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RE15R07: Selling Historical Homes

A Description of Selling Historic Homes

I. Getting an edge on selling historic homes

A. Getting Creative - Tips For Selling Historic Homes

"The age of the home is the first thing the buyer wants to know and the last thing the listing agent wants them to know," says Dave Burrell, president and CEO of Historical Insights, Inc.

"To you, it's a regular old house, but look at it from the buyer's perspective. That's not how people buy homes. It's much better to create an emotional connection with the house. Historical homes prove that a property can bring more if buyers can connect with the past. If you found out you wanted a house where someone lived who was in politics or changed aviation," suggests Burrell, "it's more important to you, so people do care. You want to present the home so that the buyer can relate to what's it like to live in the house, and feel more important because of it."

1) Home Histories - Digging up a home's past to create personalized home histories. Since people often buy a home for emotional reasons, knowing the intimate details of a home's former owners or architectural history can make it stand out in a crowd. Sellers are increasingly visiting libraries and archives or hiring historians (fees ranging from $200 to $1,200) to uncover their property's past.

2) Pre-Listing Home Inspections - What you don't know about the home can definitely hurt you. Buyers will obtain their own inspections and form their own opinions. Two very important issues to consider when selling an older home are lead paint and asbestos. Hire a licensed inspector to determine the presence of asbestos and/or lead-based paint. Sellers are required to disclose known information on lead based paint hazards prior to selling their home. Sales contracts must include a federal lead-based paint form. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.

3) Clean, clean, clean! - Just because it is old, doesn't mean it has to look old. Pay particular attention to windows and sills, baseboards and moldings, hardware, kitchens, baths and the often-overlooked basement or garage. Repaint, if necessary, but don't paint over original finishes.

4) Do Your Research - Know the house - the architectural style, the details, the neighborhood etc. Research the availability of property tax reductions or down payment assistance for the buyer. This can be an excellent marketing tool, since many historic homes are more expensive than newer homes. Through these programs, the home becomes available to a whole new segment of buyers who would otherwise be priced out of your market.

5) Start Talking. - Historic neighborhoods often have proactive and involved neighborhood associations. Attend neighborhood meetings and talk to neighbors to find out if they know anyone who would like to move to the area. These types of buyers are usually just waiting for the right opportunity to come along, and have strong ties to the community in which they would like to live.

6) Clearing - Yes, getting rid of clutter is key but desperate times may call for desperate measures. It may be time for something a little on the experimental or wild side...Ghostbusting or clearing out any bad spirits that might be living in the house. One process called "space clearing" is inspired by feng shui, the Chinese system of aligning furniture, plants and architecture. Clearing techniques may include a ceremony with Balinese bells, colorful mandalas and hand clapping. In some cases, real estate agents recommend a "smudger" to clear out "negative energy." "Smudging," rooted in Native American culture involves burning sacred plants (fees for cleansing range from $125-$2,500).

B. Finding The Right Buyer: Online Resources for Selling Historic Homes








C. Making A List, Checking It Twice: Directories of Historical Homes

1) - Comprehensive list of homes in MA only

2) - Directory of New England's historic homes on display

II. National Register of Historical Places

A. What is the National Register?

1) The Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.

2) Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources.

3) The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

4) In Massachusetts, the National Registry Program is administered through the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC).

B. What makes up the 80,000 listings of the Register?

1) All historic areas in the National Park System;

2) Over 2,400 National Historic Landmarks which have been designated by the Secretary of the Interior because of their importance to all Americans; and

3) Properties across the country that have been nominated by governments, organizations, and individuals because they are significant to the nation, to a state, or to a community.

C. What are the criteria for being listed in the National Register?

Properties must meet at least one of these criteria to be listed:

1) Association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history;

2) Association with the lives of persons significant in our past;

3) Embodiment of distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

4) Likelihood of yielding information significant in history or prehistory.

D. What are the benefits of being listed in the National Register?

1) Recognition: The National Register recognizes the significance of a property to the community, state, and/or nation.

2) Tax Incentives: National Register listing allows the owners of income-producing properties certain federal tax incentives for substantial rehabilitation according to standards set by the Department of Interior.

3) Protection: National Register properties are afforded limited protection from adverse effects of federally assisted projects; and, through automatic inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places, limited protection from state actions.

4) Grants: Inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places, which comes automatically with National Register listing, provides eligibility for matching state grants for restoration of properties owned by private nonprofit organizations and municipalities, when such grants are available.

E. Does the National Register listing restrict the use or sale of the property?

1) Listing in the National Register in no way interferes with a property owner's right to alter, manage, or sell the property when using private funds, unless some other regional and/or local ordinance or policy is in effect.

2) If you use state or federal funds to alter your property, or need state or federal permits, the alteration will be reviewed by the MHC staff. Local funding and permitting do not trigger MHC review.

F. If my house is listed in the Register, are grant monies available for rehabilitation work?

1) Presently, the MHC does not administer federal or state rehabilitation funds for private homeowners.

2) State grant monies, when available, are awarded only to properties owned by municipalities and non-profit organizations.

3) Federal tax credits are available for substantial rehabilitation of income-producing and commercial properties.

G. Can I object to having my property listed in the National Register?

1) Yes. Once you receive notice that your property is being considered for listing in the National Register by the State Review Board, you may submit a notarized letter of objection to MHC.

2) If your property is within a proposed National Register district, you will be invited to a public meeting in your community, prior to the State Review Board meeting, at which MHC staff will be available to answer questions about the listing.

3) If your property is within a proposed National Register district, a majority of property owners (more than 50%) must submit notarized objections in order to prevent listing. If a majority of property owners do not object, the nomination may move forward and the properties for which there are objections will remain in the nominated district. If a majority of owners do object, the National Park Service may still formally determine the property(ies) eligible for listing, although actual listing will not occur.

References & Resources:

National Park Service, National Registry of Historical Places,

Massachusetts Historical Commission,

Historic Homes With A Past,

Real Estate Tips By Mary Diaz, Selling Historic Homes,