How to Look Up When a House Was Built

As the owner of an older home, you may be interested in finding out exactly when it was built.

With a little research and a few helpful resources, it is possible to find the answer. Whether you know much about architecture or not, paper trails follow every real estate transaction, and people are almost always willing to gossip a little about their neighborhood.

Determine the style of the home. Does it have deep overhangs and handcrafted details reminiscent of Craftsman style, or does your home feature ornate carvings and bright colors associated with Victorian style? Pick up "A Field Guide to American Houses" by Virginia & Lee McAlester. By determining the style, you can pinpoint the age of your home within a decade or two.

Take a closer look by examining the building methods used to construct your home. Consult the National Park Service's "Preservation Brief" to learn how to identify these details. What methods were used to lay brick, apply plaster and join pieces of wood? Building construction has experienced many changes in methods and technology throughout the years.

Look at the title to your home. It may help indicate the age of the house or at least list the names of previous owners you may be able to contact with your questions.

Ask your neighbors. Chances are that some of them have lived in the neighborhood for years and might have an idea when your house was built. Also ask the real estate agent who sold you the home or an agent who is experienced with your area.

Stop by your local county registry of deeds and ask to see a tract index of your neighborhood. This index will list all real estate transactions and may help you determine when your home was built.

Keep researching. If you can't pinpoint the exact age of your home, you can at least gain a general idea. There are still several places to look for official data: guidebooks on your town's historic neighborhoods, back issues of the local newspaper, census records, old phone books and directories, old city maps and insurance records.

Tip

  • If your house is relatively new, check under the lid of the toilet tank for a date inscription. Assuming the bathroom hasn't been renovated, the toilet was purchased and installed around the time the home was built.

About the Author

Dorian Gray has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009. She has written extensively on the topics of architecture and design for national magazines such as "Architectural Record" and regional publications such as "At Home in Arkansas." Gray also writes about the topics of beauty, health, nutrition and travel. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arkansas.