Moving Into a Historic Chicago Home? Here's What You Need to Know

Moving Into a Historic Chicago Home? Here's What You Need to Know (Source: - used as royalty free image)

Here in Chicago, there are more than 17,000 buildings considered to have some “historic or architectural importance” by the Chicago Historic Resources Society (CHRS), a decade-long survey of buildings constructed in the city before 1940.

The buildings are sorted among different levels by their age, architectural significance, and physical integrity – about 9600 properties, for instance, are categorized as “orange” by the CHRS, meaning that they possess some feature or “historical association” that make them significant within the context of the surrounding community. Others are classified as significant – despite substantial exterior renovations – because they’re located within a concentration of important buildings. Only about 300 properties are designated “red,” meaning that they’re “potentially significant in the broader context of the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, or the United States of America.”

In short, if you love gorgeous, historical architecture, you’re in luck! The Windy City is the town for you. From the gorgeous structures of Old Town to the old industrial buildings of Bucktown to the Queen Annes and two-flats of Lincoln Park, Chicago is bursting with uniquely fascinating, historic architecture.

But there are some things you need to know if you’re interested in moving into an older home - perhaps even one that’s been designated as a historically significant “landmark” by the city. Here are a few questions to ask before you seal the deal on that historic property in Chicago:

1.) Are the Systems Up to My Standards?

One of the most frustrating things about old homes is that they tend to be a little more fragile than brand new models with brand new systems. 

Even if the house is totally up to code, time takes its toll on infrastructure, plumbing, and electrical systems. Lots of little repairs and maintenance visits can quickly add up, particularly when you need to sanction all of your repairs with the city (which we’ll talk more on in a bit) or special order all of your parts and services (since home supply stores may not have Victorian era replacement pieces just sitting on their shelves).

Before taking on an old property, insist on a thorough inspection of the floors, ceilings, plumbing, sewer lines, HVAC, electrical systems, and windows. Be aware, too, of your property’s limitations: While some old houses are built to weather the winter, others may need additional heating in the chilly months (or fans to beat the summertime heat), which can put a toll on your utilities bill.

And renovations may not be in the cards, since you’ll need to ask yourself…

2.) Am I Able to Deal With Red Tape?

Many old houses are just that – old properties in need of some TLC that you can put in as your schedule and budget allow.

For some properties that have been deemed historically significant, however, you will need to submit applications for work projects, which can become complicated and costly over time, and may be necessarily limited in scope (you may not be able to build any additions or redo your home’s façade, for example). You may also need to meet with preservation planning committees and receive technical assistance; at the same time, living in a historic home may open you up to receive some financial incentives through the Department of Planning and Development.

And financial incentives aren’t the only perks…

3.) Am I Excited About the Rewards?

Old homes are bursting with character and charm that you may not find in more modern constructions, from charming built-ins to hidden passages to beautiful metal or brick work. Many older homes also come with beautiful, entrenched landscaping and may sit on larger lots, offering you more space to play with.

A historic home is a gem with a potential discovery around every corner. It’s a great conversation starter, and a way to secure your own little piece of this incredible city.

Interested in finding out more about your old Chicago home – including the date of construction, the architect, and any additions or renovations made to it over the years? “Your House Has a History,” a handy guide from the Commission of Chicago Landmarks, is a great place to start!

Whatever kind of Chicagoland property you’re looking for, Real Group is here to help! Drop us a line to start the search for your dream home today.

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