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How do you find out about the history of a house?

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Quick Answer

Uncovering the history of a house is a multistep process, states Alexandra Bandon for This Old House magazine. The age of the structure determines which type of resources are needed.

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If the dwelling is less than 50 years old, speaking with neighbors and previous owners may be all that is required to compile a reasonable history of a home. For verification, a person may want to search deed and mortgage records in the local city hall database, according to The Old House Web.

For older homes, the process begins by identifying the era in which the home was constructed, explains Bandon. By comparing the silhouette, layout and architectural details, like doors and windows, with images in books on residential architecture, the approximate decade of construction may be determined. Similar homes in the neighborhood can also help confirm the era.

Other steps to constructing a home's history may involve expert advice. By examining molding profiles, hardware and paint samples, professionals from local building conservation companies can determine whether the structure is pre-20th century. For most homes built after 1900, building permits are required. Therefore, contacting a state's preservation officer is the first step in searching for official documents about the house. A town's local historical society is the best resource for maps, photos, newspapers, genealogy and municipal information, notes Bandon. However, occasionally a home's history reveals itself in some unusual places. Tucked inside walls, beneath loose floorboards and underneath layers of wallpaper and paint are possibly old newspapers, photos and documents disclosing a home's most intimate history.

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