My phone has been much quieter this summer. In a slower market I’m often called to take a look at a house and see if there’s something the real estate agent is missing. Maybe an architectural detail, or some interesting history that would draw attention to the property. As much as I am celebrating that people are buying homes as quick as they go up for sale I do have one very specific concern. The question that is most important to ask when buying or selling an old home; Is it designated?
If a homeowners association (HOA) is missed during the contract period it will be found during the title process and revealed by closing. However that is not the case with historically designated properties. Historic designation isn’t attached to county deed records. This creates that potential situation of a new homeowner making exterior changes to the property without realizing that those changes either have to be approved by the local CLG (Certified Local Government – often known as a Preservation Commission) or could cause the property to lose it’s status of being on the National Historic Register and remove future tax credit opportunities.
Most homeowners know if they own a locally historically designated property and mark that little box on the seller’s disclosures stating such. Some don’t, and some don’t understand the difference between the National Register and Local Designation. Properties that are only on the National Register won’t require a permit approval process from the CLG, however these homeowners should be aware of the benefits of keeping the home in good standing. Owners of locally designated properties will have a local guide to refer to for a full comprehensive understanding of what changes will need to be reviewed.*
So how do you know if you aren’t sure? Here’s a few tips:
- Many city websites have a map of their locally designated districts and properties. Along with that, some will have links to the district surveys which are a great way to learn the architectural and local history of that specific area and it’s homes.
- Call your local preservation office. Any city that has an historic district has to have a CLG which falls under the umbrella of your State Historic Preservation Office within the Department of Natural Resources.
- You can call me. I can at least direct you to one of the above or possible find out fairly quickly for you. I would much rather take a few minutes out of my day vs the possible alternative later on.
In our world of information at our fingertips it almost feels alien to have to make a phone call for anything. I get that, but there are still just a few things out there that can’t answered by a simple internet search on your phone. In the same way that you have to call the bus barn of the school district to find out for sure which elementary school is connected to an address, you might have to call someone to find out if a home is designated.
Once that is all figured out, I congratulate and thank whoever buys and loves that little piece of history that tells our great big story.
*Many municipalities will have specific demolition/partial demolition review regulations that can apply to homes that are not historically designated.
Audrey L Elder
Past to Present Research LLC