Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop primarily for real estate agents at the Historic Darden House in Elkins, WV. This was the third workshop in a series with other locations including Martinsburg and Wheeling. The WV State Historic Preservation Office (WVSHPO) and three Certified Local Governments teamed up to give the workshops in honor of National Historic Preservation Month.
Historic homes and residential historic districts are a dime a dozen in West Virginia. To increase the sale of these homes, real estate agents learned historic preservation facts while earning seven Continuing Education Units. Speakers, Robin Ziegler with the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions and Jennifer Brennan with the WVSHPO, had a jam-packed session focused on the National Register of Historic Places, historic preservation financial incentives, and best ways to market historic homes. I’ll share those with you shortly!
Before moving onto the tips, let’s recap the financial incentives available in West Virginia.
State Residential Rehabilitation Tax Credit: This is a 20% state income tax credit which is based on qualified expenditures undertaken as part of the rehabilitation to a historic private residence. The credit is applied directly against taxes owed by the owner. This credit is available to private homeowners for approved rehabilitation work on their own residence. The building must be either individually listed or a contributing building in an historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Non-historic Tax Credit: This 10% tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings placed in service before 1936. The building must be rehabilitated for non-residential use and cannot be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
State Development Grant: This is for rehabilitation of properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or a contributing property in a historic district or/and archaeological development of a site listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The grant will cover up to 50% of the project costs, and a 50% match must be provided to receive the grant.
Federal and State Commercial Rehabilitation Tax Credits: A 20% federal income tax credit and a 10% state income tax credit are available for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be “certified historic structures.” The State Historic Preservation Offices and the National Park Service review the rehabilitation work to ensure that it complies with the Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Real estate agents should always know if the property they are selling is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This information is easy to find too! For West Virginians, just go to the WVSHPO’s website to see if your property is listed. Once you know if your property is listed, you will know what financial incentives are available to buyers.
Now for the marketing tips:
1) Create a Story – Research the home and find a few interesting tidbits. Share these with your potential buyers. The National Register nomination should have some useful information, and you can also research deeds at the county assessor’s office. The deed will tell you the history of ownership, and you might find that one of the owners had an interesting past.
2) Highlight Original Elements – Historic buildings are treasure troves for original craftsmanship. This will interest many buyers. Point out woodworking, light fixtures, crown molding, and other original materials. Maybe the building is from a special period. Is it a Sears Kit Home or a Lustron Home? Find out! These are niche markets, and buyers want to know all about these homes.
3) Financial Incentives – Don’t forget these!
4) Be a Resource – Offer information on FHA 203K loans, historic preservation craftspeople (we can help with this one), and insurance companies.
5) Embrace the Flaws – Know your buyers. They may appreciate the hand-made quirks of historic homes. They might want a fixer-upper and will jump at the chance to stain those old hard wood floors that have been hidden under carpet for the last 30 years.
6) Advertise with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other historic real estate websites/magazines.
7) Know Inspectors who Understand Historic Buildings – They understand that historic buildings were built to last and will tell the truth about the property you are trying to sell.
8) Consider a Specialty – During your research, you may find that there is a prevalent architect, builder, or style in your area. Specialize in a topic that can help you sell these properties.
West Virginia’s population has, for the most part, been on the decline for the last few decades. Real estate agents can help turn around this trend by selling historic homes and increasing investment in West Virginia’s communities.