Steps from Main Street in New Market, the spacious main hallway of the old house offers a venerable quietness consistent with its age.
Built in 1880, the home at 33 W. Main St. still has the original wood floors and stained-glass panes at the tops of several windows, along with four fireplaces.
In the rear, a renovated kitchen with a granite island and a family room looks out into the yard sloping down to a small alley.
Upstairs, several bedrooms branch off a narrow, winding central staircase, and a master bathroom holds a claw-foot tub.
Along with the chance to own a piece of history, historic properties like this one can present buyers with a number of challenges as well.
Old properties like this offer unique touches that aren’t available in prefabricated or mass-designed newer homes, said Buzz Mackintosh, the Realtor who is handling the sale of the house.
“Every one is a little different in their own way,” he said.
Elaine Koehl, a longtime Frederick County Realtor, agreed that historic properties offer buyers an opportunity to own something special.
But Koehl also warned that most old houses come with repairs that need to be done.
They may have old windows that aren’t airtight, stone foundations that can cause basements to be leaky or damp, iron pipes that may be insulated with asbestos, or metal or slate roofs that can be expensive to repair or dispose of. In the case of these two homes on the market, neither comes with those issues.
A home inspection by an inspector who knows a lot about old houses is vital, Koehl said.
They can help identify any significant problems before the deal is closed.
“You’re going to know upfront whether it’s a money pit,” Koehl said.
Still, she warned that historic properties aren’t for first-time homebuyers without experience caring for a house.
For nearly three years, Allison Nemcosky and her husband, Jeremy, have lived through the ups and downs of owning a historic property.
In October 2016, the couple were looking to open a country inn and wedding venue when they found a dilapidated mansion on a 23-acre property in Knoxville.
Built around 1790, the house hadn’t been lived in for nearly 40 years, and there were problems with the plumbing, heating, and other infrastructure.
They had to use spray foam and insulation to secure the rotting window frames and weatherproof a small section of the house where they could live in the winter.
Nemcosky said anyone should think about what they’re getting into before they buy that historic property that captured their heart as they drove by.
“Buying a fixer-upper is not for the weak of heart,” she warned. “Your life will suck for a while.”
People should have credit cards or other form of credit available to pay for unexpected costs.
“Things will break that you didn’t think you’d have to fix,” she said.
She recommended YouTube clips to learn how to do basic plumbing and construction jobs to do as much work as possible yourself.
People who buy an old property shouldn’t expect to be able to make cosmetic changes until after the work on the electric system, roofing, windows, furnaces, and other basics has been done.
“All the non-sexy things of a house that you don’t really want to invest your money [in],” Nemcosky said.
Along with the New Market house, Mackintosh is also selling a historic farmhouse near Comus built in 1825. The address is 1515 Linthicum Road in Dickerson.
Both properties are registered with the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, which distributes plaques to buildings that are more than 100 years old, possess historical or architectural significance, and have retained their historical integrity.
Plaques can be taken back if a property is restored in a historically inappropriate way.
The foundation has plaques on about 420 properties around the county, most of them near Frederick, said Carrie Albee, president of the foundation’s board of directors.
They’ve been trying to move away from emphasizing big, expensive houses, and look at properties with distinctive architecture from a specific era, including barns, schoolhouses and other structures.
Albee said sales of properties with plaques aren’t rare, and she doesn’t see a correlation between a house having a plaque and sales.
“I think the general trends in residential properties prevail,” she said.
Despite the challenges they present, historic properties can be a great opportunity for the right owner.
“They’re definitely in a class by themselves. And they don’t make them anymore,” Koehl said.