Here in Maine we have no shortage of vintage homes. When considering the purchase of a vintage home, it is important to understand that homes certainly can last for hundreds of years, but they do require special care and feeding to do so.
General preventive maintenance is important, but that alone will not keep the builing going. At some point, major systems and components will need to be replaced. Before you fall in love with the charm of the woodwork, built-ins and other period features, it is important to research the history of the building and determine which upgrades and improvements have already taken place and more importantly, which ones will be needed in the near future. ...and to consider this when choosing the price you are willing to pay.
Since centarian homes are not uncommon in our area, simple cosmetic improvements are not enough to preserve and improve a home's value. These may be the most fun to do, but the savvy home buyer will tend to the structural and system repairs and improvements first. Un-glamorous as they may be, these renovations are what future buyers will look for.
A good rule of thumb is to start with the safety related improvements first, then move on to items that prevent further deterioration. Once those are complete, you can move on to the projects that improve energy efficiency and add value, THEN you are free to poke away at the fun cosmetic improvements.
The right improvements to your older home, will not only increase it's lifespan and value, but they will add to your comfort and enjoyment while you live there.
Note: "Fairhaven." the home pictured above was built in 1842 for a local sea captain and was lovingly restored by it's most recent owners. With continued care, this home should last at least another 100 years.