Historic opportunities in real estate: Part 2

Continuing a historic tradition through restoring a home to its former beauty brings deep satisfaction to many owners. But you don't need to enter into such a project alone. A variety of resources are available for those interested in learning about the pleasures and challenges of owning a historic home.

For guidance on finding the right historical property, consumers should contact a real estate professional familiar with a community's history, zoning regulations and architectural styles. National, state and local organizations dedicated to historic preservation can also help.

A nationwide listing of real estate businesses and practitioners specializing in historic homes can be obtained through The National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C., which works directly with state preservation organizations. The National Trust also offers a Historic House Insurance Program to meet the special needs of historic house owners.

Every state has a historic preservation office (SHPO) that oversees government-sponsored preservation activities. Many of these state organizations use funds to buy and resell historic properties to preservation-minded buyers. They may also offer rehabilitation agreements, covenants, and easements to ensure appropriate rehabilitation and long-term protection of property. Although the Connecticut SHPO is not accepting new applications at this time, there are many tax credits, incentives, and grant reimbursement programs for historical homes offered by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

Some 1,800 cities, towns and counties throughout the nation have programs to designate buildings historically significant. A historic designation can bring the homeowner financial benefits and public recognition as well as protect the home from demolition.

Many communities have historical societies, nonprofit preservation groups, and local government preservation agencies that may be able to help with your search. Local government should be able to supply a list of designated historic resources as well.

Match these resources with the information provided by a real estate professional and newspaper advertisements for an efficient historic home search. A historic house that closely fits the individual housing needs and personality of the buyer is typically less expensive in the long-term than one that must be altered to fit those requirements. Homebuyers looking for historic homes need to not only know where they want to live, but analyze their lifestyle.

Consider the following questions:

  • If you have a family, will its size change during the year? For example, will children in college be home all year or only during the summer?
  • Is a family member physically impaired, requiring special equipment or access?
  • Is there enough on- and off-street parking to accommodate your vehicles?
  • Do you need guest bedrooms for visiting friends or family for extended visits?
  • How compatible is your furniture with the architectural style of the house?
  • Will the size of the rooms or certain furniture be difficult to fit or fill the house?

Whether the style of the historic home you choose is Gothic Revival, Richardsonian Romanesque, or Vernacular, it will be secondary to the pride derived from owning a piece of history. Homeownership represents the realization of the American Dream, but buying a historic home combines your dream with the ones of those who came before you.

For more information on historic properties, contact the National Trust for Historic Preservation at 1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036-2117 at 202-588-6000 or visit their web site at http://www.nationaltrust.org/

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