George Washington Slept Here: Historic Home Ownership

By Elaine VonCannon, ABR, SRES, Associate Broker, Notary, Team Leader, Property Manager, Award Winning Agent

Chances are George Washington did not sleep on your historic home, but in certain parts of Southeastern Virginia, your home could be as old as the dwellings he slept in. To own and restore a historic property, preparation, discernment, and sensitivity are necessary. The rewards of historical home ownership are many.

Financial Advantages of Historic Home Ownership
One of the major benefits of historic home ownership is the stability of resale values. Historic homes generally increase or maintain their worth over time. Historic homes sell faster when on the market because they are rare. They also attract a very particular type of high-end buyer.

Aesthetics of Historic Home Ownership
The proud historic homeowner is also a part of something bigger -- the rich tapestry of American history. Historic homeowners live in or possess property that is completely unique. These homes have an uncommon design, illustrate a high level of craftsmanship, and are made of high quality, often enduring materials that are not generally utilized in contemporary building.

Community Spirit in Historic Neighborhoods
There is a lower turnover in historic districts. Homeowners in historic districts feel they are truly part of a community. In these districts, it is not uncommon for neighbors to work together to preserve their property values and to build the community spirit.

Preserving the American Way of Life
It is always easier to tear down a part of history and rebuild then it is to restore and rehabilitate part of our American heritage. As a historic homeowner you are a part of the preservation of history. Your historic home has a family tree and an ancestry and you and your family become an integral thread in the fabric of time. Sometimes historic homeowners receive recognition by restoring the right home with a sense of integrity. The home tells the tale of a place and time people want to remember. By preserving and restoring the historic property, you have the opportunity to educate people about a period in American history. Often historic homeowners report many different kinds of treasures uncovered in the yard, basement, or attic of their property.

Historical Home Restoration
The work of restoration requires time, skill, and dedication. Many historic homeowners love this challenge, and are willing to give the time and energy it takes to complete a project of this scale. It takes elbow grease, perseverance, patience, sweat, tears and most of all -- money and a budget. Upkeep on historic homes is continual. When repairing damages in historic homes, replace with materials that match originals as closely as possible. Once you become part of the historic preservation community, it pays to investigate and research the resources available. Network with local restoration artists, architects and contractors, especially those familiar with the time period of your area. Visit salvage yards and antique stores to find windows, bathtubs, furniture, or other items for your historical home. Research the time period, history, and architectural style of your home so that as you rehabilitate the property everything originates from or at least replicates the correct period.

Structural Changes in Historic Homes
Exercise caution with design changes, additions or demolition. Always maintain the original scale and proportion of doors and windows to the building. Preserve the number of panes in the windows and the dimensions of columns. Any architectural elements should be replaced with matched materials. For example, wood columns should not be replaced by iron ones. Be prepared to upgrade electrical, plumbing and plaster.

Exterior Changes in Historic Homes
Many historic districts have strict guidelines owners must follow in order to maintain and protect the neighborhood and the historic homes. Learn about acceptable paints or exterior coverings (vinyl siding is not usually a possibility). Know which curtains and shutters are appropriate. Do not alter the original landscaping if possible. Leave the yard a yard instead of converting it into a driveway. Additions must match scale, size and style of the original structure. Do not change the pitcht of the roof.

Interior Renovations
Windows and bathtubs might not have to be replaced, see if the originals can be re-glazed. Honor the signature elements that are indicative of your home’s particular style. Be gentle when cleaning surfaces. Hire a professional architect and contractor with a background in restoration and rehabilitation. Be sure these professionals are trustworthy and communicate well.

The National Register of Historic Places
This register provides citations that confirm the historical significance of a property. Created in 1966 by the National Preservation Act, this resource has a database with 79,000 districts, sites, buildings and homes listed. Areas with particular scenic, cultural or tourism value usually have design control regulations. Visit http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/ to learn about the preservation ordinances in the area where you plan to buy a historic home.

I help buyers in Southeastern Virginia locate historic properties. I encourage homebuyers to reclaim our American heritage to build civic pride, revitalize downtown areas, create economic growth and development, generate tourism, and educate local residents. Use national, state, local and private resources to help preserve your historic property. If you are looking in areas of Virginia such as Williamsburg, Gloucester, Smithfield or surrounding counties, I can be especially helpful. Call me at 757-288-4685 or e-mail vonmor1@cox.net to initiate a search for the right historic home for you.

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