With all the talk about the local historic district ordinance, we need to realize that it is just one tool in the utility belt for historic preservation.
The ultimate gold standard is a preservation easement.
Now, the evil homebuilder’s associations in Massachusetts’s and out in the country have tried their best to limit or reduce the effectiveness of this measure through court case challenges but this is still THE BEST WAY TO PROTECT HISTORICAL PROPERTIES.
But thanks to them, it is also the most difficult. It is ever wonder that only 8.3% of the houses in America are 100 years or older!
Because of the obstacles, it takes commitment, financial resources, legal & political willpower and a clear understanding that though there are many benefits to property owners in preserving a house, the ultimate goal is to preserve the house.
I’m not being redundant. Developers, the MDOR, the IRS and anyone else I haven’t thought of are going to find reasons why you shouldn’t get tax credits for doing it.
JUST REMEMBER, YOU’RE DOING IT TO PRESERVE THE HOUSE.
Okay, now that I have gotten that out of the way, here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
Questions for Property Owners Considering Conveying a Historic Preservation Easement
· Has the property been designated as historically significant through National Register listing? (Only an issue if dealing with Mass Historic – they like a lot of significance if they are to get involved.)
· Is the property in a Registered Historic District? (Easy enough in Newburyport, just check the Newburyport Historic District listing.)
· Are there state or local tax benefits to donating an easement? (This is where you get a lawyer and a CPA involved especially ones experienced in doing easements.)
· What are the financial implications of donating an easement? (This could be manageable if focusing on the exterior preservation or huge if the interior is involved or if you want this easement to last in perpetuity.)
· How much public access would be required to claim a Federal income tax deduction? (You must convince the Feds you will allow an easement enforcement organization to come and inspect the house. Usually annually is enough to make them happy.)
· Is the easement-holding organization staffed by historic preservation professionals?
· Does the easement-holding organization charge the donor a fee to cover administrative costs incurred by accepting the easement?
· Does the easement holding organization have the time and resources to monitor the terms of the easement?
· How specific will the easement need to be in order to protect the property?
These are all thought provoking questions that need to be squared away before making such a commitment. What constantly amazes me are the ‘immortals’ – these are delusional people who pour huge bucks into their historical homes and practically make them pillars of historic significance in themselves and then they die. I’m not surprised but I bet they were! Then the home is passed down to a descendent who could care less or sold or the court just dumps it in some developer’s lap.
All that history is now history.
There are hundreds of beautifully restored homes in the City – don’t forget after doing your will – make time for a preservation easement!
PS. Next time on easements –varying degrees to consider.