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Blog
How can I find out about my home's history?
Add value to your home
22 October 2020

How can I find out about my home's history?

Daniel Strieff
Writer

Table of contents

  1. 1. When was my house built?
  2. 2. Who lived in my house?
  3. 3. How much did a house sell for?

When deciding whether it’s the right time to sell your home, you should equip yourself with as much information as possible about your property.

While some issues -- square footage, for instance -- are easily resolved, others take more research.

For instance, in what year was your house built? Who lived in your house before you? And what are homes in your area selling for or how can you find the selling price of a house comparable to your own?

Luckily, a bunch of online and offline resources exist that give you the chance to harness your inner detective and ferret out your home’s unique heritage.

When was my house built?

The first thing many people want to know about their home’s past life is its architectural history. When was it constructed? What did it originally look like? What style was it built in and how has it changed through the years?

You often need this information when selling your home or taking out home insurance.

Answers to these questions can be found using old maps, planning documents, and photographs.

But first, have a look around your house! Consider the architectural style and features of your home. What type of roof does it have? Where are the windows positioned? What colour brick does it use? Is it terraced? Learning how to read these clues should help you narrow down your time range. For example, leaded glass windows, and red bricks are tell-tale signs of an Edwardian property, whereas concrete blocks were usually built after the Second World War.

There are several other points to consider when researching how old your house is:

  • Is your house listed? Check out the National Heritage List for England, which offers information for all listed buildings in the country, including the dates of construction and major features of each property, or the National Historic Assets of Wales.
  • Which administrative areas is your property in? Local records offices and archives are a treasure trove of information going back centuries. It’ll help if you know the names of your county, registration district, and parish, all of which should have records offices.
  • What do you know about the area? This will give you better context. Start with the University College London’s Victoria County History series, which was launched more than a century ago with the goal of writing the history of every county in England. The Survey of London and British History Online are also excellent resources.

The Land Registry also holds records on who has owned the land your house is built on, though not specifically on the structure. Still, you can search for property information on their site, which may give you the date of the first transfer or lease by the developer who built your house. From there, you may be able to determine an approximate age of your home.

Who lived in my house?

The second aspect of a home’s past life that many people want to know more about centres on who else has inhabited the house.

The main places to look are past census records, electoral registers, and local and national archives.

Begin by checking out the census returns made once a decade between 1841 and 1911 to find a mention of your address.

Additionally, your local records office or library should be able to grant you access to copies of the electoral register, which includes listings for people eligible to vote from 1832. These records aren’t perfect, however, because they don’t include women until 1918 and the voting age wasn’t lowered to 18 until 1969, so they have many gaps.

HM Land Registry can also be helpful here. They should have the historic title deeds to your home, which include the names of the people who have bought and sold your property in the past.

If you think your house is fairly old, you can search among the roughly 2,000 properties recorded in the 1862 Act register, which was the government’s first big attempt to record property ownership information in England and Wales.

And don’t forget to reach out to your local history society! They are founts of information.

How much did a house sell for?

While some of us may just be curious about our home’s heritage, chances are we’re investigating its past in preparation to sell the property.

And in order to do so, it’s a massive help to know what other homes are selling for -- that is, properties in your area or others of a similar calibre.

Plus, let’s be honest. We’ve all wondered: ‘How much did that house sell for?’ (Or, depending on your local market, perhaps more accurately: ‘That house sold for HOW much?!’)

Your first stop should be HM Land Registry’s Open Data, which allows you to search for sold property prices in England and Wales.

The Office of National Statistics also publishes monthly updates for the entire country, though the amount of information offered on their site can be a bit overwhelming.

Finally, if you’re curious just how much your home is worth now, our valuation tool combines historic property sales data, and information about the market in your area, with some basic information about your home, to give you an estimate of the value of your property right now. Check it out here.

With all of those resources in hand, it’s time to get sleuthing!

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