Before You Buy a Historic Home in Portland

Before You Buy a Historic Home in PortlandFor some of our buyers, owning a historic home in Portland is a dream. If being the caretaker for a part of the city's heritage and living in a home filled with charm sound idyllic, we can help you explore Victorian homes for sale in Portland and other historic properties that might be just right for you. 

Before you buy a historic property, there are some things you should know to be prepared for the unique purchasing process and responsibilities that go with it. 

Linda Edelwich at William Raveis has years of experience helping her buyers find historic homes, and here's what she has to say: 

"Buying a historic home offers the unique charm and architectural detail that you won't find in newer properties, making it a truly unique living experience. The sense of history and craftsmanship can be incredibly rewarding. However, potential buyers should be aware of the increased maintenance and restoration costs, as well as any restrictions on renovations due to historical preservation regulations. It's a balance of appreciating the past while managing the practical aspects of homeownership."

Understanding Victorian Homes

The bulk of historic homes in Portland are going to be Victorian. These houses, built during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), are known for their intricate and eclectic architectural styles. In Portland, these homes often feature:

  • Ornate Woodwork: Intricate trim, moldings, and decorative woodwork.
  • Steep Roofs: Gabled roofs that add to the dramatic appearance.
  • Asymmetrical Facades: Irregular shapes and sizes, often with towers or turrets.
  • Large Windows: Stained glass and bay windows are common.
  • Wraparound Porches: Inviting and often detailed with elaborate railings.

You'll find a variety of color palettes, beautiful landscaping, and undeniable curb appeal in these attention grabbing homes. 

Portland is known for its rich architectural history and has many neighborhoods with well-preserved Victorian homes. Areas like AlamedaLadd’s Addition, and Irvington are known for their historic charm and beautifully maintained Victorian properties. These homes offer a glimpse into the city’s past and provide a unique living experience with their classic beauty and craftsmanship.

Key Considerations

Before you choose to buy a historic home, keep these key considerations in mind. While they are beautiful and charming, historic properties also come with added responsibilities and maintenance. 

Before you make an offer on a historic home, these are some factors you need to keep in mind:

  • Historical Significance: Determine if the home is listed on any historic registers, such as the National Register of Historic Places or a local historic district. This designation can affect what changes can be made to the property.
  • Restoration Costs: Restoring a Victorian home to its original condition can be expensive. Budget for specialized labor, materials, and unexpected repairs.
  • Permits and Regulations: Historic homes may be subject to specific regulations regarding renovations. Check with local preservation societies and the City of Portland for guidelines.


Inspections are also a crucial part of the home buying process. Older homes can have hidden issues not present in newer construction, so a thorough inspection is crucial to see what you might be taking on. Pay careful attention to these elements on the inspection report:

  • Foundation and Structural Issues: Check for settling, cracks, and any signs of structural instability. Victorian homes were built with materials and techniques different from today’s standards.
  • Electrical and Plumbing Systems: Outdated wiring and plumbing can pose safety hazards and will likely need upgrading.
  • Roof and Siding: Inspect for wear and tear, especially in areas prone to moisture damage.

Energy Efficiency

Unless the current owners have already done some renovation, chances are high that the historic home you are considering will not be very energy efficient. You may want to factor things like this into your budget:

  • Insulation: Many historic homes lack proper insulation, leading to higher heating and cooling costs.
  • Windows: Original windows, while beautiful, may be drafty. Consider storm windows or other solutions to improve efficiency without compromising the home’s character.
  • Heating and Cooling Systems: Older homes may have outdated systems that need to be replaced or supplemented with modern solutions.

Financial Considerations

Most buyers looking for a historic home are not in it for a bargain, but we know that having a clear financial picture is still important. Beyond the renovation costs, purchasing a historic home involves unique financial aspects:

  • Insurance: Insuring a historic home can be more costly due to the need for specialized coverage that accounts for the home’s value and potential restoration costs.
  • Property Taxes: Historic homes in designated districts may qualify for tax incentives or grants for preservation.
  • Resale Value: While historic homes often appreciate well, their market can be niche. Consider the potential resale value and the pool of interested buyers.

Lifestyle Commitment

Owning a historic home is a joy and a privilege, and it requires a willingness to commit to a certain lifestyle. These homes require:

  • Passion for History: An appreciation for the home’s history and a willingness to preserve its character.
  • Patience: Renovations and maintenance can be time-consuming and require patience and dedication.
  • Community Involvement: Engage with local historical societies and preservation groups. They can provide resources, support, and a sense of community.

Ready to find your home in Portland? We're here to help, so contact us any time to get started.

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