Whether you are looking for clues to restore your home to its original glory, curious about previous owners, or just trying to determine property boundaries, discovering your home’s history may be easier than you think.
Who were the previous owners? How much has the home sold for in the past? What interesting events have happened on or near the property? What did the property used to look like? Find the answers to these questions and more with a few sleuthing hacks to uncover your home’s hidden past:
Real Estate Websites
You probably already know that property listing sites such as Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia’s Property Sitemap will provide you with basic public details about the home. These sites also offer some historical information such as sales history, property tax history, and the date the home was originally constructed.
To research the home’s previous owners and purchase history, try accessing real property records from your county tax assessor’s office, the county recorder or the local city hall. The records of property sales will reveal who owned the home, the date it was purchased, the date it was built, prices paid and taxes assessed. You will likely also find maps of the properties that establish legal boundaries.
The Public Library
Visit your local public library and ask a librarian for assistance. They may have an archive of historical maps of the area or newspapers with articles that document the history of the local town. You may even uncover old photographs that include your house or the surrounding land.
If you don’t yet know much about the architectural style of your home, the library is full of resources to bring you up to speed. By understanding the architectural style, you’ll get an idea of what your home looked like when it was originally designed and built. This knowledge will help you make renovation choices that help preserve and compliment the original style.
If you search your address in Google Maps, you can click on the Street View and then look for the timeline, which may go back as far as 2007. You’ll be able to see exterior views of your home dating back several years. You can also search your home’s address in Google images just to see what pops up!
As you work around the home, pay attention to what gets uncovered! Are there small treasures buried in the yard, or hidden in the garage or attic that give clues to the home’s past? Or maybe there’s an old architectural feature hidden behind updates that were made over the years. To get a sneak peek at your home’s past color schemes, chip away a small bit of the existing paint. If you happen to uncover an original color palette that you like, you can take the chipped piece of paint to a paint store and have it matched. Or just use the color to inspire an updated hue that still pays homage to the past.
Talk to your neighbors. You may be surprised by how much they remember about the home and its owners.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve uncovered about your home’s past and how did you discover it? Let us know in the comments below.