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(Updated March 2014)
Ever wonder who lived in your home before you? Would you know how to find out? If your home is a landmark or if it housed a famous resident you may already know its history. Others require more effort and research. This field guide will get you started and also provide information on architectural styles of homes in the United States. (R. Carlson, Information Specialist)

Q - ProQuest articles available for NAR members only. Password can be found on the ProQuest/Find Articles page.

Useful Documents for Researching a Home's History

  • Courthouse deeds and records
  • Mortgages, wills, and probate records
  • Tax records
  • Town and county histories
  • City directories
  • Insurance maps

Source: Finding the history in your home, (OldHouseWeb.com).

How to Research Your Home

How to Research Your Home’s Past, (Old House Journal, n.d.).

10 Ways to Research Your Home’s History, (PreservationNation Blog, July 31, 2012).

Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home or Other Building, (About.com).

House Detective: Finding History in Your Home, (Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 24, 2009).

How to research the history of a house, (New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, Apr. 2009).

How to research the history of your house, (WikiHow.com).

How to research your house, (Save Our Heritage Organization).

General Information About Historic Property

Four Approaches to the Treatment of Historic Properties, (National Park Service, 2013).

Tax Incentives for Historic Preservation, (HouseLogic.com, Dec. 21, 2012).

The challenges of preserving a historic neighborhood, (Washington Post, Sept. 28, 2012).

Preserving the past: Developers, contractors keep historic properties up-to-date without losing what makes them unique, (Business First of Louisville, July 6, 2012).

Historic preservation tax credit in not-too-distant future, (Philadelphia Business Journal, July 16, 2012).

Historic Preservation Overview, (U.S. General Services Administration, June 5, 2012).

Making Historic Properties Accessible, (OldHouseWeb.com).

Buying in a Historic District: Still a Good Value, (OldHouseWeb.com).

A Community Home, (Journal of Property Management, May/June 2012). Q

The Value Added Properties of Local Historical Preservation Districts, (Journal of Applied Business Research, Mar./Apr. 2012). Q

Tax breaks save historic old houses, (OldHouseWeb.com).

Can old be gold? Historic homes as investments, (OldHouseWeb.com).

Historic Homes and Tax Breaks, (OldHouseWeb.com).

Insuring Your Historic Home, (OldHouseWeb.com).

Inspecting Historic Properties, (OldHouseWeb.com).

Historic Home Insurance: Why You Need It and How to Get It, (HouseLogic.com, Jan. 12, 2011).

What Makes a Neighborhood or Home Worthy of a Historic Designation?, (HouseLogic.com, Dec. 30, 2010).

Neighborhood Historic Designation Can Raise Property Values, (HouseLogic.com, Nov. 19, 2010).

Getting a Historic Designation for Your Home, (HouseLogic.com, May 28, 2010).

Getting Your Neighborhood Historic District Designation, (HouseLogic.com, May 10, 2010).

Architectural Styles

Home Style Guide, (About.com).

Explore by Architectural Style, (U.S. General Services Administration).

Historic Buildings, (Historic Buildings).

Classic Home Collection, (Architecture Week).

Architecture Quiz, (REALTOR® Magazine Online).

Painted Ladies, (Wikipedia).

Buying & Selling Older Homes

The Impact of Age on the Value of Historic Homes in a Nationally Recognized Historic District, (The Appraisal Journal, Fall 2011). Q

Special Considerations for Staging Historic Homes, (ActiveRain.com).

Obsessively Seeking Original Occupant, (New York Times, May 5, 2010).

What the Walls Would Say, (New York Times, Apr. 28, 2010).

Books, eBooks & Other Resources


The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader, (Adobe eBook)

Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings, (Adobe eBook).

Green Restorations (Adobe eBook)

Books, Video​s, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Information Services. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Information Services at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

Appraising conservation and historic preservation easements, (Appraisal Institute, 2011). HD1387 R587

Beyond takings and givings: Saving natural areas, farmland, and historic landmarks with transfer of development rights and density charges, (Marina Del Rey, CA: Arje Press, 2003). NAC 1565 P95b

The restoration economy: the greatest new growth frontier—immediate & emerging opportunities for businesses, communities & investors, (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002). HD 9715 C86

Dictionary of building preservation, (New York, NY: John Wiley-DM, 1996). NA 31 D55

Historic properties: preservation and the valuation process, (Chicago, IL: Appraisal Institute, 1996). HD 1387 Am3hi

Historic preservation in American communities, (Washington, D.C.: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1987). NAC 1276 N21h

New Life for Old Houses, (Chicago, IL: Preservation Press, 1989).

Easements and other legal techniques to protect historic houses in private ownership, (Washington, D.C.: Historic House Association of America, 1981). K 762 H62

The Secretary of the Interior's standards for rehabilitation and guidelines for rehabilitating historic buildings, (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Interior. Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, 1980). NAC 250 Un3si

Field Gui​des & More

These field guides and other resources in the Virtual Library may also be of interest:

Field Guide to Remodeling

Field Guide to Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs)

Information Services Blog

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The inclusion of links on this field guide does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this field guide complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.