Restoring Historic Homes: A Primer

With home prices at historic highs and tax incentives for restorations available, fixing up a fixer-upper might be worth considering. But look before you leap.

Mark Hood of Bowling Green, Ky., has been restoring old homes since he was 19. For him, there is nothing more rewarding than doing the work with his own hands then seeing the fruits of his labors. But if there's one thing Hood has learned over the last 30 years from working on at least 20 historic properties, it's this: Be careful. There are important do's and dont's to restoring old homes that will mean the difference between a labor of love -- or floundering in a money pit.

An old home can be a bargain -- sometimes even after paying for a total overhaul. In fact, some historic homes are a downright steal. For example, the Housing & Redevelopment Authority in Lynchburg, Va., has a homesteading program that allows people to buy a dilapidated, historic home for only $1. The catch? You must renovate it and live in it for at least five years.

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Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor,

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.