It’s the dream that’s long been idealized on HGTV shows and Instagram accounts alike: purchasing an old home with lots of charm and the potential to be restored to its former glory. For some, such a project is about maintaining and experiencing a piece of history as part of their daily lives, while others see flipping old or rundown houses as opportunities for resales, inns and other business ventures.
Renovating and restoring an old home often comes with as many built-in challenges as there are built-in bookshelves. If you’re working with a buyer who has their heart set on flipping their own little slice of history, here’s how to help them navigate the purchasing process.
Sharing the Vision
Millennials love doing research and being prepared when purchasing a home, but they still value the input of real estate agents. Surpassing the Silent Generation, younger Millennials have become the largest home buying group, and 92% of them purchase homes with the help of an agent.
When Sara and Rich Combs, owners of the Joshua Tree House Inn in Arizona, were looking for a place to set up a sister business, they took to searching online listings themselves. When one listing with unusual photos piqued their interest, they sent their realtor to investigate: “He basically reported back that we needed to come see this place immediately. He was right. As soon as we stepped foot on the property we knew we were in for a lot of work, but also felt that this property had been waiting for us,” the couple wrote in an Instagram post about the buying process. The casita, which was built in 1978 by Merv Larson, a former director of the Sonoran Desert Museum, has since been renovated into an Airbnb that shares the contemporary western flare of the Joshua Tree House.
Sharing your buyer’s vision is important with any real estate transaction. But understanding the level of commitment and ability of your buyers, as well as imagining the possibilities, can be the difference between finding the dream project your buyers are looking for and overlooking a diamond in the rough.
No Ordinary Dreamers
As a real estate agent, you’re helping buyers to make the most advantageous and informed decision on not only one of the biggest purchases of their lives, but what might also be their passion project—the one they take out a hard cash loan for and mortgage their future to achieve. Although they might be pluckier than most when facing the challenges and expenses associated with restoring an old or historic home, they need just as much help to calculate the risks and determine the return investment they can expect from their purchase.
Gauge their level of knowledge and experience when it comes to a restoration project. Do they insist on hiring professionals, or are they more of the do-it-yourself type? If they plan to tackle projects themselves, work with them to determine their level of knowledge and ability so they don’t commit to any projects outside of their depth or that will exceed the amount they’re able to invest in repairs.
Realities to Consider
Along with quirks and gorgeous craftmanship details, old homes can have unwelcome surprises that create issues during renovation and upkeep. Enter lead paint, copper pipes, and asbestos. Hiring an inspector who’s well versed in older materials and structures can help identify problems and present solutions before any dotted lines are signed. Find out as much from the seller as possible, but don’t be hesitant to do a little sleuthing and research to discover the history of a home or the land it’s situated on. You may even turn up something the existing owner is unaware of.
Old homes are different from historic ones, which must meet special criterion to be considered such by the National Register of Historic Places. Restoring a historic home could earn the buyer grants and tax incentives for rehabilitating and preserving it, although they’ll likely face limitations when making changes or additions to the exterior. If your buyer has a bold plan to meld old with new in their renovation design, choosing an old home will give them more freedom to create something truly original, while lovers of period-accurate details won’t sniff at restrictions aimed at maintaining aesthetic accuracy.
Buyers of historic houses are not just fulfilling the dream that millions aspire to, love to follow, and live vicariously through; in a fast moving, disposable world, they look at homes in disrepair and see the beauty that was and could be with some love and sweat equity. By purchasing and preserving this history, they ensure that notable places can continue to be learned from and enjoyed by generations to come, while helping maintain what make communities special in an increasingly cookie-cutter society.
What is a restored historic building or landmark you’ve enjoyed visiting? What is a renovation project in your community you’d love to see someone tackle? Comment and share below!