Saving History Saturday: “Buyers Want A Story”

This week two articles appeared in the Washington Post, reporting on the value of historic homes and how some home buyers are anxious to own a architectural piece of the past. This is particularly true in American cities with Colonial, Antebellum, or Civil War roots.

As one realtor explained: “We research the history of the house and provide it to potential buyers, if they are interested. There’s a difference between promoting the history and making it available upon request.”

There are challenges to selling, purchasing, renovating, or preserving a historic home – including the older architecture style, occasional the lack of amenities, or old style electrical wiring or plumbing. However, some states and communities offer incentives (like tax breaks) to encourage or require home owners to preserve aspects of the structure, usually including certain exterior appearances.

Who’s buying historic homes? Well, the articles focused primary on Old Alexandria, Virginia, and the realtors say, “We market historic homes to people who buy antiques through Sotheby’s, to members of groups with an interest in history and internationally, too.”

Detail of a door in historic Winchester, Virginia. Would you want to buy a historic home?

The week’s articles focused on a more elite market, but other communities across the country are reaching out to home or property owners in all income levels. For example, recently the Temecula Valley Historical Society had cause for rejoicing. The historically-minded Californians in this town had long anticipated their local government passing The Mills Act, which is an economic incentive program in the state “for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners” particularly in the form of tax abatement. Other states and local governments are exploring similar programs.

The growing interest in homes (or even office space) with a story may be a positive step for historic preservation connected to Civil War history. Though communities have certainly witnessed the destruction of historic structures to make way for new complexes, perhaps a growing interest and some of the restrictions and incentives will allow historic buildings to stay part of a city’s story and scene.

We’d love to hear from you on this topic!

  • Do you live in a historic home or neighborhood? (Does not have to be just Civil War related)
  • Does your community or state offer incentives to preserve a historic structure?
  • Do you find restrictions on some renovation restrictive?

Original Articles:

Can Preservation Easement Increase Property Values?

Can A House’s History Help Sell It?

7 Responses to Saving History Saturday: “Buyers Want A Story”

  1. It takes a special kind of owner to own a historic property. You need enough money to maintain it, enough patience to deal with all the historic preservation requirements, and the willingness to forego modern conveniences to preserve at least the exterior look of the building.

  2. I live in Old Town Alexandria and find fascinating how buildings associated with the once thriving slave trade have raised interest in exposing the money this shameful activity brought to our town. There is now increased interest in reparative justice, for instance the actions my Alma Mater Georgetown University recently took. Our Confederate Memorial still stands alongside buildings that remind us to recognize Alexandria’s complicity in the slave trade. We did rename Jeff Davis highway to the more sensible Richmond Hwy

  3. Yes, historic homes require some care and attention. But, the only requirement we have here in Texas relate to the facade. To me, anyway, that seems a minimal sort of requirement. Otherwise, yes, old homes are way cool. In some ways, older homes are cheaper. It is much easier to rehabilitate an older wood window than to but new pricey, aluminum windows.

  4. I am the proud owner of a California bungalow built in 1928. It is the center of my life and my heart. It has old roses in the gardens, violets in every nook and cranny, and just now has a porch with pumpkins and plants for Fall. It is filled with books on the inside, and cats, and love. The hand-poured glass of the windows and the perfect north/south orientation of the house itself means that the light inside is almost magical in its changes during the day. The wood shines under its varnish and the art pottery gives everything a grounded look. I run out of words when I try to talk about my home. Before I bought it I was never houseless, but I was homeless until I came here.

  5. I find Georgetown’s actions in extorting money from new admissions regardless of their family’s origins or date of admission appalling. If they wish to purchase a plenary indulgence for their guilty conscience, let them do it out of their permanent endowment. Or perhaps they should logically think through payoff vengeance. On a more relevant to the posting nite, Historical Commissions can wildly vary, depending personnel.

  6. In 2019, it’s easy to say all the Confederate Monuments in Alexandria should go. For all those who say they need to go, please do a little research and remind yourself that on May 24, 1861, 13,000 Federal Soldiers marched into Alexandria and turn the thow on it’s head. Many residents lost their homes, possessions, freedoms and some their lives – and most never owned slaves.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!

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