Hurricanes and Historic Properties

With Hurricane Season in mid-swing there are many properties that are in harms way.  While it is heartbreaking to see historic properties affected by a hurricane it does happen.  I can think first of New Orleans and the surrounding areas when Hurricane Katrina devastated an entire region.  While a catastrophic storm brings a whole set of it’s own issues even a tropical storm can cause damage.  Here are some things to know if your historic property is subjected to a storm.

  • Each SHPO should have a “Damage Report” that can be filled out and sent in.  Some basic questions that you may find on the report are:  Name and location of your property.  Historic District your property is located in.  What kind of damage did the building sustain?  Will all of the damage be covered by your insurance?  If not, how much money do you anticipate having to spend out of pocket?  Can the SHPO be of assistance in assessing the damage and advising you on repairs?
  • Your state specific HPO can provide technical restoration assistance such as vital records regarding your property, guidance in seeking qualified restoration architects and contractors, on-site inspections and free phone consultations. 
  • Your home does NOT have to be on the register (but must be at least 50 years old) however, special consideration will be given to properties that are already on the register.
  • The Office of State Archeology can be invaluable when assistance is needed with exposed once-buried features such as old wells, foundations, privies and cellars.   (Preceeding link is for North Carolina)
  • Emergency Procedures for State Tax Credits following a natural disaster are usually implemented in each state.  In North Carolina there is a 30 day window once an area has been declared as a disaster area in which a historic property owner can receive verbal approval for emergency repairs provided the property qualifies for rehabilitation tax credits.  Be very careful – very detailed information is needed following the verbal approval.  Photographs of damage and detailed damage information is a MUST!

While I sincerely hope that your historic property is NEVER affected by a natural disaster it is always good to be prepared for the aftermath.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to call me or email me anytime!

Building Inspectors and Historic Commercial Properties

When considering a purchase of a Historic Property for commercial uses one of the first people that you should call should be a Building Inspector.  Why?

  • You want to be sure that your intended purpose for the building is permissible.  If you intend to lease your space to a retail tenant you will still need to be sure that there are no code violations that would proibit your tenant from conducting business. 
  • Zoning Permits – If a building has been used in the past as retail and the intended future use is retail you must still cooridinate with the Zoning Division of your town.  Historic districts have strict guidelines as to which business may locate within them.  Even a change in retail business must be reviewed.

A wise decision would be to seek out the Historic Preservation Committee or Advisory Group in your area to obtain specific guidelines before starting your new business.  Also check with your SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) as well as your City or Town Planning Board – any of which should be able to point you in the right direction.

Owning historic property, whether residential or commercial, takes quite a bit of homework, approvals for use, and reviews.  Be smart – do your homework before you take the leap!

If you have any questions or comments about owning historic properties please feel free to email or call – I will be delighted to help!

Inspectors and Architects for Historic Homes

Glen Royall Mill

Glen Royall Mill

When purchasing a historic property, whether commercial or residential, it is important to seek out those that are well versed in the nuances of Historic Properties.

For instance, when the time comes to have your Historic Property inspected you will need to find an inspector that is familiar with the all the variations and uniqueness that is present.  A historic property present a set of issues that will need specialized attentionDifferent materials were used when the property was built, different designs were present at the time, and building methods were different.  If would be confusing to have an inspector NOT acquainted with those details have a report full of issues simply because they didn’t know better.

Architects are another resource that you will most likely need to utilize.  Again, it is imperative that seek out architects that specialize in historic properties.  While there are fabulous and well-established architects out there you want to find the ones that know code specific to historic properties.  They need to know the intimate details of the materials that were used and what is available in the present day that will adhere to the guidelines set forth for restoring and altering the property.

The task is not easy to discover these specialists but there are resources that can help!  A few avenues to explore which I highly recommend are:

  • Does your city or town have a Historic Preservation Committee or Advisory Board?  Most likely they do.  I would call them and ask for recommendations.  This Committed/Advisory Board should also have Guidelines available (may or may not have a fee associated) by which you must abide.  These will be vital for the architect to ensure that they know the parameters with which they can operate within.  This could potentially avoid costly mistakes for you, the owner!  While it is the architects duty to provide you with drawings and contract out the work it is ultimately the property owners resposibility to ensure that the guidelines are being adhered to.  Likewise, you local Historic Preservation Committee/Advisory Board may have suggestions for Property Inspectors. 
  • Another great resource is your SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office).  There is a wide variety of positions within the SHPO such as Administration, Restoration Branch, Environmental Review Branch, Survey and Planning Branch.  I would suggest that you explore the Restoration Branch and seek out a professional that could possibly be titled “Restoration Specialist”.  This is their field!  They will have much information to share and should be able to provide you with ample information.
  • Speaking specifically of Architects you can visit AIA (The American Institute of Architects).  They have a fabulous feature that allows you to search specifically for architects that specialize in Historic Preservation.  Be cautious when using this tool.  While the architect may include that on their submission to the AIA it may not be a field that they do much in.  Conversely, I have found architects that do not list that as a service yet do specialize in historic preservation.

Another important element is to ASK FOR REFERENCES.  You are well within your rights to ask an inspector what other properties they have inspected that were historic and ask for references.  Ask to see an Architects portfolio.  If they are well versed in historic restoration/preservation they will have no problems with showing you their work.  Don’t forget to ask them for references!

Good luck with your project!  If you are in the Wake Forest or Raleigh area and need assistance please do not hesitate to give me a call or email me – I already have a list of contacts for both and I will be happy to help!


Historic Home Restoration and Rehabilitation – Part IV

Historic rehabilitation is a subject that I promised to touch on and I am excited to provide you with some avenues for research.  This is quite a complex area and I will do my best to highlight the important points and suggest additional resources as we go along.

I hope that you have enjoyed my previous posts regarding historic homes and that you continue to find this information relevant in your quest for a historic property.  If you missed any of my previous posts here they are:

“Rehabilitation” is defined as “the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values.”  ~  from The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards of Rehabilitation is the MOST comprehensive resource I have yet to find for guidelines when rehabilitating a property.  The guidelines are broken down into several categories:

  • Masonry, Wood, Metals
  • Roofs, Windows, Entrances/Porches, Storefronts
  • Structural Systems, Spaces/Features/Finishes, Mechanical Systems
  • Site, Setting
  • Energy, New Additions, Accessibility, Health/Safety

and lastly, Standard Guidelines which will be the focus of this post.

The Four Key Components to the Standard Guidelines are:

  1. Identify, Retain and Preserve:  The form and detailing of those architectural materials and features that are important in defining the historic character.
  2. Protect and Maintain:  Once characteristics are identified the next obvious step would be to protect and maintain what is existing.  It would stand to reason that protection is the first logical step before proceeding with any work on a historic property.  Protecting can be as simple as cleaning gutters, caulking, rust removal, etc.  It is during this phase where much of the present physical condition of a property can be assessed.
  3. Repair:  After physical assessments are complete and steps have been taken to protect the property repair can commence on the property.  This is where the individual sections (mentioned above) of The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards of Rehabilitation come into play.  The sections are extremely detailed for which materials can be used and the extent of the work that can be performed.
  4. Replace:  Only when the level of deterioration or damage of materials precludes repair can complete replacement be considered. (for example, an exterior cornice; an interior staircase; or a complete porch or storefront).

Whether you are contemplating a historic property rehabilitation project, starting one or in the middle of one The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards of Rehabilitation is one resource that you MUST have. Other resources available and encouraged are:

Be sure to check back soon for the next post in this series that is near and dear to my heart.  With the middle of hurricane season upon us I thought it might be beneficial to give you some resources should your historic property be affected by a natural disaster.

If you have any questions regarding historic homes or are ready to start your search please feel free to email me!  I would be delighted to help.

Is A Historic Home Right For You? Part III

Welcome to Part III in a series regarding Historic Homes!  In Is A Historic Home Right For You? Part I we defined what a historic home is and some of the resources available for finding a historic home.  With the basics out of the way we moved on to….

Is A Historic Home Right For You? Part II which highlighted some of the financial resources available as well as incentives for owning a historic home. 

In Part III we will look at the process entailed in having a property designated as a Historic Home.

It is important to note again that the information within these posts regarding Historic Homes are specific to North Carolina.  Please check with your local State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for information specific to your area.

There are several criteria for a property that should be considered before proceeding with the Study List Application and they are:

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

  • that are associated with events that have made significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  • that are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
  • that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  • that have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

Moving beyond that there are exceptions to the criteria which are too numerous to list.  However, should your property fall within the general criteria mentioned above then I would highly suggest that you complete a Study List Application for your property.

A Study List Application is the formal process by which you can submit your property to your SHPO for them to evaluate your home for designation.  You must provide photos of your property as well as detailed information regarding your property on the Application.  Filling out the form DOES NOT constitute your property being designated.  Once your Study List Application is submitted it will be reviewed by the NRAC (National Register Advisory Committee) which is comprised of professional historians, archaeologists, architectural historians, and architects as well as other citizens having a demonstrated interest and expertise in historic preservation.  If it is of the opinion of the NRAC that your property could be potentially eligible for the National Register it will then be placed on a Study List.  Upon your property succesfully making it to the Study List phase the NRAC will authorize HPO staff to work with you to coordinate a formal nomination of the property to the National Register.

Once a property is adeqately reviewed and ready for National Nomination the services of a private consultant are most commonly employed to navigate the process.  Private owners MAY prepare the nomination themselves and are capable of doing so via a packet available to them with instructions, forms and sample nominations for guidelines.  Substandard nominations will NOT be submitted to Washington and the Historic Preservation Office will NOT make revisions to your application.

After a nomination is reviewed by the NRAC and recommends the property be submitted to the National Register it is signed off by the SHPO Officer and forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register where the nomination will be reviewed and a decision will be made to list or not to list the property.  A decision will be made no less than 15 days and no more than 45 days from the date of receipt.  Should your property be listed on the National Register the Historic Preservation Office will notify you and provide you with a certificate stating that the property has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

While this process may seem time-consuming it is well worth itDetails are key and cooperation with the local SHPO is a must. 

Join me for Part IV coming soon!  In Part IV we will explore “Restoration“.  Quite an interesting topic!

For more information regarding historic homes in My Back Yard…. please feel free to call or email anytime!


Is A Historic Home Right For you? Part II Tax Incentives and Financing

In Is A Historic Home Right For You? Part I we reviewed what the definition of a Historic Home is as well as some resources available in finding a historic home.  In Is A Historic Home Right For You?  Part II I thought it would be beneficial to understand the Financial Assistance that is available for purchasing a historic home in addition to exploring incentives that are available for restoring a historic home.

One huge incentive for purchasing a historic property comes in the form of a Tax Credit.  It is extremely important to note here that each state varies with their requirements for a tax credit in what it can be used for and also the amount!  For the purpose of this post I will be applying the requirements and nuances specific to North Carolina for residential properties.  There are additional guidlines for commercial buildings, income-producing properties and unique properties such as restoring mills and lighthouses.

Tax Credits:  North Carolina offers a 30% tax credit for qualifying rehabilitations for non-income producing properties that are to be utilized for personal residence.  Please note that a home must be listed on the National Register for it to receive the credit.  A homeowner may start work prior to the inclusion on the National Register but there must be evidence of intent to have the home listed on the National Register.  It is strongly advised that homeowners secure the listing on the National Register before claiming the credit.  There is no equivalent Federal Tax Credit for such rehabilitations, however there are Preservation Easements.

Preservation Easements:  While the exact definition of a Preservation Easement will be discussed in Part III it is relavent to mention here that there is a Federal Tax Credit available for Preservation Easements which are in addition to the State Tax Credits.   (Again, this is specific to North Carolina)

FHA Streamlined 203(k) Limited Repair Program:  Another disclaimer for you – I AM NOT A MORTGAGE PROFESSIONAL!  However, I can relay the information as I know it and for further details you should consult a mortgage professional.  The FHA Streamlined 203(k) Limited Repair Program permits homebuyers to finance up to an additional $35,000 into their mortgage to improve or upgrade their home prior to move-in.  In addition to the Streamlined 203(k) there is the FHA 203(k) which is much more detailed and has more nuances, twists and turns than this post will permit.  For more information I suggest that you visit U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development AND consult a mortgage professional.

By no means does this post encompass all that is available to an individual that wishes to purchase and restore or maintain a historic property.  For more information I would suggest that you visit the following sites:

Thanks for following along and I hope that the information I have provided will assist you in your research.  If you are interested in purchasing a historic home in my area I would be delighted to help you navigate the path to finding the right home and exploring the options that are available to you! 

Is a Historic Home Right For You?  Part III will be coming soon and I will be detailing how to get your historic home certified as well as defining a Preservation Easement and what it means to you.

Historic opportunities are abundant in My Back Yard….

PS – The home picture used in this post is one of my favorites.  The owner has graciously allowed me to visit him this evening to interview him regarding the property’s history and take pictures.  It will be very exciting and I can’t wait to share it all with you!