An older home is not a blank canvas waiting for your customization, but rather a rich portrait meant to be enjoyed by the right collector. The floors may creak and the electricity may need updating, but an older home offers a treasure trove of other features that the right kind of owner will appreciate.
What I often admire in older homes is the attention to scale and construction, which was used to maximize organic features like light. Not able to rely on technology, older homes included transom windows atop of doorways to let in air and light. Additionally, older homes usually have a distinct separation between public and private space. While this may mean smaller bedrooms, it also means that the public spaces have been designed specifically to foster community and togetherness for family and friends.
Mature landscaping can add color and drama to an older home. Owners of a new house might have to wait for at least 10 years for a magnolia tree to reach it’s full size, but it’s heady blooms, perfect climbing limbs, and shady leaves are waiting for you at an older property. Consider for a moment the big pecan tree on Armstrong Parkway. At over 140 years old, it has become a landmark of the Highland Park community and the site of the oldest community tree lighting tradition in Dallas County. The sophisticated and lush greenery of the Park Cities are one of the key selling features of the area adding charm and ambiance throughout the neighborhood.
Benefits aside, older homes do have their own set of unique challenges. Possible health hazards like lead and asbestos must be mitigated before you can move in. It’s also unlikely that you will find an older home with sufficient closet space or enough kitchen upgrades to suit modern tastes. Utilities like electrical and plumbing may need updates or complete overhauls depending on what has been done in the past- and how well it was done. You may find a leaky roof over your head or a sagging deck in the backyard. Not all older homes are maintained with the attention to detail and sustainability that is required.
Ultimately, if you find yourself annoyed rather than charmed by the quirks of your older home, than you should buy or build new construction. It’s always a shame to see an older home ruined with endless upgrades and attempts to modernize. Wondering if you are ready for the challenge of loving and living in an older home? Stay tuned for the last article in the series where I’ll talk about how you can protect and preserve your older home for generations to come.
William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC