker was granted. You may want to explore that. Does it add to property value? Well, I'd like to think that my house's history and uniqueness does, but like any other house, desireability is in the eyes of the beholder when you go to sell it. I know one other residence here who is on the register and it seemed to be treated like any other home on the market........some seeing it as desireable and scaring others because of it's age.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 2:30AM
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It is a beautiful, beautiful house. You are right, you don't want a money pit. But these days, reputable inspection companies do a pretty good job finding deficits and some even list estimated costs to repair.
The updates done may not be historically accurate, so your really should look within yourself to see what is important to you: are you a true old house buff that wants everything the way it was, or do you just cherish old timey houses and want to live in one but are not wanting to necessarily have everything historically accurate (this is me).
It is beautiful and unlike modern McMansions, comes with a decent sized piece of land.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 11:06AM
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