How to Modernize an Older Home...

Modernizing older homes in the Madison WI real estate market

...Without Losing Character!

We work with a lot of clients to buy and sell historic homes. The benefits to buying an older home are vast: charm, architectural details, sturdy construction, and a connection to history, just to name a few. Buying into some of Madison's most popular neighborhoods often means buying an older home, too!

But we know there are downsides. Older homes don't always have the updates that today's families want or need. So, how can you modernize an older home, without losing the charm and character that made you love it in the first place?

1. Keep the eye-catching details. Things like original hardwood floors, crown molding, leaded glass built-ins, and intricate tile work -- if it's in good shape (or can be refinished to its original glory), don't chuck it!

2. Strategically remove walls. Older homes often were built with smaller, boxy rooms, instead of today's more contemporary open floor plans. If you want the feel of a more open space, consider strategically removing an interior wall (the whole thing, or partial) that separates your kitchen and dining space, and/or your dining and living space. Doing so can immediately transform a cramped space and make it feel spacious, modern, and better suited to today's lifestyles -- while retaining the charm of an older floor plan. (Of course, talk with a professional contractor before you start knocking anything down!)

3. Change the quality, not the era. When updating hardware and fixtures, upgrade the quality, while staying true to the home's era. Beautiful oil-rubbed bronze hardware can make an older kitchen or bathroom shine, while a more modern finish like nickel can look strangely out of place, no matter how expensive it is. (A real estate field note: Older homes with expensive-but-ultra-modern updates can be harder to sell than older homes with slightly more modest updates that are true to the home's character.)

4. Choose your contractor carefully. Working with professionals who share your love for vintage homes makes a huge difference -- and can help you avoid recreating a cookie-cutter contemporary look that you probably won't like. (For contractor suggestions, ask us. We work with several master craftsmen and contractors across the greater Madison area who share our love of older homes.)

5. Work with a Realtor who loves older homes, too. When buying an older home, it helps to work with a Realtor who is experienced in older architecture. We can point out the things that can be saved, salvaged, and/or refinished, and catch any possible concerns that are often unique to older homes, too.