How to Find the History of a House

Three Methods:Learning Basic Details About Your Home’s HistoryGetting Help from ProfessionalsDigging Deeper into Your Home’s History

Researching the history of a home is a rewarding experience, and it is necessary in most cases to receive a "historical site or building" designation. However, it can be difficult to know where to begin your search for information. Uncovering your home's history requires familiarizing yourself with its basic details, such as the year it was built, the architectural style, and the previous owners. You may be able to source this information online or through your county courthouse, or you may need to enlist the help of professionals, such as librarians and realtors. Depending on how much you want to learn about your home, this process can be a short research project or an ongoing one.

Method 1
Learning Basic Details About Your Home’s History

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    Find the year your home was built. One of the most basic details about your home’s history is the year that it was built. You can find out the what year your house was built by checking websites like Zillow and qPublic.[1][2]
    • Learning the year that your home was built will help you to determine how old it is and it may be helpful when trying to determine the styles and other details about your home.
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    Identify your home's architectural style. Another basic detail of a house's construction and appearance is the architectural style. This information might also be available from sites like Zillow and qPublic.[3][4] You can also use an online database of house styles to identify the style that most closely resembles your own home. This information can provide you with clues regarding your house's history, since different styles have been popular at different times.[5]
    • Many older homes have undergone substantial renovations and additions. Be certain to note these changes when you find them.
    • Consider the year that your home was built when you start looking into the architectural style of your home. Some style were more popular during certain time periods, so knowing the year your home was built may help you to hone in on your home’s architectural style.
    • You should also try to identify the builder and architect of the home, if possible.
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    Learn who owned your home over the years. Finding out about the people who owned your home from the time it was built to before you purchased it can also offer valuable insight. Your home might have been owned by a prominent member of your community, which can add historical value to your home. This information might also be available from sites like Zillow and qPublic.[6][7]
    • Try searching for information about the previous owners as well, especially for owners of older homes.
    • Try looking in old census records, newspapers, and city/county hall records to find this information.
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    Gather documents through your county courthouse. If you cannot find the basic details about your home using internet resources, then you can make a trip to your county courthouse for this information. Over the course of your home's history, many documents will have been filed with your local government. These documents contain information regarding your home's construction, renovation, and occupants. While each state catalogs and stores these documents differently, the county courthouse is the best place to start looking for them. Here are a few useful documents to ask about:[8]
    • Tax records, which contain information on property taxes for the property. A sudden increase in property tax in a particular year often indicates the year in which the home was built.
    • Property abstracts, containing information about the selling prices and purchase dates of your home as it has transitioned between owners.
    • Building permits, which contain information regarding the original construction of the home.
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    Gather your information. When you've located documents pertaining to your home, neatly organize them with any pictures and notes that you have. This will aid in your analysis of the home's history. It will also make it easier to take your information to a professional or post it online so that you can get help.

Method 2
Getting Help from Professionals

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    Visit your local library. Libraries are a wonderful source of information regarding your community, since most local libraries preserve newspapers, photographs, maps and other town records from the past. Ask your librarian for assistance in locating historical archives. Look for pictures of your neighborhood, as well as newspaper articles or other records about it. Researching the history of your entire town or neighborhood can also provide you with clues. [9]
    • Be sure to ask your librarian for recommendations of books dealing with local history, and let them know you are researching your home's history. They are likely to have experience helping others with such research.
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    Visit a local historical society. In many communities with historical homes and other buildings, historical societies are established to promote research and education about community history. These societies can be a great resource for finding documents and information about your home, about the previous owners, and about the community in general.
    • To locate historical societies in your area, simply search the internet for "historical society" followed by the name of your town.
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    Contact the original architect or real estate broker. If you have managed to track the history of your home to a specific contractor or architect responsible for its construction, then you can check to see if they are still in business. If so, then they may have records of the construction of your home, including building plans.[10]
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    Consult with a building inspector. While building inspectors typically inspect homes for the purposes of evaluating the home's structural integrity, they are also often familiar with architectural styles and details which may be unfamiliar to you. If your home has been recently inspected, get in touch with your building inspector and ask about the original construction and style of the house.

Method 3
Digging Deeper into Your Home’s History

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    Talk to your neighbors. People who have lived near your home for a long time can be a wonderful resource for discovering more about your home's history. Ask your neighbors about major renovations, or remodeling or construction projects on the house. This will help you differentiate between original architectural details, and more recent additions. Also be sure to ask about the previous owners, as well as the history of the neighborhood in general.[11]
    • If any of your neighbors are still in touch with the home's previous owners, ask to be put in touch with them. Previous owners may be able to provide insight into the home's construction and renovation, and may have even conducted some research themselves!
    • You might also wish to ask your neighbors about the history of their own homes. In some neighborhoods, many of the buildings were constructed at around the same time, so insight into the history of other homes in the area might provide you with some clues.
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    Look for original quirks and details. If your house is quite old, you may notice that parts of it have been remodeled or changed. Take some time to look closely at these changes, and try to identify unique or original elements. Here are some examples of things to looks for:[12]
    • Old windows framed with wood or metal instead of modern plastic.
    • Original glass panes in windows and doors. These can often be identified by the "wavy" pattern which can arise in glass over many years.
    • Original floorboards under more modern carpeting or flooring material.
    • Original wallpaper or paint which may be revealed when more recent coats of paint chip away.
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    Find artifacts of your home's history. Sheds, basements, and storage spaces may contain clues regarding the history of your house and its occupants. Spare lumber, tools or building materials may still remain from your home's construction, or from more recent renovations. Because architectural technology and fashion changes over time, these items may help you understand the age of your home, as well as how it has changed over time. Investigation may also uncover documents, such as newspapers or discarded mail, which explicitly mention dates. [13]
    • If you have access to a metal detector, you can scour your home's yard for tools, coins and other metal artifacts which may be present.


  • Learning the history of one's home is not the same as an investigation or inspection of a house prior to purchase.

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Categories: Real Estate