Everything You Need To Know About Insuring Historic Homes


Keeping An Older Home Alive—Without Breaking The Bank

Whether it's a 19th century carpenter gothic home or a 20th century farmhouse, historic homes stand out from today's onslaught of cookie-cutter tract homes. And when it comes to insuring these aged yet celebrated properties, this distinction is no different—getting good coverage for a historic home is a completely different process from insuring your average home. Current homeowner's insurance policies aren't always going to reflect the potential needs and risks of a home that's centuries old. That's why it's important to look into coverage that keeps in mind the unique challenges that come along with maintaining a historic home.

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Historic Designation: Identifying A Historic Home

So how can you tell the difference between a house that's simply outdated and one that's considered "historic"? Historic homes are divided into two branches: residences built before 1945 and those built before 1900. Newer homes may also be granted the historic title. These exceptions are made if a culturally significant event occurred on a post-1945 property, and/or if a person of notable achievement lived there. Defining a home as historic is also known as historic designation. Receiving historic designation on a property typically means that you, as the owner, are held to a different standard of preservation, restoration, and overall maintenance than you would otherwise be responsible for with a newer home. Historical societies, and even some factions of government, defend the integrity of historical structures and are known to prevent owners of historic properties from making any modern renovations. This means that if certain key features in your home need touching up—like a gothic stained glass window or a 20th century door frame—you'll need to replace them with similar, one-of-a-kind materials, which can quickly add up to an extremely costly project.

Insuring Historic Homes

Because of the unique needs of a historic home, insuring your property is as much of a challenge as it is a necessity. For homes built prior to 1945, and especially for those that are pre-1900, you'll want to consider additional coverage, if not a completely different policy from traditional home insurance. A good barometer for deciphering whether or not you're properly insured is to make sure your insurance policy covers the total cost of restoration if a natural disaster (or even a kitchen fire) completely destroys it. If you have period-specific pieces, such as original wood moldings or antique tile floors, your average home insurance policy isn't likely to cover your home in full. For historic homes, it's best to look into a historic home insurance policy, which can cost you at least 20 percent more than normal home insurance but doesn't leave you with gaps in coverage. When shopping for the right policy, one thing to keep in mind is replacement-in-kind coverage. This allows you to replace any unique materials in full in the event of damage. Restoration appraisers can assess the features of your home to give you a general idea of what should be covered and by how much.

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Benefits of Owning A Historic Home

While it may seem like more of a hassle to own a historic home when it comes to insurance, living in a culturally rich property can be extremely rewarding. Often, multiple homes in one neighborhood will be granted historic designation, ultimately protecting entire communities from big-money developments that can kick people out of their homes. Designation also makes sure that all the hard work you put into restoring a historic home doesn't get completely erased if you decide to sell the property. In fact, having an official "historic" home increases property value and can be a major selling point when your home is on the market. The bottom line is this: once you've identified your property as a historic home, don't assume that any old insurance policy will do. Just as it takes effort to fix those creaky floorboards and maintain the integrity of your wrap-around porch, insuring a property that's been around for a hundred years won't be a walk in the park. Once you've settled into your historic home, however, you can rest assured that all the work you put into your residence is saving and preserving a piece of history.
Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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