A house won't be offended if you ask its age, but it won't give you an answer, either. With some clever sleuthing, you can find out the history of your home so you’ll no longer have to wonder, "How old is my house, anyway?"
Why age matters
Age is just a number, but it's an important number when it comes to houses. An older home that's kept in good shape can get top dollar on the real estate market. On the flip side, an old house in need of work will likely be respectfully billed as a "fixer-upper," leaving an investor scrambling to figure out how to properly renovate a historic home in the same style as it was originally built.
Like an antique, a house has a story that comes with age. To properly tell that tale -- and keep it going with your own as the current homeowner -- you'll need to know how it all got started.
Five ways to determine the age of your house
Get ready to solve the mystery of your home's age. Here are five methods that could help you figure out when someone first called your house home.
- Visit the tax assessor's office. There's more to property taxes than just paying them. Tax records can unlock the mystery to how long your house has existed and who's lived there previously -- or at least who's been paying the tax bill. Provided the tax records have been kept in order, you'll find a record of every previous owner of your home or land. That's fine if you're a history buff, but here is what you'll really need to know: If you see an increase in value in a certain year, that could very well be the year your home was constructed.
Pro tip: Call ahead to see how the office likes to receive visitors or if there is a way of requesting this information online.
- Visit the county clerk's office. The county clerk's office is another potential goldmine of information about your home. Here, you'll want to find the Registrar of Deeds, along with the tract index and the grantor-grantee index for your address or plot of land. This is the trifecta of info for your home -- you'll find the names of the previous owner or owners, dates of ownership, and any evidence of lawsuits or liens against the property. With any luck, you'll be able to hone in on your house's birthday.
- Inquire with a building inspector. Another way of determining the age of your home is to seek out any building permit applications for your location. A permit is required for any new construction product or renovation, so you can likely find the dates of construction that way.
- Scour the local library databases. Whether you research online or go in person and ask a reference librarian for help, the library is another way to find out about the history of your home. Old newspapers might have your home tucked away somewhere in the real estate listings, so you can deduce when it might first have come on the market. You could also check out the census records to see in which decade people began living in your house.
- Examine the building material. Unless your home has been renovated within an inch of its former life, you might be able to do some detective work under your own roof. If there are any original features, like countertops or floors, inspect those things and do some research to find out when those materials were commonly used in construction. Is there an original toilet in the home? Here's how to, erm, flush out some information: Lift the toilet tank cover and look for the date stamp, and voila!, you have the year of when the home was likely built.
Celebrating the life of your home
Knowing when your home was first built is a good idea not just for practical reasons but also for personal ones. When you know the age of your home, you can feel a sense of pride in its history, as well as a reverence for those who lived there before you.