More Younger Buyers Appreciating Older Homes

Affordability is important, but for some, an older home is like comfort food during pandemic lockdowns. Plus, more buyers now want a home without a great room.

NEW YORK – Homebuyers are showing a renewed interest in older properties, not only for affordability but also due to an appreciation for the traditional elements of century-old spaces. The trend is particularly noticeable in San Francisco, typically a mecca for modern architecture, where older Victorians are now making a comeback. Many of these homebuyers also want to restore historic properties to their former glory.

Views of Victorian and Edwardian properties in San Francisco climbed 80% year over year. The median asking price per square foot of such properties was $1,050 in January – up 8.7% from a year ago, according to realtor.com’s listing data.

For comparison, views per property of modern single-family homes in the city were down 5.7% over the same period, and the asking price per square foot was $831.

“For the last 10 to 12 years during the massive economic boom here, houses were in such demand that you had people buying Victorians, painting them a solid dark gray, and stripping out the interiors in an effort to modernize the appearance of a house that they obviously didn’t like that much,” says Lynne Rutter, president of Artistic License, a coalition of local artisans dedicated to period revival work. “Recently, I have seen far more thoughtful restoration happening and younger homeowners who are doing more considerate work. They are eager to know more about their homes and will ask a lot of questions.”

Also, open floor plans, which have dominated newer home designs, may be losing appeal because of noise as more people work from home. Victorian homes’ original floor plans with separate rooms may offer greater appeal in today’s work-from-home culture.

In the Philadelphia area, older homes are growing in popularity, too. In 2020, 14,093 homes built between 1800 and 1921 were sold in the metro area – up from 9,266 in 2019, according to Bright MLS data.

During the pandemic, “I found that my historic listings were not only going under contract much more quickly, but these very specific old homes were even garnering multiple offers,” says Trish Keegan, a real estate pro with Styer Real Estate in Chester County, Pa.

Keegan says she believes part of the appeal is the desire for more individual spaces and separate rooms that cater better to home offices or remote learning spaces for children. Also, “people are beginning to value unique and handmade, versus a big white box with empty spaces that don’t really support how we used to live and how we’re evolving in the time of the pandemic.”

Homeowners Paul and Karen Chung said they were willing to travel farther outside Philadelphia to find an older home that didn’t have an open floor plan. They settled on a four-acre property in Chester Springs, Pa., with parts of its stone facade dating back to 1850.

“A historic home is like living in art,” Paul Chung told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Source: “Young Residents Are Restoring These San Francisco Homes to Their Original Glory,” The Wall Street Journal (May 22, 2021); “Historic Homes Draw Wider Interest as Buyers Adapt to the Pandemic in a Market With Limited Choices,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Feb. 3, 2021); and “Buyers Looking for Older Homes as Building Material Costs Continue to Rise,” WJBF.com (May 4, 2021)

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