Every house has its own story to tell, beginning with when it was built. Determining exactly when that was, however, can prove to be a challenge. Much will depend on how old the house really is and how determined you are to find the answer. Whether you’re looking for the exact date your house was built or will be satisfied with an approximate year or decade, a little ingenuity and time can yield all the information you need.
To find out when was my home built starts with a search of your ownership documents, including the title search and property abstract. If no clues are provided there, head to your local government offices or see if they provide records online. In many locations, information is digitally scanned, providing a database of information on the properties within the city or county limits. However, older home documents may not be digitized yet, and you will need to go and request them in person.
Many searchers begin their quest with the local government offices, expecting to retrieve a file with every piece of information about the house in question. Rarely will that happen unless the house is relatively new. So, you’ll need to know a few ways to get the job done, regardless of what roadblocks you come up against.
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Conduct a Document Search to Determine Your Home’s Build Date
Your first thought may be that the date houses are built is captured in public records at some local government office. In many instances, you are correct. However, written construction records are often missing and, when included, can be conflicting with other information found. Regardless, though, it is the best way to start on your search.
Start with a review of your home ownership documents, including the title search, title policy, property abstract, purchase appraisal, and home inspection report. Any of these may include the year-built date. If not, it’s time to research public records.
Head down to the local courthouse or county offices, or locate their websites to determine if the information is available online. A few places to look include:
- County Tax Assessor’s Office or website for property profiles
- County Clerk’s Office to review the Registry of Deeds, tract index, and/pr a grantor-grantee index if available (for overall details of the house, including all previous owners)
- County Recorder, or Land Record’s office depending on where you live, for additional details
While you might get lucky using this method, often you’ll find dead-end after dead-end and need to resort to a more research plan-oriented method, including reviewing old newspapers or learning about the construction of the house then consulting architectural sources to narrow down a timeframe.
How Can I Search the Local Archives for Unearthing my House Build Date?
When the date of your house isn’t recorded in public records, or you find conflicting information, it’s time to use a magnifying glass and don your Sherlock hat. Dig into the local archives to determine when your house was built. You may have several sources at your disposal, including:
- Contact the local historical or preservation society. These groups keep a library of historical records of the area and also maps and regional data.
- Scan local newspaper archives for mention of your neighborhood, specific address, or of the previous residents.
- Peruse Library Resources to dig for information, including census records, genealogies, biographies and memoirs of local residents. Reference librarians will be helpful in offering suggestions on where to search.
- Ask Neighbors and other long-term residents of the area to determine what they know. They may also refer you to others, such as descendants of the previous owners of your house.
Look for various clues when it comes to your house. Those with historical significance in many locales are marked with a plaque. For example, a home recognized as being at or over 100-years-old in certain counties in Florida receives a plaque to display out front. In addition, this identifies a house requiring special permits to remodel or make additions.
What is a Good Way to Determine the Age of an Older House?
For an estimation of the age of your older house, research and decipher architectural clues. Factors such as room shape, building materials, craftsmanship, and layout all provide clues as to what era or timeframe your house was built.
Building trends, designs, and styles vary over time and often provide a way to narrow down the age of your house. Review architecture books and guides and identify unique features in your home which can point to a historical period. In this way, you can at least identify a range of years in which your house was most likely built. Look for clues in the surrounding neighborhood as well.
Also, look for dates throughout the house: Cement and brick basement walls are often marked with the date erected. Another place to look is on basement plumbing. Head upstairs to the attic and check out the support beams, which are often the site of building dates. In addition, check old toilets most likely never replaced in the house. The year may be stamped on the bottom of the tank cover or on an interior tank wall.
Hire a Professional to Find the Date Your House Was Built
If time is an issue, or you are unsure of your own abilities when it comes to researching and locating the date or range of years in which your home was built, consider hiring a professional. Various levels of researchers are available to help and suitable for every type of situation.
Examples of those possessing the skills to research the initial build of your home include:
- Title searchers and title search firms offer both expertise and speed in locating the printed deed history of your home’s ownership. A title search is conducted, revealing the deed history of your home by date.
- Historical researchers will examine the style and elements of your home, along with any documentation, and determine an era, range of years, or other such timeframe for when your house was most likely built. Their main source for information will be archives and historical references.
- Experienced real estate agents may be able to track down the build-date information through their own research sources. This agent will be especially helpful if you are considering selling the property and listing it with that agency. Knowing the date the house was built, along with any upgrades and remodels, will significantly influence the sales price.
- Architectural investigators, or similar professionals, will examine the construction of your home and decipher the design and material clues to nail down an approximate age. These professionals are often part of engineering and architectural firms.
Start with a common document and public record search strategy to find out when your house was built. Once exhausted, it’s time to rely on your sleuthing skills, first searching through historical archives. If all else fails, it’s time to put your research skills to the test and go deep into learning the architecture of your house and how history can reveal its secret.
1. Why aren’t building dates mandatorily recorded somewhere?
Unfortunately, there is no magic database listing the date every house is built, even with all the digitizing of records these days. This is because of different state statutes, various city and county building department ordinances, and older tracking systems still in place. Older records not digitized may be stored away in warehouses requiring hours of search, often due to being improperly indexed.
2. Does the age of my house affect its market value?
The age of your house does indeed affect market value, impacting the price you will receive if you plan to sell now or in the future. While older homes may not bring you a higher selling price, if they’ve been outfitted with a newer roof, a remodeled bathroom, or new appliances, you will be able to ask a higher price.
3. At what age is a house considered old?
While many variables are involved in determining a house’s overall age, including additions and renovations, the generally recognized rule is that homes 50 years or older are considered old. If a home is built prior to 1920, it is most likely considered to be antique.
4. How do you find when additions or renovations were made on a house?
To determine when additions or renovations were made on your house may be difficult to find. Unless the house is protected by historical preservation rules, you may need to contact previous owners of the house to ask questions and learn of any changes.
5. How can you find out who built your home?
To find out who built your home, start with any public records you can find with your local government offices. If the house is not too old, building permits may be available listing the builder. When a home is older and public records are not available, review and look for clues in the archives for your city, neighborhood, and specific address.