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Buying a house in 1880

I'm researching a house for a book I'm writing. The house doesn't have a sure year built but it can be assumed to be 1880-1881. I have a possible record that a contractor took out a building permit in 1881. In 1882 a woman bought the home AND the lot for $16,000 through a real estate company. The city directory doesn't show anyone living there before 1882. The house was likely architect designed. What I'm essentially trying to figure out is, given this woman bought BOTH the home and the lot (and there's no record of a public listing then), does this mean the home had a different original owner who commissioned an architect and contractor to build the home and only lived there a year and sold it to this woman (but as I said, the City Directories have nothing before 1882) OR is it possible this woman had the home commissioned and the contractor owned the lot and the house then sold it to her? Is the latter remotely possible? I was under the impression to have a home commissioned by an architect and contractor you first had to own the lot but maybe this isn't so. The third option is the one my boss in real estate told me, that the contractor built the home and then just sold it but the home is so clearly architect designed. Why would a contractor hire an architect to build an extremely custom home to sell? Seeing as speculative building wasn't an idea then, this seems a bit strange.

This is pretty much all the record I have. I might try and see if the City of Detroit still has the 1882 warranty deed but that's about it.

Re: Buying a house in 1880

Gosh yes, houses were built on speculation in cities in the 1880's. It was seen as a very quick way to get ahead if you had a few extra thousand bucks.

Re: Buying a house in 1880

If a building permit was issued in 1880, it would most likely indicate the owner of the property, assuming the government was as nosy then as it is now. After all, they need to know whose property taxes to raise due to the improvements. If the contractor is the only name on the permit, it very likely could have been a spec house.

I didn't know that there were building departments and inspectors back then.

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