Bob Vila Radio: How Old Is Your House?

If cats have nine lives, an old house probably has more than you can count. You don't have to travel far to find out more about your property's past—and you might be surprised at what your search turns up.

By Bob Vila | Updated Oct 26, 2016 11:41 AM

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You might not think of yourself as much of a detective, but piecing together the history of your house is easier than it looks. With a little research, you can find out when it was built, who else lived called it home, and more.



Listen to BOB VILA ON THE HISTORY OF YOUR HOME or read on below:

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Start the search at your local tax assessor’s office for a list of past owners and a record of your home’s property value. Next, head to your county clerk’s office to request three files: the Registrar of Deeds, the Tract Index, and the Grantor-Grantee Index.  These three documents will tell you when your home was bought and sold, or if any lawsuits or liens have been filed.

Want to see what changes have been made to the original structure?  The local building inspector’s office can help you with that. Enlist a clerk’s help to find any permit applications filed for remodeling or new construction on the property.

If you’re interested in the materials used to build your home, check your town’s fire insurance maps, which can date as far back as 1870. Your local library might also have maps of the surrounding area, or old pictures of your home. While you’re there, look through old newspapers to see if your address pops up in the real estate listings—or the police blotter!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!