Historic or Dangerous? What to Do with Your Parents’ Old Home


Once your parents reach a certain age, you might be faced with making a decision about what to do with the home they lived in for most of their lives. Your parents may decide to move into a residential community for senior citizens, or they may end up leaving their old home to you as part of their will or estate plan.

Once you have gone through the probate process and all liens are cleared off the title, you will have to make some decisions about the future of the house. If you are lucky, the home your parents passed on to you may qualify to be added to a register of historic properties. If this is the case, the home may fetch a nice market value, but only if it meets certain conditions. On the other hand, the house might be dangerous in terms of materials or structural integrity, and should be demolished instead.

How can you know which is the case for your parents’ home? Some the key reasons for historic preservation of old homes include cultural legacy, tourism value, neighborhood aesthetics, and avoiding regret. Here are some of the factors that can help you determine the potential historic value of your parent’s old home:

Federal Rules

The ultimate determination of a historic property is made according to the rules set by the National Register of Historic Places. If the home is located in a district or subdivision that has already been deemed historic, chances are that the house is worth preserving.

Construction Materials

Unfortunately, many old homes built across many regions of the United States may contain significant traces of asbestos. This dangerous and toxic construction material is usually not a problem if it is left alone; however, this will be a problem if you intend to remodel the property and the particles become airborne. If this is the case, health officials may order immediate asbestos removal. High levels of lead in old paint may pose a similar problem.

Home Inspection

One of the easiest ways to determine whether an old home is worth keeping is by means of a thorough inspection of the foundation, frame, roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, HVAC, and other home features. The results of the inspection can be discussed with a remodeling contractor to determine the extent of the work needed and the cost.

Code Enforcement

If you are not able to dedicate time to the house and leave it vacant, there is a good chance that code inspectors may eventually pay a visit. If the home is located in a historic neighborhood, this visit may come sooner than later, and the code inspectors will explain what needs to be done to the property at a minimum.

In the end, demolishing should be the last thing on your mind when you take care of your parents’ old home. You may have to wait a few years for historic designation, but it will be worth it in the end.

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