Neighbors Along with talking to realtors, explore what your neighbors know. There’s a reason why that house across the street looks familiar. It may have been designed by the same person and built by the same developer. Perhaps it is a mirror image, with minor differences in finishing details. Walking your neighbor’s halls can be a good way to learn about the original floor plan of your own home.

Stock plans are associated with production home builders, but anyone can buy stock plans and build on a plot of land. Planned and gated communities usually limit the available house styles, which are stock plans for that community. As you drive through your neighborhood, you may notice many variations on the same essential plan. Although they are not unique, houses built from stock plans can be quite lovely. Catalog houses from Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward built decades ago are still popular today.

Public Officials
Public officials should also know something about the building history of your town or city, so check in with the building inspector or assessor’s office at the town hall. In most cities and towns around the world, builders must file for a permit before beginning new construction or remodeling an older home. This process ensures some standards of safety for occupants and for the fire company that protects your home. Permits, often with floor plans and elevation drawings, are usually filed in the Building Inspector’s office at your local city or town hall. These documents may not date very far back, but they can be useful for learning about modifications made to your house in the past 20 years or so.

Fire Insurance Maps
While you are in City Hall, ask where you can see the fire insurance maps for your area. In the United States, many fire insurance maps date back to the 1870s. At the very least, these maps will indicate the original construction material (e.g., brick, wood, stone) used for your home. A good bird’s-eye view map will also provide a three-dimensional drawing of houses in your neighborhood. Sometimes there is enough detail to show the shape of the buildings and the placement of doors, windows, and porches. Compare your findings with Google maps.



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