What is a Century Home?
Any home over 100 years old is considered a century home. A century home can be very appealing to buyers because they typically have many charming details and features that can’t be replicated in a modern home. Century homes also tend to be established neighborhoods with mature trees and landscaping, and are often located close to great parks and amenities.
Colorado Springs History
In the late 1850’s, Old Colorado City (originally named Colorado City) was established. At first it served as a supply station for miners traveling to their camps west of Denver. 10 years later, General William Jackson Palmer, had a vision for the use of this vast, empty land with majestic Pikes Peak in the background. He purchased land and established Fountain Colony as a health resort and vacation destination for the rich and famous. Fountain Colony would eventually become Colorado Springs.
Some of the oldest homes in Colorado Springs were built in the late 1850’s to 1860’s. They tend to be modest, farmhouse style homes. The city experienced explosive growth with the establishment of the prestigious Colorado College, the Broadmoor Casino and health sanatoriums to aid wealthy east coasters seeking to recover from or escape tuberculosis.
During the 1880-1890’s, many smaller homes were built in Old Colorado City along beautiful, tree lined streets. The Old North End also established itself with huge mansions that attracted college professors and doctors treating the wealthy travelers and TB patients.
While a lot of remodeling has happened since the original construction of the villas and mansions, many owners have attempted to retain the charm of these century homes. Historic preservation ordinances are also helping this effort. Interestingly, there are many architectural styles mixed together in the historic areas of town. In Old North End, you can find English Country Tudor, Mediterranean Palazzo, Spanish Mission Style and Craftsman style homes.
Colorado Springs and El Paso County have grown substantially since the mid 1800s with about 800,000 residents today. The real estate market is one of the strongest in the nation and it is expected to stay this way in the near future
Tips for Buying a Century Home
Remember that maintenance and remodeling is a continuous endeavor (and labor of love) when you purchase a historic home. Consider the following when buying a century home.
- There are often separate living quarters and entrances that were meant for household staff living in the home.
- Bedrooms are generally smaller.
- Bathrooms are smaller and there are usually not as many as you might need.
- Stairs are narrower and steeper.
- Garages are usually detached and the entrance is from a back alley. Garages are typically only big enough for one car.
This can be a pretty big issue. Older homes or homes that have had several owners will often have many changes and additions. Many times, changes in older homes don’t have official permits. Unpermitted changes will require additional inspections and research to determine the impact on insurance, mortgage, and the integrity and safety of the house.
Every home built prior to 1978 is assumed to have lead in the home from a couple of different sources:
- Lead based paint. It’s a good idea to test the paint even though it’s likely been painted over many times over the years. You can make that part of the contract or decide to test after closing (especially if the seller will not make any changes to the home after testing).
- A water test is recommended because lead could be in water pipes.
- Lead can also be found in stained glass.
You can test for asbestos as well. Keep in mind that when you have to make repairs or renovations in a home with asbestos or lead in the house, contractors with special licenses will need to be hired and that will increase the price.
- TB porches
You will find TB porches in homes where tuberculosis patients were trying to recuperate. It was believed that the cold mountain air aided the patients in their recovery and this is why many of them slept on the porch in the cold.
This is the most challenging aspect to update. Unless a home has been completely remodeled and torn down to the studs, there will always be some “old electrical remainders” in the home. If they can’t be removed, the best you can do is to ensure they are disconnected and replaced, while any remainders of the old system (knob and tube wiring, cloth wiring etc.) are stored for safety. Call your insurance company to make sure your home is insurable if there is still some knob and tube wiring in use.
- These homes will have a basement that is very low and more like a root cellar. It might officially be considered livable space or finished square footage but they are not always “livable” by modern standards.
- Uneven floors and ceilings
A certain room can be uneven because it had a different use (for example, a breakfast nook could have been a porch in a different era of the house). There could have been structural damage and repair. The repair took care of the structural issue but the floors (or ceilings) were not leveled. The uneven floors and ceilings are just part of the charm of the house if there are no structural concerns.
- The huge, century old trees with wide streets are impressive and charming. These neighborhoods are great for walking or jogging.
- Plumbing has usually been updated with the exception of some really sturdy cast iron sewer lines. It is important to have a sewer scope done when you decide to buy a home built 100-150 years ago.
- We strongly recommended having a century home evaluated by a structural engineer. Structural repairs are very expensive and it’s important to know what repairs might need to be done.
- Original windows and window panes will not be very energy efficient. Some owners will install storm windows over the original windows to provide more protection or opt to have the windows painted shut.
- Century homes can have beautifully ornate radiators, huge, old boilers in the basement or forced air heaters. The heating system is where most of the remodeling and home improvements are seen.
- Make sure you understand what your insurance does NOT cover in your 100-year-old house. Every insurance company is different and so are the individual insurance programs.
- Even without restrictions or requirements to preserve the home, it is important to renovate the home in a way that it retains its character. After all, most likely that’s the reason you bought the home in the first place.
Century Homes in Colorado Springs
- Prominent areas of century homes in Colorado Springs are Old Colorado City, the Old North End and Patty Jewett.
- The lots are often narrow and long.
- Sometimes there is no parking.
- The neighborhoods are walkable with sidewalks, center islands and huge, impressive trees lining the streets.
- The residents and homeowners in these neighborhoods are very proud to live there and value the tightknit community.
- The charm of these neighborhoods is undeniable and, for many, worth the extra (seemingly never ending) work that an old house brings.