What challenges do historic home owners face?

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The United States may be a relatively young country, but we have homes and monuments rich with history. While our history is well documented in books and museums, our homes can also offer a glimpse into the past. Some homes are even registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inhabiting a historical home can be enchanting, but a great deal of responsibility is associated with maintaining and owning such a home. Laws surrounding renovation and maintenance standards abound. This week, our legal resource gave us some legal tips and shared practical advice for both historical home owners and those looking into purchasing such a home.

1. Utilize Local Historical Home Resources

Local ordinances vary greatly among locations. This is even more applicable if your home is not listed nationally. Keeping up a home takes a great deal of time and sometimes money, but to prevent spending unnecessary money or making changes that do not follow the local laws, it is important to take advantage of resources available to you. Local historical boards exist for this very reason. Aja De Los Santos of Invest Cove Properties, LLC explains further:

“Before making changes to or purchasing a historic home it would be a good idea to pay your local historic board a visit and have them explain their rules and regulations for modifying the home(s). Every county and city is different so the best case scenario is to check with your local governing body and have them connect you with the historic board that preserves the area. This board is put in place to protect the integrity of the area’s history, however, they also understand that these homes are old and need to be kept in good condition. They are generally easy to work with and are happy to help.”

2. Tax Breaks

Property taxes can be a huge strain for homeowners trying to make ends meet. Historical homes offer great tax breaks to homeowners who abide by standards for historical properties. While it can depend on the part of the country you live in, tax saving potential is definitely something worth exploring. Homeowner Kimberly Rotter explains her experience owning a historical home:

“After my home was approved for the Mills Act tax break, my taxable value was reduced to around $70,000 (from around $200,000). It changes every year. The trick, then, was to find people who could do the work. In particular, I had a hard time finding someone to make all wood double-hung sash windows at a price I could afford.”

3. General Requirements for Historical Homes

As a historical home owner, it is important to know what you have signed up for. When looking to purchase a historical property, it is also important to check the deed so you know which restrictions and responsibilities could be associated with your future home. Everything from the paint color, lawn maintenance, hardware, and, in rare cases, interior changes can be restricted by local, federal or state registries. Attorney Mark Briggs of Briggs Law Group explains further:

“If your home is not on the federal or state register of historic places, a vast majority of legal requirements would be local (i.e. county and city). Most of the local ordinances impact the exterior appearance of houses, but some also restrict elements of interior changes to a home. There also could be a historic easement or other restrictions on your home placed there by a previous owner, so you should also review your deed carefully for those.”

Historical homes are a rich part of the culture of the United States, and homeowners are drawn to the charm and unique architecture of these historical properties. But be sure you are ready for the responsibilities associated with historical home ownership, and take advantage of resources and tax breaks when they are available.