I have covered the role of a homeowner who lives in the Newburyport Historic District. In addition to being a steward of our National Heritage over a home that has had a march of previous owners, there are many added burdens for living inside one.
Maintaining them requires a heavy burden. The average BIG BOX home improvement store does have all the things you need to do the job but what I have found is two annoying facts: One, most of what you need will have to be mail ordered and requires waiting around and paying more. Two, hands-on experience on what to do with the product is seriously lacking. These large places often are designed to cater to huge suburban sprawl homes, not a rare, over-a-hundred-years building. That is why you need to go to local lumberyards and local hardware stores. My favorite is Lunt & Kelly’s – more so because they deal with longsuffering craftsmen year round who continually come off the historic district battleground. Lunt & Kelly’s is not good if you need a lot of something but they are great for hard-to-find odds and ends, chemicals and special tools. And you get great customer service with knowledgeable staff. It is rare you get the towheaded teenager with the blank stare and helpless shrug. (It is obvious that the Newburyport Preservation Trust should be in the serious business of easing the burden of an historical homeowner with online and written documents & programs– we’re all still waiting for that to happen.)
Now the second issue, valuing and re-selling your historical home. This is going to be very important in the coming years as concerns spread as to how to sell such rare buildings. (Only 8.3% in the entire United States of 100 years or older buildings.) The average buyer out in America has been culturally trained to look for new buildings. They would all love to live in a gorgeous and safe community with our high quality of life but they don’t want to live in old buildings. That is why it is important to do two things: One, put a preservation easement on your hard-won, historic renovation. It is up to you how far you want the restriction to be – external or external/internal. It is heartbreaking if you hire a cheap real estate agent who gets just anyone in there and the first thing the new owner does is gut all your hard work. It’s bad for the City and a hit on our quality of life and historic neighborhoods. Two, NEVER sell your home yourself. It is important to understand that buyers of historical homes will take the hit for your asking price if they know your home is on the market. A qualified*** real estate agent will get buyers who don’t say, “Ew, how old!” but rather “Wow, how awesome!” even if the home needs some work on it. Now you may say, “I plan to live in this home all my life – I don’t want to sell it.” That maybe so, but for personal investment strategy and good stewardship, you need to build ready equity for home improvement loans – you want the value of your home kept high – and valuations are always based on the potential resell of your home.
Now I’m not a realtor so it would do you well to approach some local agents for advice – if you don’t feel comfortable dealing face-to-face*, check out John P. Wells’ excellent blog. In fact, his most recent post was on common mistakes that sellers commit while trying to put their house on the market – here is a sample posting.
Either way, maintaining or selling, that beautiful home needs some special attention.
* You might think they will look at your home like a starving dog looking at red meat but all of them are professionals and the first thing is to establish a good rapport with potential future customers. I promise you they won’t drool on your couch! Ply them for advice.
** I define ‘qualified’ as particular agents who are experienced in dealing with historical homes. Even in New England, there are few of them. We are especially blessed with a grouping of them in the Greater Newburyport Area.