Ever asked yourself the question, “How old is my house?” It’s not uncommon for property owners to want to know the age of their property and the history behind their home.
Knowing your home’s age can serve a purpose beyond satisfying your curiosity. It will actually come in handy when applying for home insurance or if you ever decide to sell your property.
Thankfully, there are several methods that you can implement to determine the age of your home. You could ask around, look at property records, talk to the building inspector, or check tax records. In this article, we’ll highlight 10 ways to find out when your house was built.
Is It Important To Know When My House Was Built?
Apart from just plain old curiosity, it’s vital that you know how old your property is for several reasons. First of all, knowing the age of your house is helpful when getting home insurance. Having knowledge about the age of your house will help the insurer provide you with the most appropriate coverage.
If, for example, you’re selling your house, knowing the age of your house could also come in handy. This is because the age of a house will have a significant impact on its value, and an interested buyer would want to know this.
Proper knowledge of the age and the history of your home will boost your credibility as a seller. This could be just what you needed to close the deal. Furthermore, issues synonymous with older houses, like problems surrounding plumbing, electricity, and thermal efficiency, will reduce the market value of a property.
In such a scenario, consider renovating and fixing these issues before listing your house in order to get the best price for it. Knowing the age of your home also comes in handy when renovating your home. Knowing how old it is will give you a better understanding of the risks involved in the renovation process.
10 Ways to Find Out When Your House Was Built
If you’ve been wondering how old your house is, worry no more! Investigating the history of your home can be a daunting process, and you might be at a loss in terms of where to start. But today, we’re looking at 10 proven methods, plus a bonus tip. Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Start By Asking Your Realtor
Asking your realtor is always a great place to start, especially if you’re considering buying a home and you want to know how old it is. Any realtors worth their salt will be comprehensive sources of information on the houses they sell.
Your realtor should be able to tell you whether or not your home is located in a historic area as well as provide you with the names of the previous owners. If the house was recently built, your realtor might even be able to provide you with the exact date the house was built.
Furthermore, you could ask the neighbors in that area if they know anything about the age of your house. Odds are some of them will have a thing or two to contribute to your investigation on the history of your house.
2. Consult Your Ownership Documents
Consulting your ownership documents is also an excellent idea if you’ve lived in the house for a while. This is probably the easiest and quickest way to determine the age of your home.
Finding the information within your ownership documents shouldn’t be a problem if your ownership documents are in order. The title of the home will usually contain the history of the house, including previous owners, as well as other paperwork, like the deed of your home.
The title policy, for example, acts as an insurance document for the deed history, which is essentially the documented chain of ownership. The title policy can then be used to look back and figure out when the house was built.
The home appraisal that you received in the process of buying your home is another excellent research material when investigating the age of your home. Together, these documents should help you discover the information you’re looking for, meaning the date that the house was built.
3. Check Tax Records
Another great source of information is the tax records on the home. In the United States, the value of properties is assessed annually to determine the rate of taxation. With tax records, you’ll be able to find out everyone who’s ever owned the land upon which your house is built.
When going through these records, keep an eye out for any significant increases in the value of the property and make note of those dates. Increments of that sort are usually caused by the construction of a building or as a result of significant renovations. You can then compare these dates with the dates you received through the other means of research that we’re covering today.
We advise you to use this method with caution because the dates you’ll find through tax records could be an estimate. If the house is really old and was built in an isolated area, it might have taken the assessor several years to assess the property and increase the tax as a result.
Alternatively, the house that is situated on the property in present time might not be the first house to ever be built on the property. Thus, it’s best to cross check the dates you obtain with the information you accrue through other sources.
4. Take a Look at the Building Permit Records
Going through tax records may not yield the information that you need. At best, it might help you narrow down your options by providing you with the dates on which significant construction was carried out on the land.
You can match these dates with building permit applications associated with your home address. A building permit is necessary before any construction of significant renovation can be carried out.
So, you can use building permit records to discover the dates on which significant construction was performed on the property. And if you’re lucky, who knows? You might even find the date your house was built within one of the building permit records!
5. Visit the County Clerk's Office
There are two separate files at the county clerk’s office that could prove to be very helpful in your quest to uncover the age of your house. The register of deeds will have copies of the tract index and the grantor-grantee index for your to peruse.
These documents contain comprehensive reports regarding all of the transactions that are tied to the lot upon which the home was built. With these documents in hand, you can discover the names of previous owners as well as any liens or lawsuits filed over the years.
6. Try Looking Into Information at Your Community Library
Many libraries have an entire section devoted to local history, building plans, archived historical maps, and old photographs. You could also go through the real estate listings in newspapers around the time you believe your house was constructed. Comparing the dates you obtain from the local libraries with the census records, you can likely figure out the date your home was built.
7. Consider the Materials
The materials used when building your house will say a lot about how old your house is, as long as the original structure hasn’t been renovated. You can narrow down the time your home was built based on the materials that make up the structure and foundation of your house.
Factors like the nails, wiring, electrical receptacles, flooring, and structural panels can give you an idea of when the house was built. Considering the materials used to build your home may not provide you with the exact date that your house was built, they will definitely help you narrow down your options.
If your house’s flooring is made of linoleum, you can narrow your house date down to sometime in the late 19th century, or the 1890s, to the 20th century, or the 1960s. If the flooring of your home is asphalt, then your house was likely built sometime between 1920 and 1960. You can then use the information you gather from this inspection and compare it to other dates that you’ve obtained from alternative sources.
8. Use Fire Insurance Maps as a Resource
Fire insurance maps are another handy source for information on the history of your home. These maps date back to the 1870s. They can help you determine the flooring, framing, and roofing materials used during the initial construction of the home.
The fire insurance maps record this information to aid insurance agents so that they can effectively evaluate how hazardous the materials in your home are. This knowledge comes in handy when insurance agents determine the degree of fire hazards of a particular property. As such, fire maps can help you narrow down the age of your home to a certain extent.
9. Match the House Style to the Year It Trended
Just like in fashion, there are trends in the world of homebuilding. For instance, certain architectural styles were more prevalent during a particular era.
You can use your knowledge of architectural styles to narrow down the period your house was built. Features like the roof type, position of windows, and type of construction can give you a hint as to when the house was built.
For instance, colonial houses were famous from the 1600s to around 1850. Victorian houses were the style of choice between 1860 and 1930, while the beginning of the 20th century saw the emergence of Craftsman-style homes. If you’re not sure where to start, you could always contact a professional architectural investigator for help.
10. Maximize the Knowledge of the Internet
The internet has made the world a global village. There are numerous sites that can assist you in your quest to uncover the age of your home. Depending on how old your house is, you might even be able to find the exact date it was built by searching on the internet.
But even if you don’t find the exact date online, various sites can help you find information that will narrow down your search. If your house was built recently, say after the mid-1990s, then you might find the house’s age by looking through its prior online listings. You can find the listings by simply searching your address and pulling up a site like Zillow.
You could also conduct a property record search to find your home’s chain of ownership, tax history, and sales records, all of which could prove to be very helpful in your investigation. You can do all of this by accessing any public records online directory portal, which will allow you to do a property history search for free.
Many counties also offer a Geographic Information System (GIS) on their local government websites. Usually, the information will include details regarding when the house was built.
In addition to these methods, you could do some digging around your home. You never know what you’ll find when you inspect the basement, the attic, or even the tank of your toilet!
In some basements, the year the cement walls were constructed are inscribed on the concrete or the brick’s surface. Sometimes, attic support beams and basement pipes will have the installation year marked on the surface as well.
And lastly, if your toilet tank hasn’t been replaced, you could even find the year the house was built on the inside of the tank walls or beneath the tank cover. The options are endless.
This page last updated: March 21, 2022