Best Places in the U.S. to Find Historic Homes for Sale
Want to own a piece of history? Try house-hunting in cities with well-preserved historic neighborhoods and old-house charm.
This article is part of Old House Appreciation with Bob Vila, a month-long series dedicated to showing you the best places to find historic homes, pros and cons of investing in an older house, potential repairs and precautions, and our favorite examples in a variety of house styles to keep you inspired along the way. We’ve included current market trends mixed with Bob’s tried-and-true advice, our vetted shopping guides, and the behind-the-scenes tips you need to make your old house a home.
While new homes hold plenty of appeal, with their modern amenities and high-tech features, nothing can quite compare to the charm and character of historic architecture. Whether your style leans more Colonial, Victorian, Georgian, or midcentury, plenty of historic homes around the country are currently listed for sale. Start your search in cities that are known for having a high quantity of old houses available to purchase.
Realtor.com used its internal data to determine which American cities had the highest number of homes for sale that were built before 1900. The number one spot on the list went to Boston/Cambridge, which should come as no surprise, since it’s one of the oldest settled areas in the country. Buying a historic home in the Boston area requires a sizable financial investment, however, with the average pre-1900 historic home selling for $799,000.
Newark, New Jersey
Second on Realtor.com’s list of towns with the most homes built before 1900 is Newark. Known primarily as a commuter city for New York, Newark has a long and storied history. The neighborhood of Forest Hill, located in the city’s North Ward, is particularly desirable for people looking for historic homes because it features many houses built in the Victorian style between the 1880s and the 1920s.
Belmont, North Carolina
Belmont, located just outside Charlotte, is home to a high concentration of historic buildings. The Downtown Belmont Historic District is made up of 264 buildings built between 1850 and 1949, with examples of Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Craftsman bungalow styles among them. Belmont has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996.
Buffalo, New York
A study by air filter brand Filterbuy sought to determine which American cities were home to the most houses built before 1940. Their top result for midsize cities was Buffalo. The study found that 59.8 percent of homes in the city were built before 1940, meaning that a large percentage of homes for sale at any given time will be close to a century old. House hunters will also find a number of modern, midcentury modern, and Art Deco style homes.
St. Louis, Missouri
Architecture lovers will appreciate the many historic buildings showcased in St. Louis. The Landmarks Association of St. Louis offers tours of some of the most famed spots, including the Frank Lloyd Wright House, T.S. Eliot’s childhood home, and the Historic Samuel Cupples House. One of the primary advantages of house-hunting in St. Louis is that the median price of homes is quite low at about $189,000, according to data from Realtor.com.
Allentown was founded in 1762 and contains some of the oldest homes in the country. Many are in the Georgian style, like Trout Hall, which was built by one of the founder’s sons. The town is also home to examples of Victorian architecture, and these houses sometimes come on the market for affordable prices making this a perfect spot for house hunters seeking a historic home.
Palm Springs, California
While many people looking for historic homes may be dreaming of Georgian or Victorian architecture, others may prefer the midcentury look. Palm Springs is home to some of the country’s most well-preserved examples of midcentury modern architecture that visitors can view on guided tours. House hunters can buy a piece of history (and even celebrity) themselves by investing in a midcentury modern house. The average price of homes in the area in fall 2022 was about $717,000, according to Zillow.
Indianapolis was founded as a planned city in 1821, and since then, many homes have been built in a variety of house styles. Lockerbie Square is one of the oldest areas in the city and is home to Federal, Italianate, and Queen Anne style homes. While these particular old houses may come with ultra-high listing prices, there are also many more affordable areas in Indianapolis that cater to those looking for inexpensive historic homes.
Providence, Rhode Island
More than half of the homes in Providence were built before 1940, offering plenty of options for old houses from various periods in American history. Providence was settled in 1636 and eventually became one of America’s Thirteen Original Colonies. House hunters will find examples of Colonial, Gilded Age, and Victorian architecture in Providence, and many of the city’s historic homes are open to the public.
Founded in 1635, Hartford is one of the oldest cities in the country. Along with being home to the Mark Twain House, Hartford is a great place to shop for historic homes. The city showcases many examples of Victorian architecture, and buyers might find a bargain. As of 2017, the average price of a home built in Hartford before 1900 was just $141,500, according to Homes.com.
St. Augustine, Florida
Homes.com used data from the National Park Service’s (NPS) National Register of Historic Places to establish which cities were home to the highest quantity of historic homes per capita. Their number one spot went to St. Augustine, which was founded by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565. Today, about 22 percent of homes in the city are considered to be historic.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is known for its French Colonial architecture and is home to 36,000 houses that are registered on the NPS’s National Register of Historic Places. Also known as Creole style, French Colonial style was created in New Orleans and takes inspiration from French, Spanish and Caribbean architecture. NOLA is also home to the famous shotgun houses, which feature a space-efficient design, having no hallways and allowing each room to open onto the next.