TroubleShooters: Restoring historic homes

In last week's TroubleShooters report we profiled Brian Moeller, who wasn't happy with the historic home he bought in downtown Wilmington. The $600,000 house had an impressive cosmetic finish but had some significant structural problems Moeller didn't anticipate. We received a lot of response to that story, some of it from historic home owners who've had a much more pleasant experience. Historic home owner Bunky Bruce said, "If you have a passion for old houses, then you need to do it, because you can't go buy these anywhere." Bunky and Linda Bruce have been married for more than 40 years and have always wanted to restore a historic home. That wish came true when they bought the Holladay-Whitehead house on South Third Street. It was built in 1892, and once lived in by Broadway star William Whitehead. The Bruces say the house already had a solid foundation, but they spent eight months putting the comforts of the 21st century into a 115-year-old home. The Bruces say there are some things potential buyers need to know when it comes to buying a historic home. If it's already been restored, you need to make sure the job was done right. Bunky said, "Look for proof, look for documentation, when someone says it has a new roof on it, get them to prove it to you that it has a new roof on it -- here's the documentation, here's when I did it, here's the person." Also, look for a realtor who specializes in the historic district. They can better help you identify the good from the bad. And some restoration jobs are a lot better than others. If you're planning on renovating the home after you buy it, it's also good to hire help who have experience with historic homes. "Make sure you get professionals involved with you that understand this type of building construction, and understand historic properties," Bunky said. Finally, recognize that renovating a historic home is a big undertaking. Older homes take a lot of TLC, and depending on their needs, and lot of money to keep up. Bunky said, "You need to understand what your budget is, and you need to have the where with all to support that budget, and then build in the 20 percent fudge factor." Of course, some of the same common sense principles apply to buying a historic home that apply to buying any home. Get a home inspection by a licensed inspector and don't go through with the purchase if the homes structural problems are more than you can handle.

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